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Republicans go to Washington elected on a few key promises to their voters. Chief among these is cutting taxes and shrinking the government. Voters still believe that Republicans are the party of small government, and understandably so. When constituents have the most contact with their elected officials, it is during campaigns, which Republicans run time and time again on truly limited government principles. They advocate for getting the government out of health care, for returning power to the people, and for adhering to the Constitution. It is when Republicans actually get to Washington that most of them thus fail to keep most of their promises by voting against these conservative principles.
But one campaign promise that Republicans did keep this Congress is cutting taxes. Inside of the legislation passed last December were significant simplifications of the tax code along with reductions in tax rates for both individuals and businesses. The tax bill has clearly encouraged investment and boosted economic growth, creating more prosperity for all Americans. However, the individual and passthrough business tax cuts will sunset, or expire, within the next decade.
The job of Republicans to cut taxes is not done, as the tax cuts last year should be made permanent and expanded upon. Moreover, the job of Republicans to cut spending has not even begun. In fact, it is going in the wrong direction, with spending growing out of control. The tax cuts have spurred economic growth, increased confidence in business and investment, and allowed people to keep and spend more of their money as they see fit. That is an accomplishment to be celebrated.
However, our nation holds more than $21 trillion in debt, which has continued its detrimental drag on all of the positive effects of tax cuts. As our national debt held by the public stands around 75 percent of gross domestic product and is projected to approach 100 percent in 2028 and 150 percent in 2048, it presents an ever increasing threat to our economic prosperity and our security. This debt crisis is a result of nothing but the profligate government spending of our elected officials.
The political will to cut spending and ensure that debt does not dampen the growth seen as a result of tax cuts is next to nonexistent. In 2010, Republicans rolled out the “Pledge to America” in which they reduce spending to 2008 levels, as part of their successful effort to win back the House. They actually got a victory to constrain spending when Congress passed the Budget Control Act. But it was not long after that when Republicans began to seek ways to diminish on this significant win.
Since then, Republicans have found excuse after excuse to vote for budgets that blow through the spending caps established under the 2011 law. Spending bills that appropriate funding are gleefully passed by Republican leaders as well as rank and file members of Congress. However, these budgets and spending bills do not encompass the full scope of federal spending. In fact, they only make up the discretionary portion of the budget, which totaled $1.2 trillion in fiscal 2017.
Mandatory spending is driven by entitlements, namely Social Security and Medicare. Spending on these two programs as a percentage of the total federal budget is expected to increase from 53 percent in 2018 to 67 percent in 2048. The significance of the atrocious spending bills that Congress passes each year will decrease as mandatory spending, which runs on autopilot outside of the appropriations process, continues to grow unchecked. It is incumbent on Republicans to take control of this issue, as they promise to their constituents in every campaign.
There is no excuse to shirk the responsibility of answering to constituents, yet that is what Republicans continue to do. While it is laudable that Republicans reformed the tax code, victories like this should be expected with control of Congress and the White House. They need to fulfill their campaign promises by reducing the size of the government and cutting spending, which starts and ends with reforming mandatory spending. Until Republicans do this, tax cuts are simply not enough. The right time to cut spending was years ago, but there is still time to do so now.