On the last business day of 2023, the federal government reached a grim milestone: $34 trillion in gross debt. The share for each household in the country is roughly $260,000.
Surging national debt and out-of-control deficit spending have real consequences.
Overspending has been a driving force behind the wave of inflation that started in 2021. Rising interest rates, mostly in response to inflation, have pushed home mortgages out of reach for millions of families.
As Americans have made ends meet with cuts to household budgets, one might expect that Congress would do the same. Sadly, that hope might be in vain.
The House and Senate are haggling over annual spending bills that were supposed to have been done months ago.
While House Republicans are seeking modest reductions to parts of the bloated federal bureaucracy, the Democratic-led Senate wants to maintain the big-spending status quo.
The Senate’s appetite for taxpayer dollars goes far beyond core federal duties like national defense and benefits for veterans.
Buried in the spending bills are thousands of itemized requests known as earmarks. These are mostly local-level projects that provide obvious political benefits to legislators who want to “bring home the bacon.”
While the House has put many commonsense rules in place to stop the worst excesses of these spending requests, the Senate has gone hog wild.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat, wants $3.5 million in corporate welfare for The Parade Co., which makes floats for the annual Thanksgiving parade in Detroit.
Not content with inflating prices, the Senate also wants Americans to pay for giant inflated balloons.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin Democrat, is seeking $1.4 million for a solar power system in Viola. The village straddles two counties that, according to The Washington Post, are in the bottom one-twelfth for sunlight in the country.
Federally funded green energy projects have a history of failure even in sunny locations. Pushing solar energy in areas where the sun rarely shines is a nearly guaranteed waste of money.
These boondoggles also include handouts for ideological groups. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, thinks the NAACP deserves $500,000 from Uncle Sam for its headquarters in Baltimore. The NAACP has strayed from its origins as a civil rights group and is now dedicated to injecting racial animus into political debate.
Similarly, Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts want $1 million for the Amplify Latinx group.
As one would expect from an organization with “Latinx” (a term created by activists and rejected by the Hispanic community) in its name, the group promotes the left’s obsession with racial identity.
Fortunately, Congress can prevent these absurdities from receiving taxpayer resources. These projects can pass only with support from both chambers, meaning that House Republicans have leverage to block them.
Stopping wasteful and absurd earmarks would be a first step toward restoring fiscal sanity to Washington.
But if Congress can’t manage to say no to such blatantly wasteful and inappropriate requests, that will not bode well for their ability to tackle much bigger problems such as the looming insolvency of Social Security and Medicare.
Americans have endured real economic pain over the last few years as a result of Washington’s mismanagement. If Congress doesn’t get its act together on budgeting, the worst may be yet to come.
This piece originally appeared in The Washington Times