Congress to Embrace Its Favorite Pastime, Kicking the Can on Spending

The message from the GOP appears to be that the only thing that matters is winning elections.



Election cycles can be unfriendly to serious policy debates on critical issues, such as Washington's ongoing addiction to excessive government spending and debt. The circus of this election cycle has been particularly devoid of serious discussion on this paramount problem. We see minimal concern that deficits are growing again, no serious solutions being offered to control the exploding federal debt and a failure to recognize the overdue need to rein in the government's major entitlement programs. Instead, members of Congress from both parties are hoping to avoid yet another last-minute tussle over the annual federal budget process so they can focus on November's high-stakes elections.

With Congress facing an Oct. 1 deadline to avoid a government shutdown, it looks as if a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government funded is likely to happen. Talking on the Senate floor this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced, "I expect to move forward this week on a continuing resolution through Dec. 9 … and include funds for Zika control and for our veterans." In other words, McConnell and company want to kick the can past the elections, which, if history is a guide, means the lame-duck Congress coming back in December to finalize a fiscally irresponsible budget deal will make fiscal matters worse, not better.

House Freedom Caucus conservatives oppose a short-term continuing resolution and are demanding the passage of a longer-term CR that would allow the next president and Congress to hash out a final budget agreement. They argue that a lame-duck Congress and president would be likelier to pass a bloated spending bill in December, when a number of policymakers will have less reason to care. One benefit of passing a CR into next year is that it could temper the awful cycle of budgeting by crisis, which has become the norm in recent years. It also would increase the chances of keeping the spending caps put in place in 2011 from being violated, which has happened in previous end-of-the-year rushes from Congress.

It's a sad state of affairs, however, if the most we can get in terms of a debate over spending is how long of a CR Congress should pass. First, a fight over a potential government shutdown in October wouldn't be so disastrous as many claim (and Republican leaders believe). Second, in the grand scheme of our budget problems, the debate over whether a short-term CR would be better than a long-term CR is somewhat meaningless. Neither would address the real budget problems we face, nor would any CR shrink the size and scope of government by actually eliminating programs. Instead, the fight will be over bottom-line numbers, which the average American understands little about anyway. On top of that, the piece of the budget Congress is fighting over (discretionary spending) is a smaller (and declining) share of overall federal spending.

Now, it's true that Republicans have shown a willingness to fight on some issues and stand firmly behind some policy positions, but these fights usually involve side issues, such as cutting off Planned Parenthood funding. Taxpayers shouldn't have to fund Planned Parenthood in particular, but it would be nice for a change to see Republicans make the case that the federal government shouldn't be funding family planning services at all. But just like the Republican-led battle to stop ACORN from receiving federal funds a few years ago, it appears that the GOP's desire to save taxpayers a few bucks has more to do with politics than it does with concerns about government spending.

Sadly, the Republican presidential candidate supports more military spending, busting the budget caps yet again and protecting the lumbering system of federal entitlement programs that threaten the prosperity of America's younger generations. That's unfortunate, but if measured in terms of what Republicans have accomplished in the past 30 years, it isn't much different from the position of the average Republican member of Congress. Granted, the average Republican will now symbolically vote for ending the Affordable Care Act, yet when push comes to shove, Republican members of Congress can't be counted on to support sensible cuts to Medicare or bringing individual choice to Social Security. So whether we get a short-term CR or we get a long-term CR, the message from congressional Republicans and the party's presidential aspirant appears to be that the only thing that matters is winning elections.


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    1. a vagrant masturbating while walking her dog

      This is why you only use reputable dog walkers, lady.

      1. Wait, the vagrant guy masturbating - is that the guy in the background of the pic we're talking about? I thought it was an intern leaning against the wall smoking a cigarette or one of the Kennedy brats drunkenly staggering into the wall. I didn't pay too much attention to the fact that he has a hand in his pocket. (That and the khakis are how you know he's not a real politician - he has his hand in his own pocket.)

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      2. Hey now, that's vagrant's doing pretty good is she can make money masturbating while walking a dog. Maybe she was working her cam-service, getting paid for doing two jobs at once.

    2. The operators of free Internet kiosks in New York City plan to disable Web browsing on publicly available tablets after reports of "lewd acts," such as people watching porn and masturbating.


      But LinkNYC announced today that it "will be removing Web browsing on all Link tablets while we work with the City and community to explore potential solutions, like time limits."

      Time limits? That's your solution?

        1. Play the new game, "how fast can you bust a nut".

          1. In this sport, would eating a lot of salmon be considered doping?

    3. The tablets will still offer free phone calls, maps, and access to emergency services.

      So, NYC spent all that money to install 10,000 kiosks to provide the same functionality as a cell phone? To replace payphones that no one was using because they all had cell phones?

      And that the only people using the kiosks are the homeless who don't have cellphones?





  1. Did even Johnson propose any cuts in spending? What programs or departments would he cut?

    1. Johnson said he'd submit a balanced budget to Congress in his first 100 days. Then again, Trump said he'd build a wall and make the Mexicans pay for it and Hillary said....well, I'm not sure what she said but I'd bet my life it was some vague promise to do something without any indication as to how exactly the details would play out.

      1. She'll make "the rich" pay "their fair share". So, more taxes. It might balance the budget, for one year.

        1. I border a swing state and sometimes I'm too slow on the mute button and hear political ads. Hillary's campaign is citing "making the rich pay their fair share" as part of her plan to grow the economy. Not pay down the deficit but actually grow the economy.

          1. Hillary's campaign is citing "making the rich pay their fair share" as part of her plan to grow the economy.

            "Donate to my foundation and we'll ensure you won't have to worry about this, though."

          2. If you squint real hard and don't think too deeply about it, it makes a certain twisted sort of sense. All those rich fatcats are squandering their hoards of riches. If we just spread those riches to the rest of the people, then they will prosper!

            The problem is that this analysis utterly fails to account for what capital actually means and how it can be effectively used to build wealth. The economy isn't driven by consumption or even production. It's driven by the desire to maintain and grow capital.

      2. Actually this is an easy campaign promise to keep. The president can send any budget he wants to the House including a budget of $10.00. for the entire Federal Government. The House can and will of course reject it.

        1. plus they stopped passing budgets long ago. It's all CRs now.
          Tougher to run up the veto count when you only get presented with one bill.

      3. Johnson said he'd submit a balanced budget to Congress in his first 100 days. Then again, Trump said he'd build a wall and make the Mexicans pay for it and Hillary said she'd build an economic wall to keep people in.


    2. Here's what an analysis from NTUF finds based on specifics:

      --Defense: A 20 percent reduction in defense spending would save $117.6 billion.
      --Entitlement Reform: Implementing means-testing in Social Security could save $6.2 billion per year, and increasing the retirement age could save $1.08 billion annually.
      --Education: Johnson would eliminate the Department of Education and "return control to the states." NTUF assumes he would block grant existing funding to the states and wind-down the remaining bureaucracy over four years, saving $2.4 billion per year.
      --Commerce: Johnson called to eliminate the Department of Commerce. NTUF assumes the program would be phased-out over four years, saving up to $2.6 billion annually.
      --Drug Enforcement Administration: This agency would also be eliminated, saving up to $745 million a year as it is phased-out.


      Johnson has also mentioned cutting the budget by 20% a lot in his campaign. Whether these things would actually happen or not is another debate, of course (which doesn't matter since he won't be the president). But the very first step is to even advocate for these things.

      1. In all seriousness, when was the last time we eliminated a federal Department? Have we ever? At best, we just reorganize them to make government more "efficient".

        1. Correct, but it's still true that it would surely be better to have a person in office who campaigns on specifically cutting $143 billion than someone who campaigns on specifically adding $34 or $198 billion.

        2. 1971 when the Post Office Department was spun off as the United States Postal Service, an independent agency.

        3. Is not tru libertarian, tru libertarian only build wall and no gay nazi cake.

      2. Notably, this organization calculates Trump at an increase of $34 billion and Hillary at an increase of $198 billion. Johnson is calculated at a decrease of $143 billion.


      3. So all of the cuts come from defense which is already decling as %GDP and we make a token cut of $7BB to entitlements which are on a glide path to consuming the entire federal budget. Add to that means testing which just formalizes the fact that entitlements are welfare programs.

        Who says libertarians aren't fiscal realists?

    3. What programs or departments would he cut?


      Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson says he would abolish the National Security Agency (NSA), Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and other federal agencies if elected.
      Johnson also suggested he would eliminate numerous other federal agencies ? including the Department of Commerce, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Department of Education
      "...as president of the United States, I'll sign legislation to eliminate any federal agency that they present me with," Johnson said.

      "Any one," he continued. "Any of them.

      "Count on me to sign on to that," he insisted.

      1. That's good, thanks. Worth voting for him just for that.

        1. Though the trick is voting for a few hundred Congressmen to send him such legislation.

        2. The good news is that if he just vetoed every new spending increase or agency, Congress would need a super majority to pass every new spending bill.

          1. and both parties can blame him for the govt shutdown when he vetoes their CR.
            But would the vast majority of the rest of us even notice if the govt shutdown?

  2. Look, if they pass these appropriations bills days after the election during lame duck sessions, that means: (a) voters are less likely to remember what they did when the next election comes around 2 years later and legislators can't actually be responsive to their voters' needs because, come on, we all know people who vote are objectively crazy; and (b) legislators who were voted out of office still get to make budgetary decisions which means they're more likely to do the right thing (to land that plum job on K Street).

    I don't see why this is so hard to understand. Why are you being so hard on them?

  3. Ollie Ollie oxen free!

    Maybe they're just hoping to turn back into children.

    1. "Take me with you!"

  4. The problem the Republicans face, although you're quite right that they have their own sacred cows and fear a "government shutdown" despite it not being a bad thing at all, is no matter what "fiscally sane" bill they pass, it is unlikely to even make it to the President's desk, and even if it does make it that far, he will veto it. The Democrats want year-over-year spending increases, and the Republicans don't have the spine to stop them.

    1. For example, you (De Rugy) call out their "symbolic" votes on the ACA. Do you know how many "symbolic" votes they've made on fiscal sanity?

      And those votes are just "symbolic" because...

    2. At this point, I would take long-term nominal increases in spending below the rate of inflation. In the long-run that would make a pretty big difference compared to the current trajectory.

  5. The message from the GOP appears to be that the only thing that matters is winning elections.

    You people complaining about the strange ad promos you're getting on this website, I'm getting old news stories from 1985.

  6. "Kicking" is a not-so-abstract euphemism for what they're ACTUALLY doing to that can.

    1. That's a good way to get dick tetanus.

      1. Dick Tetanus sounds like the name of a football coach at an unaccredited university somewhere in the Midwest.

        1. Dick Tetanus is a no nonsense coach that doesn't put up with any lip from the players. He also doesn't put up with any teeth from the ladies.

          1. Dick Tetanus questioned about hidden cameras in locker room.

            1. Dick Tetanus rumored to frequent 'adult nursery.'

              1. Dick Tetanus accused of pay-to-play scheme while chairman of Tetanus Foundation.

                1. Dick Tetanus in rehab for jenkem addiction, according to tearful wife.

  7. The message from the GOP appears to be that the only thing that matters is winning elections.

    Well, it is a political party; its whole point of existence is to win elections. What the fuck else is supposed to matter? (Don't tell me "principles of limited government" or whatever; political parties that are obsessed with principles don't win.)

    I'm always shocked when people act aghast when politicians and political parties do something political.

  8. Reason naively seems to think that politicians are incentivized to make adult decisions. They are not. That isn't their job. That's to get elected.

    1. Reason naively seems to think

      Well, they ARE libertarian.

      1. Whoa whoa wait, I thought Reason was fruit sushi-eating beltway cocktail party porggies.

        1. Libertarians are just progressives who want a lower tax burden and hate brown people. Everybody knows that.

          1. Wait, wait, wait. I'd always heard that libertarians are Ayn Rand-worshipping anarchists who want to hunt poor people for sport.

            1. There are no real anarchists that worship Ayn Rand.

            2. I personally don't see any problem with hunting poor people for sport.

          2. Libertarians are just republicans who like to get high.

            1. And yet I seem to see a lot of proggies who want to own guns around here.

        2. How Soave became a libertarian:
          "You got a license for that fruit sushi stand, son?"

        3. This article wasn't written by Nick Gillespie, Hugh.

    2. Also, the Democrats get a conspicuous pass in this assessment, despite having the ability to filibuster and veto.

      1. Except no one thinks for a minute that Democrats are willing to spend less. It's like blaming a shark for eating fish.

        1. That is all well and true but it doesn't change the fact that the Democrats are a major party who regularly win elections. If you just keep writing them off as shitty, they will continue to be shitty and probably get shittier.

          1. They're just the JV team.

        2. Over the fence.

          I was just going to post here about how no one seems to call the Democrats "unserious" because they don't have a clearly defined plan on how to cut government (and spending) and reduce the deficit and ultimately the debt.

          But if Republicans don't have their own super serious plan to create a massive regulatory regime over healthcare, they're not serious about healthcare.

          1. When you have 90% of the media in your pocket, you get to set the terms of public debate.

          2. Well the only reason we have obamacare is because the gop didn't come up with a national heath care plan.

      2. See Hugh's comment above. Bunch of FRUIT SUSHI LOVING KOZMO KUCK FAGGITZ!!1!!!1!1!!!!

        1. I watched "the king and I" the other day. I find it implausible that the King was unfamiliar with the word "et cetera", but fluently used the word "cuckhold".

          1. Cuckhold - a wrestling hold made famous by alt-right wrestler SIV, rumored to have been developed while checking his gamecocks for cloaca infections.

            1. He claimed he HAD to use his penis so he could keep both hands free.

  9. the message from congressional Republicans and the party's presidential aspirant appears to be that the only thing that matters is winning elections.

    But, Ms. de Rugy, you don't understand. If the Republicans don't win elections, we won't have a Republican congress. And if we don't have a Republican congress, that means Democrats might well control congress. And everyone knows that the Democrats just love to spend government money. So, in order to stop our government from falling into the hands of big-spending Democrats, Republicans have to spend lots of taxpayer dollars. It's not that they want to. It's for your own fiscal protection.

    1. Exactly. We must have in power a party that will talk about cutting spending! It doesn't matter that they don't actually do it; it's the rhetoric that matters.

      1. No, no, you don't see. When the Republicans spend like drunken sailors, they feel bad about it. They just have to do it to keep the Democrats from getting in office and spending like drunken sailors.

        1. Whoa, man. Whoa. Seriously. Politicians... feel? You just blew my mind.

    2. While it is fair to call the Republicans out, it doesn't change the fact that the Democrats very much do want to continue increasing spending ad nauseum. At least, the current crop of Democrats.

      The closest you will get from them to balancing the budget is from a sharp tax increase.

      1. Hey, anyone remember when Bill Clinton hisownself proclaimed that the "era of big government is over"?




        1. The full quote is actually:
          "After Monica, I declare the era of big [begin static] boned intern girls in [end static] government over!"

        2. Bueller? Bueller?

        3. I don't think the Democrats are all irredeemable, but in Bill Clinton's case, after 1994 he had a Congress that was holding his feet to the fire.

          The problem is that, even the "moderate" Democrats can't get over their envy and pettiness long enough to think through their policies.

          1. I don't think the Democrats are all irredeemable,

            But, that's just it. My previous jokes aside, the Democrats just don't look at spending government money as something to be redeemed from. To them, it isn't a sin, but a virtue.

            That's why "calling out" the Democrats on their profligacy makes no sense. It's like trying to slut-shame a pick-up artist.

      2. The closest you will get from them to balancing the budget is from a sharp tax increase.

        Which will disappear when the spending increases kick in.

        1. And the knock-on effects of the tax itself.

        2. "taxing is spending" is one of the least understood aspects of government budgeting.

          1. but spending is investing

  10. The House Freedom Caucus should counterpropose a three-month budget that is balanced and refuse to vote for any other. You can go back to your crazy spending after the election, but at least we get a proof of concept that the country doesn't literally blow up when you cut spending, for a future argument.

    Unfortunately the HFC or its Senate analog has no power unless they team up with some Democrats, and Democrats will be right with McConnell and crew on this one.

  11. See, first you criticize politicians for being polarized, but now when they try to get together in a bipartisan manner and continue their reckless spending, you are mean to them.

    Any attempt to cut spending would trigger *serious* polarization between the parties. Grandma-pushed-off-cliff ads, politicians saying mean things to each other...is that what you want?

    If the important thing is for politicians to be civil and nonpartisan, they the *last* thing they should do is confront the spending issue realistically.

  12. Yes, it's frustrating how the Republicans cave on certain things and not others, and have drifted to the left of JFK, yet the word "Democrat" appears exactly ZERO times in the article about runaway government spending and its causes. "Those darn Republicans letting those {unnamed} run wild! They worse than Hitler and at getting nearly as bad as the people who I'm not able to name for being the prime mover behind the destruction of our culture."

    Why do I come to Reason again?

    MAYBE it's so understood that bringing up how massively Human Resource spending has ballooned beyond all sanity primarily due to Democrats that it was construed to be a waste, but at least a few words isn't going to blow a space limitation constraint.

  13. Lemme get this straight: legislators can't tackle spending before the election because voters are watching, but then they won't tackle spending after the election because the voters aren't watching?

  14. Begin Fantasy:
    The house of representatives, acknowledging it alone has the constitutional responsibility for spending, enacts rules that in any budget year a balanced budget is not passed and sent to the president by the actual deadline is a year that does not count for seniority or pension purposes. And all campaign donations are forfeit to the treasury.
    End Fantasy:

  15. as Jean answered I'm taken by surprise that a stay at home mom can get paid $7017 in a few weeks on the internet
    Go To This

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