Issues & Insights

‘Responsibility’ In The Debt-Ceiling Negotiations? Fuhgeddabadit.

AP: “Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in an Associated Press interview Saturday” that “demands by House Republicans for spending cuts in return for backing an increase are ‘a very irresponsible thing to do.’”Huffington Post

“The greatest threat to America, it doesn’t matter if you sit before a four-star general, they’ll tell you the debt is the greatest threat to this nation. And for the president to say he won’t even negotiate is irresponsible.” — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy at his weekly news conference

‘Irresponsible?” Seriously? This from an Establishment politician first elected to Congress 16 years ago, during which time federal outlays have more than doubled and national debt has tripled under congresses and administrations of both parties?

And from a liberal Democratic economics near-lifer long known as an inflation dove, who as Fed chair ran an accommodative policy to cover for Obamite profligacy?

Who, as Treasury chief, in just two years has driven into the ground an economy that was roaring back after COVID lockdowns, while insisting inflation was “transitory” and abortions necessary to economic growth?

Not to mention presumably brainstorming and helping shepherd through the Biden economic troupe’s $1.9 trillion American “Rescue” spendapalooza, its $1.2 trillion infrastructure hog trough, its $200 billion semiconductor industry boondoggle, its $1.7 trillion Green New Deal-not-so-lite “Inflation Reduction” hornswoggle, and the $1.9 trillion everything-including-the-kitchen-sink (but not gas stove) omnibus(t)?

Pardon this commentator while he is engulfed in an Earth-shaking belly laugh.

Ronald Reagan (during whose administration outlays nearly doubled and the national debt rose 170%) once described government as “like a baby: an alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.”

There has barely been a scintilla of an iota of a particle of a speck of responsibility at any end of either party when it comes to fiscal responsibility during this correspondent’s lifetime, which goes back to mid-last century.

During this time, the federal budget has been in surplus exactly three years. Federal outlays, which first surpassed the $100 billion mark when he was 8-years-old, doubled from that juncture in just nine years (under Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon), doubled again in just seven years (under Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter), again in nine (Carter and Reagan), and twice more since, with abrupt leaps occurring via massive stimulus bills under presidents Obama (post-2008 banking crisis) and Trump (COVID lockdowns).

Federal outlays have declined just five years – once under Johnson (minimally), and twice coming down from said stimuluses.

The other two declines – in the consecutive fiscal years of 2013 and 2014 – did in fact result from a modicum of fiscal discipline in the form of sequesters, which in turn were driven by Tea Party-(read: potential primary-) inspired shows of GOP backbone in debt-ceiling negotiations.

But outlay increases quickly resumed and rapidly accelerated in the years since, culminating in the orgy of COVID spending in 2020 and 2021, which also saw mind-numbing deficits of $3.14 trillion and $2.72 trillion, respectively. Most important, despite spending coming down somewhat from those blowout years, in fiscal 2023 it will remain more than $1 trillion above the pre-corona 2019 baseline – and begin increasing again next year.

Try as the speaker might to lay the mounting debt at the feet of Democrats, the pattern was set decades ago, and his party played a big part.

This pundit was on Capitol Hill when a Republican Senate voted 96-0 to slap down a Reagan Social Security reform plan depending on benefit reductions, not the 1983 compromise’s huge tax hikes, to stabilize the program. When the same GOP crew overrode The Gipper’s veto of a too-generous supplemental appropriations bill, and a few months later, when 20 House Republicans joined in voting down his proposed balanced budget amendment.

Your commentator was on-hand when W. Bush Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels presented to conservative leaders his plan to grade government programs, private-sector investment style, for effectiveness and results, which got him chased out of town by Republican congressional ueber-appropriators. Those same GOP congressional leaders later held open a vote – making it the longest in history – to ram through a ruinously expensive Medicare prescription payment plan, pretzeling the arms of numerous conservative members to get there.

More recently, two COVID bonanzas (especially for fraudsters) were served up and hammered home under The Donald, while Trader Joe garnered a raft of GOP yeas to push through the infrastructure gusher, the semiconductor swindle, and the omni-budget buster in particular.

The latest debt-ceiling negotiations may produce some short-term feints at fiscal discipline as each side vies to show itself more “responsible,” but be ye not deceived.

The long-term trend is ever upward due to the truth of another Reagan aphorism: “Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.”

True “responsibility” would involve not just slowing the growth of, but shrinking the size of the federal government by getting it out altogether of numerous “businesses” it simply doesn’t belong in.

The chances of that happening? Fuhgeddabadit, in this world at least.

Bob Maistros is a messaging and communications strategist, crisis specialist, and former political speechwriter. He can be reached at

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1 comment

  • Both major parties are complicit in creating the sucking chest wound known as D.C. Spending money we don’t have; free-wheeling hiring of bureaucrats and underlings making the size of the federal government alone bigger than most countries. Yep, all that explains why Congress’ approval rating is in the single digits. Nobody mocks politicians more than those who pay for them.

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