As Long As You Call It An "Emergency," You Can Spend As Much As You Want

How much do Congressional Democrats actually care about the deficit? During the health care debate, they argued endlessly that the Affordable Care Act was the only fiscally responsible choice because it lowered the deficit. And they passed spending rules that, in theory, require them to come up with funding sources for all their projects. 

But even if you take them at their word about the deficit estimates (I don't), it's hard to take their claims of fiscal responsibility seriously at this point. Their top legislative priorities this week are spending measures that effectively wipe out most of the deficit reduction they claimed from the health care bill.

They get around their spending rules by calling it "emergency spending," which doesn't have to be paid for. Thus we're getting hit up for a whole bunch of new emergency spending, and the CBO estimates that the deficit toll will end up at $134 billion. 

Also worth noting is that the proposed spending measure includes a version of the "doc fix," a Medicare payment hike that was removed from an initial draft of the health care overhaul in order to hit deficit targets. This version is temporary—it calls for $63 billion to put off the problem for three years rather than solve it. But like the permanent doc fix that was discussed during the health care debate, it's not paid for. 

Republicans are hardly better: Some of the new emergency spending is intended to fund America's ongoing war efforts. Naturally, the GOP line is that there ought to be an exception for thatAccording to Sen. John Thune, "Anything that’s not directly related to fighting the wars should be paid for." Convenient! All together now: There is no party of fiscal responsibility

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  • Vehical Driver||

    Well, most countries are going to have to return to balanced budgets, as in the very near future no one is going to lend them money anymore.

  • T||

    I used to think the same thing about some of my deadbeat friends, but there is always somebody who wants to loan you money. The interest rates become usurious, and the terms are entirely in favor of the lender, but you an get the cash. I'm sure somebody like Soros can find a business niche lending money to deadbeat nations.

  • Jason||

    They could print money.

    Or they could spend their way to the bitter end.

    My money is on option #2.

  • ||

    Randolph Mantooth. Among the greatest names in acting history. I used to watch Emergency! pretty regularly as a kid.

    The indifference to the idea that actions (and spending!) has consequences is yet more proof that having anything other than a strictly limited government is folly of the worst sort.

  • EJM||

    Does anyone else think that Emergency +4 may have been the weirdest concept ever for a Saturday-morning cartoon based on a prime-time series?

  • ||

    You know, if I ever saw that, I forgot completely about it.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I did too. Great show. Funny that I don't remember the cast looking so dorky though.

  • ||

    It was the 70s, man.

  • D-FENS||

    I still watch it; I only have over-the-air TV, and it's on the retro TV channel in the afternoon. Ah, like reliving my childhood. Even funnier was that Dragnet was on while I was in the kitchen the other night, and when I heard one of the suspect's voices, I immediately realized, "That's Chet!" Turned out to be a Reefer Madness-esque take on marijuanna, and was pretty damn funny. The "Chet" actor was playing a somewhat upscale pot-smoker who thought that pot should be legalized, and had a huge, over-the-top reaction to finding his baby drown in the bathtub.

    Not that I advocate baby drowning, of course...

  • KD||

    I adored this show when I was young. Now I'm probably too bitter and jaded wondering how much in taxes I'm paying for their pensions to watch it.

  • ||

    billions you say? pshaw...we no longer need pay heed to anything less than trillions!

  • Gilbert Martin||

    You'd better hope that Obama doesn't find out what a quadrillion is.

  • Ragin Cajun||

    There is no party of fiscal responsibility.

    Was someone under the impression that there was one?

  • ||

    Several people pretended to think that the Obama Administration had actually put war expenditures on budget instead of using "emergency spending" for it. This was never true, but some libertarians and others took it as a small comfort about the Obama Administration.

  • Jason||

    All of the parties that are out of power?

  • ¢||

    SILENCE < img alt = "DEATH" >

  • qwerty||

    The difference is that the wars will end. Government health care will go on and on and on...

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "They get around their spending rules by calling it "emergency spending," which doesn't have to be paid for."

    Yeah - another of the infinite extensions of umemployment payments is an "emergency".

    They are creating another permanement entitlement program on top of all the other ones.

  • ech||

    Also worth noting is that the proposed spending measure includes a version of the "doc fix," a Medicare payment hike that was removed from an initial draft of the health care overhaul in order to hit deficit targets. This version is temporary—it calls for $63 billion to put off the problem for three years rather than solve it.

    The "doc fix" is not a payment hike for doctors. It is preventing a cut of 20% in reimbursement rates for doctors. Given that Medicare reimbursment rates are sometimes below cost of materials*, a cut would have the effect of even more physicians closing their practices to new Medicare patients. Right now, practice consultants recommend no more than 10% Medicare patients if you are a primary care doc.

    *My dad was a podiatrist and was paid less for doing an x-ray in his office than the cost of the film. If he sent the patient to an imaging center, they got paid quite a bit more and a radiologist also got paid to read the x-ray. Typical lunacy in the Medicare reimbursement system.

  • ||

    The "doc fix" is not a payment hike for doctors. It is preventing a cut of 20% in reimbursement rates for doctors.

    Semantics. The rest of your argument is fine so far as it goes, but this is still an insignificant difference.

    Your argument is the same as claiming that letting the Bush tax cuts expire would not be a tax hike, it would be "preventing a cut of taxes."

  • Contrarian P||

    Ummm, no it's not semantics. When I don't get paid enough to cover my patient care costs, my practice closes. The government can dictate how much I get paid for seeing a patient, regardless of how much I need to make to keep my practice open, and can arbitrarily cut my payments. As I work in emergency medicine, I am legally required to treat these patients by EMTALA.

    Allowing the cut in reimbursement to go through is not the same as allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. If there was a proposal to increase taxes on high income earners to a point where they'd be paying more in taxes than they earned in the first place, now that would be similar.

  • ||

    The "doc fix" is not a payment hike for doctors. It is preventing a cut of 20% in reimbursement rates for doctors.

    True enough, as far as it goes. However, the money that would have been saved by that 20% cut has been spent somewhere else.

    Fun fact: the 20% cut is actually 10 years of 2% cuts, dating back to a balanced budget bill in days of yore, each and every one of which has been rolled back by Congress. The very same Congress that is going to "bend the cost curve" under ObamaCare.

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