Am I missing something? Nobody seems to be paying any attention to federal spending and deficits anymore.
The Republicans, who used to be the preachers of deficit reduction, balanced budgets, and fiscal discipline, are much too busy trying to distance themselves from President Trump to do much of anything about anything, much less something detail-oriented and difficult, like tackling federal spending. And the Democrats never seemed to have much appetite for actually considering whether legacy federal programs make sense in the current world, or are performing as they were intended, or are actually having a positive impact from a cost-benefit standpoint. Expecting Congress to actually pass a budget seems to be hopelessly passe, and continuing to spend more, more, more seems to be the default approach. And, given the kinds of deficits we’re racking up, and the experience of Puerto Rico, and Illinois, and other states that haven’t paid attention to basic economic realities, “default” seems like an apt word.
In case you’re interested, June 2017 was the first month in history where the American federal government spent more than $400 billion. You can see the number — $428.8 billion — on page 2, in the “outlays” column, of this dry document called the monthly report of revenues and outlays, issued by the Treasury Department. And here’s an interesting statistic, for comparison’s sake: according to this report from the Congressional Budget Office, the amount of federal government outlays for the entire year of 1976 did not even reach $400 billion. But ever since that time, it’s been an ever upward trend, and now we’ve reach the point where the federal government spends more in a single month than it spent in an entire year only 40 years ago.
You’d think that somewhere, someone in Congress would be up in arms about what is obviously an alarming and unsustainable trend. You’d think someone, somewhere would be waving that dry Treasury report around and asking why the spending by the list of the government agencies set forth in small type later in the report needs to be ever increasing, and demanding that those agencies tighten their belts or justify their existence. You’d think that someone, somewhere, would be glancing uneasily at Puerto Rico and Illinois, looking at the federal trends, and deciding that we need to do something to curb our profligate ways before we’re irretrievably on the road to economic perdition and financial ruin.
Of course, you’d be wrong on that. It’s much easier to just react to the latest Trump Administration dust-up and let things slide. The only worrying seems to be done by those of us out in the real world whose practical experiences with household budgets and controlling family spending makes us grind our teeth at the amazing irresponsibility of our elected representatives.
A federal government that spends more than $400 billion in a single month! And nobody is talking about it.