Dear Republicans: Big Budgets Equal Big Government

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Big Government

This post was originally published on Real Clear Politics.

Despite Sen. Rand Paul’s valiant effort to derail an atrocious budget deal by filibustering, Republicans still hope to pass it this week.

The deal would demolish the biggest substantial accomplishment of the Tea Party movement (the spending limits known as sequestration) and sets the course for $300 billion in spending hikes over the next two years.

Republicans can’t blame Democrats for this. This is what the GOP wants. In a replay of a scene any veteran conservative is used to by now, Republicans, upon gaining control of the public fisc, are doling out cash at a faster rate than Democrats could.

Democrats, of course, aren’t objecting to the overspending in the way they objected to tax cuts, because Democrats — despite being as prone as Republicans to talk of fiscal discipline — know what massive federal spending means: big government.

And that’s the most pressing reason for Republicans to swear off spending hikes and hew to spending caps. More government spending goes hand in hand with more government power, and as government expands, civil society, and individual liberty contract.

We’re not saying the annual deficits and the growing national debt deserve no attention. The national debt and the budget deficit, after all, are two of the Democrats’ favorite arguments for higher taxes. More spending today, as a political matter, raises the threat of higher taxes tomorrow.

Also, as we enter unprecedented levels of debt as a portion of the economy, we can’t help (as conservatives) but be a bit anxious. So far, the federal government has been able to borrow and “print” enough money to pay all our bills, and there’s no immediately obvious reason to assume that ability will end soon. But still, uncharted territories sometimes have dragons.

But “big government” is the dragon we see very clearly and very immediately. The more the government spends, the more it crowds out market forces and civil society.

Look at the healthcare sector. Providers and insurers increasingly are chasing federal dollars — whether it’s Medicaid, Obamacare subsidies, Obamacare bailouts, Medicare, the VA — which means policymakers rather than market forces are determining where investments go.

This happens across all sectors. Obama’s stimulus drove financiers to chase federal dollars and invest in cylindrical solar panels. Increasing government contracts are sucking wealth into the capital region. The four wealthiest counties in the country are within commuting distance of the U.S. Capitol. Lobbying spending is rising, and more companies are realizing that the path to riches runs down K Street.

Democrats would rather government call the shots, as opposed to markets. Conservatives are supposed to trust markets. By spending more, they’re showing their true colors.

The market isn’t the only victim. Civil society also starves when the federal government grows. Government does more and more and thus crowds out churches, communities, and voluntary organizations. As a result, communities erode, and then, families crumble.

The pattern is so familiar now that it’s getting too exhausting to complain. Republicans complained about spending under the Clinton administration and then exploded the budget under the second Bush administration. This led to a Tea Party, which presaged Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp.”

Now, Republicans are spending again like drunken sailors. It isn’t hard to appreciate why a libertarian-leaning senator like Paul would launch a filibuster against a spending bill negotiated by his own party’s leader.

So, next time Republicans complain about “big government” eroding individual liberty, the free market, and civil society, we have to remind them, “You bought it.”

This post was originally published on Real Clear Politics.

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