Why Republicans who once fought budget debt now embrace it

WASHINGTON (AP) — When did Republicans stop worrying and learn to love budget deficits?

Over the next decade, their tax plan would add at least $1 trillion to the national debt. That would be on top of an additional $10 trillion in deficits over the same period already being by forecast by the Congressional Budget Office. As a share of the economy, the national debt would be rising to levels last seen during the height of World War II.

This borrowing spree would mark a sharp reversal for Republicans who made a career of sounding the alarm that mounting national debt would ultimately crush the economy and perhaps impoverish future generations. House Speaker Paul Ryan warned back in 2013 that endless deficits would “weigh the country down like an anchor. In short, we are on the verge of a debt crisis.”

But on Friday, as the Senate moved toward passage of its version of tax legislation, a rather different Republican Party was in full view. The party’s few remaining deficit hawks, like Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, were clearly out of step with most in their party.

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“Obviously, I’m kind of a dinosaur on fiscal issues,” Corker said ruefully before declaring his opposition to the bill.

So what changed?

Republicans gained control of the House and Senate as well as the White House, said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, an advocate for fiscal responsibility. Its all-inclusive control gave the party the leverage to focus on slashing tax cuts, rather than taking the sometimes painful steps required to curb the debt, which would likely do little on the eve of an election year to rally their donors and base of voters.

“When you don’t have to make legislative compromises and have things you want to do, it’s easy to set aside fears about the budget deficit,” Bixby said.

Congressional Republicans had more incentive to reduce the deficit when President Barack Obama was in office. They ultimately agreed to the 2011 Budget Control Act to pare the deficit by mandating nearly $1 trillion in automatic spending cuts in return for raising the government’s borrowing authority.

The historically low U.S. interest rates that have prevailed for nearly a decade have made managing the debt less of a burden than in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan. What’s more, the U.S. economy has steadily improved as the unemployment rate has…

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