Saturday, December 31, 2011

While You Drank Yourself High on Hoping

One message that was sent loudly and clearly by voters in the 2010 mid-term elections was that federal spending had gotten out of control and needed to be cut back immediately. The new class of incoming Republicans obviously understood this imperative and it even seemed like Democrats in Congress and President Obama finally realized that the American people had reached their limit when it came to ever increasing government outlays. At last, it appeared that the spending jig was indeed up.

So it's depressingly familiar yet hardly surprising to read an editorial in today's WSJ explaining how The Spenders Won 2011:

Amid this month's payroll tax fracas, few noticed that Congress passed a 1,200-page, $1 trillion omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2012. Maybe no one in Washington boasted because it's a victory for spending as usual. Republicans—in the House and Senate—need a better strategy.

The news is that after accounting for last-minute unemployment insurance extensions, "emergency" spending and higher Medicare physician payments, total federal outlays are estimated to be $3.65 trillion in fiscal 2012, up slightly from $3.6 trillion in 2011. The last year has seen no major reforms in any of the big entitlement programs—Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. Spending on food stamps alone is scheduled to reach $80 billion in 2012, more than double the amount as recently as 2007.

A chart that accompanied the piece put the spending problem in proper perspective.

Like a drunk who keeps promising that "next year I'll sober up," our elected representatives seem incapable of stopping the spending bender that's been going on for years. The longer this continues, the worse the eventual hangover is going to be once they quit the spending (which will more likely be a forced rather than voluntary decision).

Here's to hoping that 2012 will be the year we finally have the resolution to stop the spending madness. Experience tells me there's faint chance of actually seeing that happen.