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Democrats Forget Fiscal Responsibility

This column was written by Stephen Spruiell .


If there's one thing the Democrats' budget resolution makes clear, it's that they didn't get the message voters tried to send to Washington last November. They're acting as if the American electorate, which voted against the Republicans, meant to say, "We liked the GOP's incontinent spending and head-in-the-sand approach to entitlements, but we need someone who will do those things and raise our taxes."

The budget resolution, which the Democrats sent to the House floor for debate Wednesday night, does nothing to mitigate America's skyrocketing entitlement costs. It increases discretionary spending on a wide range of domestic programs, and it foresees the expiration of all the Bush tax cuts, which would bring about the largest tax increase in American history. Yet when Republicans confronted Democrats with each of these problems, their only answer was: Look who's talking. After winning Congress by campaigning against the GOP, the Democrats can't seem to shift gears and govern.

Not that the Republicans don't deserve to be held accountable for the six years during which they enacted a prescription-drug entitlement that worsened America's fiscal condition and presided over the largest increase in discretionary spending since the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson. Many Republicans admit that they lost Congress largely because voters were tired of their fiscal incompetence. At a House Republican Conference event for bloggers at the Capitol on Wednesday, House Budget Committee ranking member Paul Ryan's, R-Wis., first words were: "I would argue that one of the reasons we lost our majority is that we weren't the people we said we were."

At first glance, the Democrats appear to be at least avoiding that mistake. After all, what's more true to form than a Democrat raising taxes and increasing spending? But one does wonder what happened to the Democrats who organized their 2006 campaigns on pledges of fiscal responsibility? For instance, here's Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on CNBC's Kudlow & Company last October: "And I know that [Democrats] made it very clear to everyone that we are committed to no new deficit spending, pay as you go, cut these deficits. And fiscal responsibility is a key component of our agenda."

And during a radio address last April, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said, "Fiscal responsibility is a foundation for our national security ... Democrats urge our Republican friends to join us in a bipartisan consensus to restore our nation's fiscal health." Was "fiscal responsibility" just a code word for "higher taxes?" If so, don't tell the Kansans who voted for Nancy Boyda, D-Kan., or the Arizonans who voted for Harry Mitchell, D-Ariz., two freshmen Democrats who beat Republicans in 2006 after campaigning on fiscally conservative platforms.

The Democrats' prescription for fiscal health, according to the budget they've put forward, is to do nothing about entitlements, increase spending and raise taxes. In other words, they're offering the discredited GOP governing strategy they replaced, plus higher taxes — $900 billion higher, according to the Heritage Foundation.

The Democrats argue that even though their budget assumes the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, they're not committing Congress to raising taxes. Instead, they suggest that the extra revenue could come from more aggressive tax collection. The political calculus here eludes me. Even assuming that "closing the tax gap" between what is owed and what is paid could offset all of the Democrats' new spending (which is doubtful), more audits might be the only thing less popular than tax hikes.

House Republicans see the Democrats' missteps as an opportunity to reach out to disillusioned conservatives and rehabilitate their brand as the party of fiscal integrity. Speaking to the assembled bloggers on Wednesday, House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said, "We have an opportunity here over the next several months to define who we are in a clear way to the American people, and the Democrats are helping by defining who they are."

What Blunt means is that since they took power, the Democrats' signature achievements have been a short-lived ban on earmarks and an increase in the minimum wage. Aside from that, they've demonstrated their fealty to big labor by voting to do away with secret-ballot unionizing elections and to let Transportation Security Administration employees participate in collective bargaining. They drafted a war funding bill that both liberals and conservatives despised and loaded it with pork in order to get it passed. And now they've concocted a budget resolution that calls for the biggest tax increase in American history.

America voted for change. It got the same old Democrats.

By Stephen Spruiell
Reprinted with permission from National Review Online

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