A Tale of Two Budgets (And a Maverick)

It is tempting, and often accurate, to say that there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to spending money. Historically, both parties have spent money we don’t have for things we don’t need. Now we face the inevitable collision of debt and fiscal sustainability and it seems to be making a difference–at least in rhetoric.

Republicans are a party in turmoil. The Old Guard insists that the way to win elections is to spend like Democrats and scold like schoolmarms. It’s not working and they know it. Like dying animals, they are dangerous and unpredictable, especially with regard to a new breed of Republican emerging in Congress. One is Paul Ryan.

Paul Ryan’s proposed budget did not stand a chance of being passed by the Senate. (Note that the linked article predates its rejection in the Senate.) It can hardly be called severe, unless one has resided in Congress long enough to believe that slowing the rate of growth is the same thing as cutting spending. Ryan’s proposal balances the budget in ten years* and at least starts to address some entitlement issues like Medicare by including a premium-support option beginning in 2024. Government still grows at 3.4% annually.

The Democrats’ reaction to Ryan tells the entire side of their story. With Patty Murray at the helm of the Senate Budget Committee, the Senate submitted its first budget in four years. It never balances. Ever. Democrats are taking their cue from the President that spending is not a problem. Thus a trillion more in taxes and deficits forever. I somehow think this is not what even Keynes had in mind.

Bad choice

There is really a third point of view, that of Rand Paul. Paul’s budget balances in five years. No kidding. Now, you and I both know that it will never pass. If it did, 534 victims of stroke would have to be removed from the floors of Congress. However, it does serve a unique purpose–it lets the public know that at least one politician knows the score. To the horror of the others, it is no longer possible to pretend that cutting government down to size is not to be discussed. Thank you, Senator Paul.

The choice being given us is becoming clearer by the day. Democrats have no intention whatsoever of slowing the growth of government. Down that path lies stagnation followed by a complete, and probably rapid, collapse. Republicans, with the exception of Rand Paul, will prolong the agony for a few more years. Libertarians like Paul may show us the way out, but it will take a monumental effort on the part of limited-government advocates to explain why drastic cuts in government are necessary for our survival.

The question we need to ask ourselves is whether we want to choose our fate or have it chosen for us. Both major parties are offering nothing in the way of meaningful fiscal reform. Both paths lead to a day of reckoning that cannot be avoided and will not be postponed once it arrives. The saddest part of all this is the unspeakable toll it will take on the poor and the elderly. While politicians vow to “save Medicare” and “keep Social Security solvent” the math works its way through both programs like an army of termites.

In the meantime, we could be building a better nation instead of a bigger government. We could be encouraging business owners instead of carping about their “greed.” We could learn the difference between a crony capitalist and free-market capitalist. But will we? I don’t know. I just don’t know. Barack Obama has learned nothing. Democrats have learned less. Republicans have never learned anything ever.

So where does that leave us? Well, it’s you and me, my friend. We must vow never to give up the ideals of political and economic liberty. Shoulder to the wheel, feet braced, and mind clear let us push when others are sitting, speak wisely while others spout foolishness, and work for ourselves as others look to a government savior. If we lose, we lose as noble men and honorable women, not lackeys and knaves.


*This merely means that deficit (money taken in minus money spent in a given year) spending ends. The debt would not be paid off until 2050.

About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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2 Responses to A Tale of Two Budgets (And a Maverick)

  1. Joining the TEA Party Terry?


  2. Jane Carrell says:

    “The saddest part of all this is the unspeakable toll it will take on the poor and the elderly.” We who know better need to find the simple vocabulary to communicate these economic realities to our fellow citizens. The Republicans have been inept messengers, heaven knows. Now it’s up to the Man (or Woman) in the Street to get the message out.


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