The So-Called Fiscal Responsibility Act Was Really Irresponsible

By John J. Duncan Jr.


When I was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1988, Tennessee had six Democrats to three Republicans in the House, and both of our Senators were Democrats.

Thus, the Tennessee delegation to Congress was eight to three Democratic. Today it has totally flipped to eight to one Republican in the House, and both of our Senators are Republican.

I pointed out in a column last year that Democrat, or so-called blue states, keep losing members of the U.S. House as people flee states with high taxes and high crime.

New York had 43 members of the House in the 1950s and now if has 26. I saw a report a couple of months ago that said the six states losing the most population last year were California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts  and Maryland.

All the states that are losing population the fastest are states with Democrat Governors and legislatures, and all the fastest-growing states are ones with Republican governors and legislators

I was pleasantly surprised that five of the eight Republicans in the Tennessee House delegations voted against the debt ceiling bill.

Diana Harshbarger (1st CD), Tim Burchett (2nd), Scott DesJarlais (4th), and John Rose (6th) all voted no as did Senator Marsha Blackburn. Senator Bill Hagerty was the only Senator who did not vote. He had gone home to attend his son’s high school graduation – a very legitimate excuse.

In the Senate, 31 Republicans voted against the bill, while 17 voted for it. The bill had overwhelming Democrat support in both the House and Senate.

As I pointed out in last week’s column, Newt Gingrich started a system in 1995 of basing most chairmanships and other titles on how much money a member raised for the Party and whether they would vote with the Speaker on tough votes.

I believe most Republicans in the House would have preferred to have voted against the bill.

The three Republicans from Tennessee who voted for the bill are all good men, and I would vote for all of them if I lived in their respective districts, but I disagreed with them on this.

David Kustoff (8th) had been given a seat on the very powerful Ways and Means Committee, Chuck Fleischmann (3rd) a chairmanship of an Appropriations Subcommittee, and Mark Green (7th) chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee.

I am sure all three would say they voted for the bill for other reasons, but I also believe they felt pressure and/or gratitude because of the plums they had received from the House leadership.

It is almost funny how Congress can come up with motherhood and apple pie names for bills. Sometimes the bills do almost the exact opposite of their title, and this is certainly the case for this legislation.

The bill was called the Fiscal Responsibility Act. It would have been more accurate to call it the Fiscal Irresponsibility Act.

David Stockman, who at a very young age was President Reagan’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said the agreement “is a guaranteed route to financial and political disaster.”

He added, “Folks, you can’t borrow 7.3% of the GDP every year from now until eternity and get away with it; and most especially not when American society is plunging into a 100-million strong baby boom retirement wave – accompanied by a shrinking work force and tax base owing to collapsing birth rates…”

He said with federal receipts of $450 billion per month, we could pay $61 billion of interest, $128 billion for Social Security, $26 billion for veterans, $47 billion for military pay, and still leave $188 billion per month for everything else.

Russell Vought, President Trump’s head of OMB, said the “crisis was manufactured” and the final agreement “was almost worse than a clean debt limit”, which is what the Democrats wanted.

He said the bill has budgetary caps which can be “easily waived” by the OMB of future Congresses and “are therefore, inappropriate to assume savings from.”

Director Vought said the Republican leadership “just caved” because they became “deal happy.” They must have wanted the praise for reaching a deal and/or feared the criticism if they didn’t.

Sen. Rand Paul pointed out that there were no real cuts, just cuts off of proposed increases, and most of these cuts are supposed to be in future years (don’t hold your breath).

Rep. Dan Bishop described the fake cuts as “cosmetic” and “artificial”. Mr. Vought sadly said they even left in the huge increase for the IRS.

The truth is that many of the nation’s biggest businesses are making huge profits on federal contracts. Medical specialists are getting very wealthy off of Medicare and retiring early. We really don’t need 800+ military bases around the world and the Pentagon always wants and gets more money.

The only way we can come out of this mess and not go over the fiscal cliff we are headed for is to cut every program, agency, and department in the federal government by a small percentage every year, but we will not do so.

The Congressional Budget Office predicts that the national debt will increase by $20 trillion more over the 10 years of this “fiscally responsible” (joke) deal to an astounding, humanly-incomprehensive $50 trillion.