One of the major concerns coming from conservatives following the mid-term elections was whether or not the new, Republican-led Congress would stick to their espoused principles once in power.
Seemingly everyone wanted to know, would Republicans’ actions support their rhetoric?
That question was answered, in part, last week by the House GOP caucus.
The House Appropriations Committee passed a budget proposal that would cut $58 billion in federal non-security spending. The proposal passed 27-22, but two Republicans, Reps. Jeff Flake and Cynthia Lummis, voted against it.
They didn’t oppose the proposal because they didn’t like the cuts; Flake and Lummis voted against the plan because they didn’t think it went far enough.
And they were right.
The proposed cuts, which cut the deficit by less than 4 percent, failed to make a significant dent in the federal deficit, let alone the debt.
Not only that, but the proposal caused Republicans to renege on one of their chief campaign promises.
In the GOP leadership’s much-touted “Pledge to America,” they promised $100 billion in budget cuts this year. Here’s how the exact passage from the Pledge is written: We will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone and putting us on a path to balance the budget and pay down the debt.
It seems straightforward and simple enough.
The GOP said they would cut $100 billion in federal spending this year. And this paragraph promising the cuts appeared twice in the “Pledge to America.” So some Republican representatives wondered why exactly their leadership had suddenly decided to back only $58 billion in cuts. The move to cut less than promised prompted what some called a revolt in the House Republican caucus, with many representatives stating that they would only pass a minimum of $100 billion in cuts.
The House Republican leadership gave in, and now budget cuts totaling at least $100 billion are expected to be passed by the House.
What does this mean long-term for the budget?
Not much. There’s still a $1.4 trillion projected deficit for the year, even after these massive GOP cuts. But this is a start. And a good one at that.
And for any conservative out there who was feeling uneasy about how the Republicans would act once in office, you can breathe a little easier. They mean business.
The rank-and-file are so serious that they were willing to challenge their leadership in order to get the cuts that were promised.
The House Republicans who are taking a stand for fiscal sanity have earned my respect. Previously, I was lukewarm about this Congress. Now, I’m an enthusiastic supporter. I’m for any and all non-security cuts they want to make.
It’s important to realize, though, that these cuts, even the $500 billion in cuts proposed by Sen. Rand Paul, won’t change the fact that we’re being engulfed by our national debt.
There is only one way out that I can see. Unfortunately it’s an unpopular road that will likely result in political suicide for whomever takes it.
Republicans must take on the sacred, politically-explosive programs like Social Security and Medicare. They must reform the programs, making cuts where necessary while working towards phasing out Social Security. Because like it or not Social Security is now running a deficit and will continue to do so until it’s ultimate demise.
Republicans must weigh the political and personal costs to either leaving Social Security for a later Congress or biting the bullet and dealing with it now. If they reform Social Security now, the costs will be high. Many Republicans will lose their seats and the party will likely lose the House. But the costs of inaction will be even higher.
Economic collapse, defaulting on our national debt, financial enslavement are all likely possibilities if we continue on with our current fiscal nightmare.
By taking a stand in favor of $100 billion in budget cuts, rank-and-file Republicans have proven that they’re worthy of some of our trust.
But will they prove that we can trust them completely by making the tough choices to cut our nation’s deficit and debt?
That remains to be seen.
(Elijah Friedeman, author of The Millennial Perspective, is the grandson of Janis Friedeman, Great Bend. His columns can also be heard on his father, Matt Friedeman’s, radio program on American Family Radio.)