Congress’ Spending Spree Hits the Fast Lane | Citizens Against Government Waste

Congress’ Spending Spree Hits the Fast Lane

The WasteWatcher

In the upside-down world that began when the pandemic struck the United States in March 2020, elected officials across the country have taken the opportunity to expand the size, scope, and power of government.  The idea of COVID-19 “relief” was taken so far that $1 trillion of the funds allocated for that purpose remain unspent.  The most recent definitional expansion was applied to “infrastructure,” which was most infamously tweeted by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on April 7, 2021, as “Paid leave is infrastructure. Child care is infrastructure. Caregiving is infrastructure.” 

The commonly understood definition of infrastructure to most Americans and most members of Congress (at least until now) is basic physical and organizational structures like bridges, ports, power supplies, rails, and roads.  Beginning with President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, it now includes “human infrastructure,” to which Sen. Gillibrand was referring, along with Medicare expansion, fighting climate change, and promoting immigration reform.  Senate Democrats are going even further by including legislation like the PRO Act, which would dramatically increase the size and power of unions. The combined cost of the “traditional” and “human” infrastructure proposals will exceed $4.7 trillion, which is more than the federal government has spent in any single fiscal year other than 2020 at the height of the pandemic, and the only certain result of these two bills will be out-of-control inflation and higher taxes.

On June 24, 2021, President Biden expressed his support for a bipartisan infrastructure framework after meeting with the senators involved in the negotiations.  The plan totals $1.2 trillion and includes $550 million in new spending on provisions like broadband deployment and passenger and freight rail.  It is more than twice as expensive as the last infrastructure bill that was enacted by Congress.  An outline of the deal claims that despite the increase in new spending, there will not be any tax hikes on everyday Americans.  On June 28, 2021, the Senate voted 67-32 to proceed to debate a bill that includes these provisions, but which is still being written.  While taxpayer groups and some members of Congress have suggested using the unspent $1 trillion in COVID-19 “relief” as a pay-for, there is nothing to suggest that is included in the legislation.

In addition to the bipartisan infrastructure deal, Senate Democrats reached a budget agreement to spend an additional $3.5 trillion on what they call “human infrastructure” or “soft infrastructure.”  This “human infrastructure” agreement includes policies like expanding Medicare, a priority of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), universal pre-kindergarten, and free community college.  Democrats may claim that these policies are considered infrastructure, but in fact it would be the largest increase in the size and scope of the government in history and move the United States much closer to being a socialist country. 

Members of Congress have always believed the answer to solving a problem, real or perceived, is to create a program and spend more money.  In March 2021 Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act, Pub. Law 117-2, with a price tag of $1.9 trillion, including $350 billion for state and local governments.  The bill allows that money to be spent on COVID-19 related relief as well as infrastructure, including broadband.  With $1 trillion already unspent from prior COVID legislation, and states across the country already using billions of dollars to provide broadband access to unserved communities, it is reasonable to question why another $1.5 trillion is needed for infrastructure, including $65 billion for broadband.  The bipartisan bill that appears to be headed for passage in the Senate will exacerbate the adverse consequences of this already out-of-control spending.  Over the past year, inflation has risen by 5.4 percent, and everyone is now paying higher prices on everyday goods and services like gasoline and milk.

Americans are rightly concerned about the level of government spending that is being debated in Congress.  A June 16, 2021 Monmouth University Polling Institute poll found that 47 percent of Americans are very concerned about the impact of inflation due to President Biden’s spending plans, and a majority of Democrats, Republicans, and independents are at least somewhat concerned.  When President Biden came into office, he pledged that he would not raise taxes on anybody making less than $400,000.  However, if Congress adds $4.7 trillion for the proposed infrastructure packages, there is no way to avoid a hefty tax hike on everyone.  With inflation skyrocketing and impacting everyone, especially lower- and middle-income Americans, and the impact of the delta variant bringing new uncertainty about the pace of the recovery (including lower than expected GDP growth in the second quarter), the country cannot afford either infrastructure package. 

Now is not the time to pass another reckless and wasteful spending bill.  Congress still needs to pass a budget and is now facing the expiration of the debt limit at the end of July, which will eventually make the Treasury Department unable to pay the country’s obligations.  Instead of spending more than $4.7 trillion on traditional and “human infrastructure,” which would keep the budget upside down and in the red for decades, Congress should instead focus on implementing responsible fiscal policies like cutting wasteful and duplicative spending, imposing spending caps, and budget reform. 

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