The Tea Parties and the coming spending wars
In years past, most major political blowups over American fiscal policy that altered the political landscape were over the revenue side of the equation, meaning taxes. People begin to feel the pinch of higher taxes and they fight back, demanding that elected officials cut taxes, and supporting political candidates who promise that they will do just that. In some states, they've even been able to get initiatives on the ballot and push tax cuts themselves - California's prop 13 comes to mind.
But as Michael Barone points out, the new Tea Party related political activism over fiscal issues is different from the fiscal fights of the past. Now it's about spending.
What we are seeing is a spontaneous rush of previously inactive citizens into political activity, a movement symbolized but not limited to the Tea Party movement, in response to the vast increases in federal spending that began with the Troubled Asset Relief Program legislation in fall 2008 and accelerated with the Obama Democrats' stimulus package, budget and health care bills.
The Tea Party folk are focusing on something real. Federal spending is rising from about 21 percent to about 25 percent of gross domestic product -- a huge increase in historic terms -- and the national debt
is on a trajectory to double as a percentage of GDP within a decade.
That is a bigger increase than anything since World War II. ...
So what's changed? Most likely it is because the massive increases in federal spending have made the reality of the impact of our deficits and our debt more "real". The numbers have grown so quickly that billion no longer seems like a big number. Trillion is the new billion.
Now people have begun to figure out how just the interest on that spending, (to say nothing of the principal), will constrict our country's economy and our liberty in the future. And that those rising interest payments will mean, you guessed it, higher taxes. They're now directly associating deficit spending with future tax increases. And they're mad.
In the past decade, the growing chorus criticized Republicans for going along with increases in spending. And in more recent years (and presently) they have focused on Democrats.
As the Wall Street Journal points out, Democrats have tried to hide their true fiscal beliefs behind the fig leaf of "paygo" budget rules, but now the truth is coming out and people are understanding that these have been completely empty promises.
Pay-as-you-go, or paygo, rules require that new entitlement spending
and new tax cuts must be paid for dollar-for-dollar with entitlement
spending cuts or tax increases. As Paul Ryan, the ranking Republican
member of the House Budget Committee has noted, the Democrats under
Speaker Nancy Pelosi "have violated pay-as-you-go rules by nearly $1
trillion" over the past three years.
And they're not done. In the coming weeks, say Congressional Republicans, we should expect some $300 billion of expenditures that Democrats will declare "emergency
spending" and thus do not have to be offset by other spending cuts. The
list includes $60 billion for a military supplemental spending bill;
$23 billion for education; and $170 billion for jobless and other
welfare benefits. All said, the deficit could climb to $1.7 trillion
from the current record high $1.4 trillion. ...
Again, people are beginning to associate those numbers with future tax increases, meaning that political anger usually associated with taxes is now focusing on spending.