How Congress Spent Your Money In 2017
Although the GOP Congress left town before Christmas amidst the euphoria of a major tax cut and a revitalized economy, its return will deliver a cold shower of economic reality.
Congress must fund federal spending for the current fiscal year by January 19 or pass yet another continuing resolution. Demands for more disaster relief continue to place pressure on federal spending. Partisan wrangling over a host of nondefense programs shows no sign of letting up.
Meanwhile, as reported by the Daily Signal, a look back at Congressional spending in 2017 reveals the old habit of ignoring a national day of reckoning in the form of mounting federal debt ($20 trillion), a hefty annual deficit ($666 billion), and a new record in Social Security spending ($1 trillion). As a result, the report continues, gains realized from tax reform could be undone by runaway spending that could force the inevitable call for higher taxes:
As deficits are projected to reach $1 trillion annually before the end of this decade, Congress and the president must not delay to cut spending, right-size the federal government, and reform unsustainable entitlement programs. Succeeding at that is critical to restoring America to greatness.
In assessing the nation’s growing debt and lack of action to cut spending, the Daily Signal provided the following facts that summarize federal spending in 2017:
The deficit reached $666 billion
By many, 666 is known as the number of the beast in the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. In this case, $666 billion is the 2017 federal budget deficit. That’s how much more Congress spent in 2017 than it took in from taxation. Of total spending in 2017, which topped $3,982 billion, Congress borrowed 17 cents on every dollar.
The debt reached $20 trillion
The year 2017 marked the first time the national debt exceeded $20 trillion. The debt reached this level in September when President Donald Trump struck a deal with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to continue funding for domestic and defense programs, provide relief in light of Hurricane Harvey, and suspend the debt limit. Since then, the debt limit was reinstated at $20.4 trillion in early December.
Social Security spending reached $1 trillion
This year marked the first time that Social Security spending on the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance programs topped $1 trillion. Social Security is the single largest federal benefit program. It has held this rank since 1993, when it first surpassed spending on national defense. Without reforms, both Social Security programs are projected to reach insolvency by 2034.
Three continuing resolutions
Federal law dictates that Congress must pass a budget to fund national defense and domestic programs that are categorized as discretionary spending, each year by Sept. 30. The congressional budget process specifies that Congress should provide this funding in the form of 12 individual spending bills so as to allow for proper deliberation of funding priorities. But Congress rarely, if ever, follows this process, which is also referred to as “regular order.” Three months into fiscal year 2018, which began on Oct. 1, Congress has already passed three temporary continuing resolutions. The last continuing resolution was passed on Dec. 22 and sets up the next funding deadline on Jan. 19. Continuing resolutions are a flawed way of funding the government—but when the alternative is a potentially $200-plus billion spending increase from a deal to breach budget caps that are currently in law, a continuing resolution at current funding levels is the lesser evil.
First Trump budget was proposed
The president released his first official budget proposal in May 2017. The “America First” proposal would balance the budget within 10 years, prioritize national defense spending, and reduce spending on nondefense discretionary programs by more than $1.4 trillion over 10 years. It would also implement policies to reduce the reach and weight of the federal government by eliminating wasteful and duplicative programs, and by rolling back harmful regulations that reduce individual freedom and hamstring the national economy. But Congress has not given the president’s proposals the serious consideration that they deserve.
During the course of his career, Walker has worked in Chicago, Washington DC, New York City, and Phoenix. He served as a reporter in Chicago, a press secretary and speechwriter in Washington, and in numerous positions in New York in corporate and financial services communications.
Walker is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.