Looking for fiscal responsibility? Ask a Democrat

I think I am living in an alternate reality. How is it that one of the most outspoken, principled, fiscally conservative members of Congress is a Democrat? I might as well be writing that up is down, and black is white. Or perhaps more appropriately, that red is blue.

Here is a matching game for you to play. Match the quote with the speakers and their political party.

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1. “Spending trillions more on new and expanded government programs, when we can’t even pay for the essential social programs, like Social Security and Medicare, is the definition of fiscal insanity.”

2. “Why don’t we seize the assets of the Ford Foundation, tax their assets, and give it to the people who’ve had their lives destroyed by the radical open borders agenda?”

3. “Government has a role to play.”

4. “Our tax code should be reformed to fix the flaws of the 2017 tax bill and ensure everyone pays their fair share, but it should not weaken our global competitiveness or the ability of millions of small businesses to compete with the Amazons of the world.”

5. “Who the hell cares about the budget?”

Here is the answer key: 1. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia; 2. Republican U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance of Ohio; 3. Missouri’s own Republican Sen. Josh Hawley; 4. Manchin; 5. Former Republican President Donald Trump.

If you are someone who believes, at a minimum, in fiscal responsibility and consider yourself a Republican, then my quiz may have you, too, feeling a bit upside down. Congress has also been playing a game with our federal budget and $3.5 trillion in taxpayer dollars.

Manchin has been vocal about his unwillingness to support the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package and “soft infrastructure” bill his fellow Democrats are pushing through Congress. Manchin had quite a bit more to say about America’s fiscal health on top of the two quotes above. He also said, “I cannot — and will not — support trillions in spending or an all-or-nothing approach that ignores the brutal fiscal reality our nation faces.”

Manchin is getting hammered by the pundit class for his obstinance. He is being criticized for speaking out against his progressive left flank, whose members are more than happy to spend money without regard to the debt and deficit.

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans have suddenly found their fiscal responsibility backbones. But make no mistake, it is not because they believe in fiscal responsibility; it’s because the Democrats have control over the White House, the Senate and the House. The fiscally responsible Republicans fell silent during the Trump administration. Unlike Manchin, they would not speak up in front of other members of the Republican caucus. And they did not seem to care about fiscal responsibility while Republicans had control.

During Trump’s time in office, the national debt rose by almost $7.8 trillion. According to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, the growth in the annual deficit under Trump ranks as the third-biggest increase, relative to the size of the economy, of any U.S. presidential administration. The other two were the George W. Bush administration, who launched two foreign wars following the 9/11 attacks, and the Abraham Lincoln administration, who was paying for the Civil War.

It appears that Manchin is not only principled but also politically savvy. Turns out that fiscal responsibility is popular. According to an Economist/YouGov poll from July 2019, 83% of Americans say the budget deficit is an important issue. Gallup reported in 2019 that 95% of Americans worry about the budget deficit, including 50% a “great deal.” Pew also reported in 2019 that 90% of Americans believe reducing the national debt should be a top or an important priority for the federal government to improve quality of life for future generations.

The truth is the rules of the game have changed. The Republican Party has moved toward a populist/nationalist movement. They no longer care about fiscal responsibility or even principles for that matter. The Democrats are busy fighting among themselves between the more moderate, dare I say conservative wing, and the far-left progressive wing. There are very few speaking out for the 83% to 95% of Americans who care about the country’s financial health. I for one am glad that someone is, even if he is a Democrat.

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“America is a great nation but great nations throughout history have been weakened by careless spending and bad policies,” Manchin said last week. “Now, more than ever, we must work together to avoid these fatal mistakes.”

That perhaps is the most conservative statement I have heard in a long time.

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