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EDITORIAL: Pelosi’s fiscal irresponsibility

While congressional Republicans could do a far better job of demonstrating their supposed dedication to fiscal responsibility, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s rejection of an offer from the White House to impose a minuscule cut in federal spending highlights how Democrats aren’t remotely interested in the concept.

According to news accounts, the speaker on July 19 rejected an offer from the Trump administration that would have cut $150 billion in federal spending over the next decade. The offer was part of a possible deal to raise the debt ceiling. While $150 billion may sound like a lot of money to those unversed in Beltway profligacy, it represents a speck of flotsam tossing about on the rising ocean of Washington’s red ink.

Yet Ms. Pelosi and House Democrats couldn’t even pull the trigger on this feeble popgun.

For some perspective, Eric Boehm of Reason magazine noted that the Congressional Budget Office estimates federal spending will exceed $57 trillion over the next decade. The Trump administration’s proposed $150 billion cut would amount to less than 0.3 percent of that spending. Mr. Boehm pointed out that if you think of federal spending in terms of a $50,000 annual household budget, the proposed cut would amount to cutting roughly $150 per year — or the cost of a single lunch each month.

If your annual household budget is $50,000 but your family is deep in debt, skipping one trip to Subway each month won’t do much to dig you out of your hole. The same principle holds true for our government.

The federal government is carrying $22 trillion in debt. According to the CBO, absent reforms, that figure will exceed $33.6 trillion in 10 years. As Mr. Boehm notes, the national debt is on pace to be more than 150 percent the size of our entire economy in three decades, shattering the previous record set during World War II. A recession would only exacerbate the problem.

With President Donald Trump agreeing this week to a budget-busting spending deal, don’t expect any meaningful discussion to take place anytime soon. The GOP appears to be no longer concerned with deficits. Ms. Pelosi can’t be bothered to discuss even the smallest budget cuts with her colleagues — colleagues who aren’t interested in addressing them anyway.

The White House’s $150 billion proposal would have done nothing to change the trajectory of federal spending, of course. But the point was symbolic — and sometimes symbolism matters. Is there anyone in Washington who still cares about spending restraint or the long-term fiscal health of the nation? Perhaps the upcoming debt crisis will spark their interest if it isn’t too late.

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