should we be worried about all the spending?

I’ll be the first to stand and say I’m no proponent of worry. Who of us via worry can add a single hour to our life? Let me therefore respectfully rephrase. Is there cause for concern?

President after president, Congress after Congress continue to spend trillions. Let’s put that in numerical form for emphasis; each asserts the dire need to spend additional $1,000,000,000,000’s. Be sure to notice all those zeros. Did I mention a cause for concern?

Fascinatingly — sort of — for the presidents and Congress, their individual party affiliation matters not. When they’re in power, they want to spend more; when they’re not in power, they want to spend less. Then they have creative, gas-lightish ways of pointing figures at the other party. It’s honestly a little crazy. I think they think we the people have incredibly short memories. Perhaps we’re blinded. Maybe we’ll simply forget what they said when their agency was different. The fact is that neither Democrats nor Republicans have a consistent, positive track record of fiscal prudence. When in power, they each justify spending a huge, honking, monstrous, mountainous, gigantic, titanic, astronomical amount of money. Could we be more clear? (If in doubt, please revisit that number of zeros.) 

“Spending like there’s no tomorrow!” says the timeless idiom. And with calls to spend exponentially more — $3.5 unspecified trillions, being the current, fiscally-questionable refrain — sometimes I wonder if our leaders really do think there actually will be no tomorrow. Why would you spend so much now, especially during fragile economic and inflationary times?

Ah, yes… I’ve heard some… it costs “zero,” so they say. Question: did any of those who currently claim such ever take Econ in college? To be clear, the Intramuralist is no expert, but this semi-humble blogger does possess a Bachelors Degree in Business Management complemented by multiple graduate level Econ classes. Claims of “zero cost” are not accurate.

But let me not mistakenly assert myself as an expert. Hear from them more than me…

From David Wessel, the Director of The Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy and  Senior Fellow in Economic Studies: “Even before the pandemic, the federal deficit was large by historical standards and projected to rise. The sharp recession and the spending increases that Congress and the president approved in response has made the deficit even bigger. Big deficits mean a growing federal debt—the total the government owes—already at its highest point since World War II. Extraordinarily low interest rates allow the U.S. to shoulder a heavier debt burden, but the debt is on an unsustainable course and its size may limit the government’s ability or willingness to continue to fight the economic ill effects of the pandemic or future economic downturns.”

An unsustainable course. In other words, we can’t afford this.

From George P. Shultz, John F. Cogan, and John B. Taylor — public servants and an economic trio of experts — warning before Shultz’s death this past spring: “Many in Washington now seem to think that the federal government can spend a limitless amount of money without any harmful economic consequences. They are wrong. Excessive federal spending is creating grave economic and national-security risks. America’s fiscal recklessness must stop. The COVID-19 crisis has provided the latest impetus for government spending, even to the point of steering the American mind-set toward socialism—a doctrine that has always harmed people’s well-being. But some say there is no need to worry about excessive spending. After all, they argue, record-low interest rates apparently show no sign of increasing. The economy was humming along just fine until the pandemic hit, and will no doubt rebound strongly when it ends. And is there even a whiff of inflation in the air? This thinking is dangerously shortsighted. The fundamental laws of economics have not been repealed. As one of us demonstrated in his book ‘The High Cost of Good Intentions,’ profligate government spending invariably has damaging consequences.”

And one more expert, because again, this is sobering to say the least, from Adam A. Milsap in Forbes recently: “America is engaging in an unprecedented spending spree. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that the infrastructure proposal and the proposed $3.5 trillion reconciliation spending plan will result in $2.9 trillion (about $8,900 per person) of additional government borrowing over the next decade. This debt will not solve our problems. America needs more private sector innovation to solve our biggest challenges—uplifting the poor, healing the sick, and protecting the planet—not more government spending and top-down regulation. If all this proposed spending occurs, the federal debt is likely to hit 109% of GDP by 2031 but could get as high as 125%. This would surpass the debt-to-GDP ratio in the years immediately following World War II.”

Something is wrong, friends. With both parties.

Prudence says we allow no more partisans, presidents, or parties to kick the can down the road. They need to stop spending. Until they do, we all have serious cause to be concerned.