More spending and higher fees.
While imperfect, the sequester has proved to be an effective tool in reducing base discretionary spending. Nonetheless, conservatives have expressed a willingness to alter the budget caps established by the 2011 debt ceiling deal in exchange for immediate and substantive structural reforms that significantly reduce spending and address the real drivers of our debt.
OUR VIEW: Beats another shutdown
Unfortunately, the budget agreement struck by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray is a step backward:
- First, it represents an immediate increase in federal spending. Under the deal, discretionary spending would rise to $1.012 trillion in 2014 and $1.014 trillion in 2015, a $63 billion total increase (though it does little to provide a real and sustained fix for President Obama's mismanagement of defense). This is a significant achievement for the president, who believes that government spending is a panacea to America's economic woes.
- Second, the deal includes higher user fees on air travel and customs. But it could not be more evident that these fees are not going up to cover the cost of services; instead, they are being used to offset the aforementioned spending increases. Negotiators relied on this gimmick to make the claim they were not raising taxes, but diverting user fees to fuel bigger government is a tax.
- Third, the deal relies upon promises of future cuts that the demise of the sequester vividly illustrates cannot be counted on. Proponents of the deal will argue they've achieved those significant savings over the next decade, but the promise of future savings is less valuable than savings already taking effect. As if to prove the point, negotiators moved roughly a third of the deficit reduction ($28 billion in cuts) to 2022.
What the deal really demonstrates, however, is the continued power of the third party in Washington — appropriators. These members, some Democrat and others Republican, forced the Party of Reagan to throw away spending cuts that could have been used as leverage for serious entitlement reforms or simply kept as savings for the hard-working American taxpayer.
Some are heralding the agreement as an indication politicians can put aside their petty differences and achieve something. In the coming days, members of Congress will have to explain to their constituents what exactly they achieved by increasing spending, increasing fees and offering up another round of promises waiting to be broken. That will be a tough sell back home.
Michael A. Needham is the chief executive officer of Heritage Action for America.