Dracula, Spending Cuts, and Speaker Mike Johnson

November 2nd, 2023 11:25 AM

Among the top priorities for newly selected House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-L A ) was his announced intention to form a bipartisan panel to cut massive spending that has led to an unsustainable $33 trillion national debt. The pragmatist in me cheers, but the cynic in me says asking Congress to cut spending is like asking Dracula to cut back on his consumption of blood. Spending helps keep members in office. Rather than solving problems and cutting the debt, staying in office seems to be all that matters to many of them.

In addition to the worthless slogan that members are only “bringing home the bacon” (more like pork in many cases) and getting a “fair share” for their districts and states, spending contributes to their careers, which the Founders foresaw as limited service in Washington before they returned to real jobs.

I have longed to see Cabinet Members and Members of Congress come before committees and defend their proposals for new spending. They should be asked how current and past spending has, or has not, achieved the goals stated in their legislation and agencies. Often there are no goals in the legislation. It’s spending for the sake of spending. Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel offers a good starting point.

Strassel writes in a recent column: “According to the White House it is ‘critical’ that Senate Democrats get another $16 billion in child-care-center funding, since the supposedly one-time $24 billion pandemic allotment is gone.”

More “critical” spending requests include the Federal Communications Commission getting another $6 billion for the Affordable Connectivity Program, “a fraud-racked Covid-era boondoggle that aimed to close the ‘digital divide’ but has really blown $17 billion subsidizing the Netflix habits of people who already had high- speed broadband.”

There’s plenty more you can find in her column and elsewhere that unnecessarily contributes to the debt and resulting higher prices we all must pay for mortgages, gasoline, food and other necessities.

During the Reagan administration, there were inaccurate press reports claiming the Pentagon was spending more than $600 on toilet seats and $435 for hammers that could be bought at any hardware store for much less. What turned out to be errors in the way accounting was handled helped focus the minds of many Americans about government overspending and held up to ridicule those who were spending money like it wasn’t their own, which it wasn’t. Reagan named what came to be known as “The Packard Commission” to reform defense procurement procedures. Later, the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) was created and performed over several administrations to shut down unused and outdated military housing. Some members of Congress protested, because it cost them money in their districts, but it was done. As I recall some members who had been screaming loudest about the closures later tried having it both ways and took credit for saving taxpayer money. You have to admire politicians who can say one thing one day and the opposite another day. Hardly anyone notices or seems to care and that’s a major part of the debt problem.

Members who propose such unnecessary spending should be brought before House committees, now run by Republicans. Democrats won’t do it, so it’s up to Republicans to demand accountability and to have proponents justify their spending proposals. Ridiculing them in public and before TV cameras would be a good way to go, but Republicans must be careful because too many of them are co-conspirators when it comes to spending.

Let’s hope Speaker Johnson gets his bipartisan commission and that it provides cover for all Members so they can reduce spending, reform Social Security and Medicare, which everyone knows must be done, in order to secure the financial future of the nation for generations to come.