Centrism is No Virtue
America’s left-wing press has been featuring a lot of blah-blah-blah about political polarization lately.
Bemoaning the difficulty of passing President(ish) Joe Biden’s full budget-busting, debt-laden, generational-theft agenda in Congress, media is calling for “centrism.”
But, centrism is no virtue. Centrism is capitulation in disguise.
Taxpayers simply cannot afford centrism any longer. Centrist politics and institutional collegiality were already bringing America progressively closer to economic and fiscal crisis when, in 2009, Democrats secured majorities in both houses of Congress, a hard-left liberal entered the White House, and government profligacy really took off.
In a two-party system, when one side supports and the other opposes additional spending and programs, centrist compromise almost always increases both.
Government spending compounds more relentlessly than simple interest, because budgeting is driven by “baseline projections” – largely hypothetical benchmarks (rather than real-world conditions) against which Congress can claim to measure the “requirements” of proposed legislation. Congressional “hypotheses” are invariably generous, no matter which party is in charge.
Government grew that way even during five presumptively-conservative Reagan and Bush I & II administrations.
Watchdogs at The Committee for a Responsible Federal Debt, observe, correctly, that “spending and tax decisions are primarily the responsibility of Congress – at least officially – and often end up being the result of actions (or inactions) agreed upon by both Congress and the president.”
That’s how government spending soared when Democrats controlled Congress during Barack Obama’s two administrations and Biden’s first year.
The aftereffects of 9/11, and two foreign wars under Bush II helped add $5.85 trillion to the national debt, even though Treasury receipts set records in fiscal years 2005-2009. Under Obama, the national debt increased by $8.6 trillion. In the very first year of Joe Biden’s presidency, the national debt grew by almost $3.5 trillion, driven primarily by a COVID “relief” package and an infrastructure bill.
Today, the nation’s debt exceeds $30 trillion – even before most authorized, borrowed infrastructure money is spent.
What’s that? You say you’re not happy? You say you’re not satisfied? You’re in luck! There’s more…!
Using emergency aid for Ukraine as an excuse, on March 11, Congress hastily passed a 2700-page $1.5 trillion “omnibus” spending bill – read by no one who voted for it – containing billions in pork barrel spending – congressional earmarks – for unvetted, unreviewed local projects that will allow vulnerable members to boast about “bringing home the bacon” in an election year.
Earmarks bypass all budgetary controls and reviews; they receive no agency or congressional hearings; they are not competitively bid; and there’s no oversight or follow-up to be certain the money is/was properly spent. For years, earmarks were central to the overall crisis of runaway federal spending.
In 2011, a Republican Congress suspended congressional earmarks.
But, on March 15, the president signed congressional Democrats’ omnibus bill, and resurrected an abuse that ranks among the worst examples of Washington’s corruption and fiscal promiscuity. Earmarks fuel Congress’ spending addiction and inevitably increase the size and cost of government.
After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made the asinine claim that even more massive government spending was not inflationary and would reduce the national debt, CNBC host Joe Kernen observed, “…[N]o one with a credit card bill thinks the answer is to spend more.”
Sadly, the U.S government also has a massive deficit of elected officials who can do simple math and think logically – or at all.
Congress contains far too many mediocrities who hold the best job they’ve ever had – and, in most cases, the best job they will ever have – people who wake up each morning thinking, “What can I do – today – to get reelected?”
Giving away other peoples’ money is a natural outlet for those ambitions.
When legislators score earmarks, especially in election years, we’re reminded of the smallness of their objectives. It’s never about constituents, states or districts. It’s always about preserving their own prosperity. It has nothing to do with ours – or our kids’, grandkids’, etc.
So, forget centrism.
For now, concerned Americans should encourage gridlock, and then work to elect enough fiscal conservatives who reject compromise and can win arguments and votes, in other words, smart, committed patriots who don’t really need the jobs.
America must have problem-solvers, certainly, but, more than anything, the nation needs principled, responsible, obstinate, polite, but determined elected adults, not more unaffordable “centrism” from a self-serving political class.