Back in the heady Obama days there was prevalent a very useful meme that went something like this: Republicans are all Ayn Randian-stlye anarchist budget-slashers who would love to cut every last federal outlay (aside from defense) down to zero, damn the torpedoes, starve who may. It was always a lie, and still is, but it was a useful lie for Democrats, because it stratified our political culture into a kind of black hat/white hat dichotomy, wherein Democrats were the Good Guys and Republicans were literal baby-killers who wanted to literally turn homeless people into literal dog food or something.
Anyway, the joke was always that Republicans, like Democrats, are not really much in the business of cutting anything at all—that the whole “fiscal conservatism” thing was always kind of a sham, and that most Republicans were, in a certain sense, complicit in the lie: for the most part they’ve never had the spine or even the motivation to do what is necessary to pare back the federal machine. When it comes to the size of government the United States is, for all practical purposes, a one-party state—or, put another way, if the United States really were a one-party state on the matter of government size and spending, what would it be doing differently? How different would things really look? For instance:
Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced the spending deal that they had discussed yesterday. The bill would avert a government shutdown on Friday (as the spending bill in effect will expire tomorrow) and would fund the government for two years.
The bill adds more than $500 billion in government spending, and raises spending limits by $296 billion. This has been met by opposition from fiscal conservatives, including Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) and Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL), who called it “a debt junkie’s dream”.
Justin Amash points out that it is the biggest spending increase since 2009.
So the folks from the nominally conservative party got together with the folks from the openly progressive one, and they were able to come to an agreement that authorized more than half a trillion bucks over the next two years in addition to what’s already being spent. “That’s compromise,” Schumer said. “That’s governing.” It is neither—it is simply a sop to the left, a concession to the machine. If you counted one dollar bill every second of every day, it would take you over fifteen thousand years to count to Mitch McConnell’s “compromise.” And that’s one increase of two years of budget.
This is the kind of thing that proves how hollow the lie really is. Yes, there are some genuinely committed Republicans in Congress who are determined to make meaningful cuts to the size and scope of the federal government. But they are, by-and-large, anomalies. The Republican party is not a total raw deal—it does some good things, and very occasionally it even does great things—but on the subject of our ever-expanding, ever-more-bloated and unceasing central government, they tend to behave as predictably as Democrats, and the budgets grow accordingly.