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Justin Amash on Government Spending: ‘It's Looking as Bad as Any Time I've Seen Since I've Been in Congress’

President Trump and his congressional collaborators get set for a free-spending fall, warns the libertarian congressman

Justin Amash and Kennedy, in Vegas. ||| Matt WelchMatt WelchIt's been a gruesome month for those of us who believe the federal government should spend no more than it takes in. On Sept. 6, only three members of the House of Representatives—Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), and Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky.)—voted against spending billions on hurricane victims without offsetting cuts, quite a turnaround in Republican sentiment from just four years ago. On Sept. 8, President Donald Trump signed into law a deal he made with Democratic congressional leaders to raise the federal debt ceiling from $19.84 trillion to $20.16 trillion. (The debt limit had been the GOP's single most effective bit of leverage in restraining federal expenditures under President Barack Obama from 2011-2014, until Republicans retook the Senate and replaced that tool with a shrug emoji.)

Then on Sept. 11, sure as mushrooms follow rain, the nation's debt clock zoomed past the ominous $20 trillion mark. At a time of increasing comity between Trump and the Democratic leadership, all short- and long-term forecasts point to two main conclusions: Much more spending, and much more debt.

So yesterday, I asked Amash what his thoughts and worries were about government spending in the near future. "It's looking bad," he replied. "It's looking as bad as any time I've seen since I've been in Congress."

More from our interview, which came on Sirius XM Insight's Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang:

I think this tends to happen when one party has full control of government: that party starts to go on a spending spree and stops worrying about the debt and deficits. We're going to have to be vigilant here. There have been a lot of things that have passed over the past few weeks that waste a lot of money, that spend too much. When we spend for things that the American people do want, and many people want this kind of disaster relief funding for example, then we have to make sure that we're paying for it. We have to make sure that we make spending cuts elsewhere to pay for what's going on today. Otherwise we're just taxing the next generation. We're telling the next generation of Americans that they have to pay for the stuff that we want today. That's immoral.

Let's stay on top of this, keep pressing members of Congress, and don't forget about it. The Tea Party rose up a few years ago because of spending issues, because the government was getting too big. Now we have Republicans in positions of power and influence, and we have to make sure that we stay true to that message, that we want a limited government, we want spending to be brought down, and we want to get our debt under control.

Later in the interview, after going over more positive news such as the Amash-led effort to block some of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' odious moves on civil asset forfeiture, I asked whether we're seeing at least some preliminary indications that Congress, whose abdications he has long criticized, was finally beginning to do its job. Amash's answer:

I think they're doing their job in some instances, but overwhelmingly Congress continues to move in the wrong direction, the federal government continues to move in the wrong direction. Little has changed in that respect. I see some signs that on the spending front, which we already talked about, things are getting worse. You'll have some positive signs, a few steps forward, but many steps back. I think it's going to take a lot more from the American people to get things back on track.

During a video interview with me in July, the libertarian Republican told me that "Hopefully, over time, [the] two parties start to fall apart." Watch:

Photo Credit: Reason

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Sure as Mushrooms Follow Rain was the name of Welch's 1993 grunge album.

    There will be no reduction in government spending at the federal level until the collapsening. And, even then.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Matt was the one who sold Novoselic on the libertarian thing back on the In Utero tour.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Prediction: Red.

  • chemjeff||

    Wow. So many H&R posts in so little time.

  • chemjeff||

    Tell the Koch Brothers to up their rations, their minions here are doing a good job!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Serious question, why isn't Paul Krugman the happiest man on earth?

  • chemjeff||

    He's too busy picking up all the broken glass from the windows destroyed by the hurricanes.

  • Careless||

    It doesn't work if he does it for free!

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    Krugman said we needed to be 21 trillion in debt in order to provide the necessary jolt to the economy, but we're only 20 trillion dollars in debt because all these crazy free market Republicans keep cutting spending. The one trillion we didn't spend is the tipping point at which Keynesianism works

  • DenverJ||

    It's not even Keynesian. Keynes said that the government should spend more during recessions/depressions, since they had the cash, or could print it. He never advocated a never ending policy of spending the nation into bankruptcy.

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    Well fair enough, most of them do distort the original work. Technically Keynes also said you had to roll back spending during the good times as well and no one has even pretended to want that. But they still operate from the central Keynesian idea, i.e. that you ramp up spending/consumption and everything is ok, and a lot of them call themselves some form of Keynesian (I think Krugman is a "post-Keynesian")

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    Under the 'Never let a crisis go to waste' philosophy of governance, no time is good enough to cut back on spending.

  • Red Twilight||

    Why should he be? Because you don't understand what he wants the economic policies to be? Or because he once said that the Internet will be dead in 3 years?

  • Red Twilight||

    Why should he be? Because you don't understand what he wants the economic policies to be? Or because he once said that the Internet will be dead in 3 years?

  • chemjeff||

    So let's see, it took the government about 9 years to go from $10 trillion in debt to $20 trillion in debt. Truly impressive.

    So how long until we reach $30 trillion?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Hold my beer...

  • chemjeff||

    Yeah, no kidding. The pessimist in me thinks we will break $30 trillion before 2020.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    You get a wall. And you get a wall. Etc.

  • Presskh||

    Certainly before 2025.

  • Rich||

    AND maybe some eggs, if you catch my drift?

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    I almost want us to go as far into debt as possible in the hopes that we default and learn our lesson, but I feel like we'd just trigger Venezuela/Zimbabwe-style hyperinflation instead

  • DenverJ||

    This is 'Murica, we can do anything!

  • chemjeff||

    Wow that's a lot of comments in a short amount of time. Maybe I should lay off the speed.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Go for the gold!

  • MSimon||

    As long as you lay off the acceleration and jerk you will be fine.

  • Jerryskids||

    I think this tends to happen when one party has full control of government: that party starts to go on a spending spree and stops worrying about the debt and deficits.

    You can look it up.

  • Pro Libertate||

    The life of a repo man is always intense.

    RIP, Harry Dean Stanton.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    Indeed. And he had a new movie coming out in 2 weeks.

    Ninety-one is a good age.

  • Pro Libertate||

    A great run. He was in everything for decades.

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    He was memorable in Cool Hand Luke, Kelly's Heroes, Pat Garret & Billy The Kid, Alien, Escape From New York, Repo Man, Red Dawn, and that's just a small part of the list.

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    Yes. He was an excellent presence for fifty years.

    Also, this fun fact:

    "On weekends, Harry Dean liked to throw sex parties that started on Firday night and ended sometime Monday morning," Eliot writes. "'Orgies,' he proudly called them, that gathered the hottest starlets and all the available young men, some single and some not, who wanted to get whacked out and share beds filled with these naked, luscious, beautiful women."

    I choose to believe.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I am Harry Dean Stanton

  • AlmightyJB||

    Only 3. Jesus, that's sad.

  • Stalwart Sam||

    I was honestly not expecting an accidental 1984 reference in the article.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    The Republicans don't want to actually cut spending because that would require taking politically popular stands. Since 2008, there strategy has to been to deliberately set up crises in hopes of forcing the Democrats to cut things for them.

    Despite not having worked for 10 years, they remain hopeful that the next engineered crisis will be the one that finally makes them break.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    politically unpopular stands

  • Sevo||

    Got some decent appointments from Trump, and the D's jumping like their past are on fire.
    I guess hoping for less spending is just so much pony-wishes.

  • Sports Reporter Charles Manson||

    Having their past on fire* doesn't seem to bother them. They just shrug off slavery, segregation, Japanese-American internment, etc. "Those are all people who became Republicans."

    *Yes, I know that was a typo, but it was a great one.

  • Red Twilight||

    yeah, because it is the Democrats fighting to save Confederate legacy.

  • Red Twilight||

    Hey Drumpf's cocksucker Sevo, get your head up when you say that

  • Qsl||

    My brand new economic theory that I just pulled out of my ass is that the world economy is essentially a game of chicken. As most of the west is in debit to its eyeballs the trick is to be the last country standing while the others fall.

    Blammo! Nobody to owe money to.

    Just hope congress can hold the wheel steady and feather the accelerator or it is going to be a bumpy ride.

  • Libertarian||

    It was my understanding that we are living under crushing austerity.

  • Red Twilight||

    He is not libertarian.

    He is a Republican. A pro-forced-pregnancy Christian who wants to control a woman's body.

    Yes, he occasionally takes an opportunistic stand on not agreeing to spend more, knowing fully well that his vote is just symbolic.

  • Red Twilight||

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