A Deficit of Perspective

Fiscal conservatives like myself, despite being continually painted as Bush-supporting deficit-building hypocrites, actually didn’t like a lot of President George W. Bush’s (R) policies. In my case, while I supported much of Bush’s foreign policy, I clashed with his administration often on domestic and economic policy. Some elements were right-on—a hands-off approach to business regulation, for example—while others were either extraordinarily ineffective or terribly misguided. The federal deficit under Bush was too high through most of his presidency, and the bailout bonanza he embarked upon last October was absolutely appalling.

Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) campaign for the presidency was, in part, derailed by his fervent support for the same socialist government bailouts championed by Bush and now-President Barack Obama (D). Worse, Obama adeptly countered McCain’s claims of being a fiscal conservative with a simple reply: under Bush and a Republican Congress, we have had record-breaking federal deficits. Why should we trust the same party to rein-in federal spending?

To this, Republican candidates like McCain had no viable response. But the shameful big-government deficit spending of the last eight years, reprehensible as it may be, pales in comparison to the first year of the Obama administration’s spending policies.

For perspective, in 2004 the Bush administration set a record for largest annual federal deficit: 413 billion dollars. His administration broke this record in 2008 with a deficit of 455 billion dollars. For 2009, however, we are seeing incomprehensible numbers. With the fiscal year only 3/4 complete, the federal deficit has already passed a whopping 1 trillion dollars. It is projected to pass $1.8 trillion before the end of the fiscal year, with some estimates projecting the deficit to break 2 trillion dollars.

Now, granted, for the first quarter of this federal fiscal year (which begins October 1) Bush was still in the Oval Office, but the socialist bailouts initiated by Bush in that first quarter were fully supported by then-Senator Obama, so he doesn’t get a pass here. Plus, the vast majority of the year’s spending is coming from Obama’s administration—after all, about 800 billion dollars (more than the previous deficit record entirely!) of the projected $1.8 trillion deficit is going to be spent between now and October 1!

The sad reality is that the federal deficit in Obama’s first year is expected to be almost four-times bigger than Bush’s 2008 budget, which had been the largest federal deficit in history. He’s not just going to beat the record, he’s going to shatter it. I hope everybody who criticized Bush for huge federal spending and running up the deficit will criticize Obama four-times more for his four-times larger deficit.

This kind of spending madness will benefit nobody except (for the short term) those in power or directly employed by the federal government, including some federal contractors. For the rest of the economy, it will hurt . . . a lot. In the long term, it will hurt everybody—even those who initially benefit. The federal government cannot spend the economy out of a hole. It has never worked in history and, on the contrary, efforts to spend out of recessions invariably deepen and worsen them. If the federal government starts printing money to cover its debts—and, at this rate, don’t be surprised if it happens—it will lead to inflation, hyperinflation, and potentially a complete collapse of our economic system. I hope it doesn’t get that far.

Worse than the economic harm, the continual increase in federal spending represents a continued accumulation of power and authority in federal hands. The federal government touches all kinds of things of dubious value and questionable constitutionality, and it gets worse by the year. The exorbitant spending is a symptom of a much more fundamental problem: our federal government has grossly overstepped the authority granted to it by the U.S. Constitution and shows no sign of righting itself. This must be corrected.

Best-case, we begin electing politicians who will correct it under the current Constitution (since those of us who have actually read the document know that it was intended to be much more limiting on federal activity than it is today). Second-best-case, the legislatures of 2/3 of the states call a constitutional convention (permitted under Article 5 of the Constitution) to establish a new or revised constitution that more clearly limits federal authority. There are other options beyond those two, but they are not pleasant and I don’t recommend them.

Since at least 2004, I have decried the continual increase in federal spending and have sent countless letters to our elected representatives asking—begging—that they get this under control. It was reprehensible under Bush, but there isn’t a word strong enough to say what it is under Obama. We cannot continue down this path; it is a path to social, economic, and political ruin.

$1.8 trillion—$1,800,000,000,000.00—is how much we, our children, and our grandchildren will have to pay for the operation of the federal government in FY2009 alone. How much next year? How much the year after? Where do we draw the line?

Scott Bradford has been putting his opinions on his website since 1995—before most people knew what a website was. He has been a professional web developer in the public- and private-sector for over twenty years. He is an independent constitutional conservative who believes in human rights and limited government, and a Catholic Christian whose beliefs are summarized in the Nicene Creed. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University. He loves Pink Floyd and can play the bass guitar . . . sort-of. He’s a husband, pet lover, amateur radio operator, and classic AMC/Jeep enthusiast.