Republicans who increased debt with tax cuts now say it's a "threat to national security"

Republicans' tax cuts for the rich ballooned the national debt by $1 trillion. Now they want to slash spending

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published March 1, 2019 6:00AM (EST)

Andy Biggs; (AP/Ross D. Franklin/Andrew Harnik)
Andy Biggs; (AP/Ross D. Franklin/Andrew Harnik)

Republicans in Congress are pushing a resolution to label the rising public debt a “threat to national security” after nearly all of them voted in favor of massive tax cuts for corporations and the rich that have increased that debt.

Five Senate Republicans and 50 House Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation in both chambers. All those senators and 37 of the House Republicans voted to approve the 2017 tax cuts that caused the U.S. to add more than $1 trillion in new debt in the last year alone, ThinkProgress reported.

The non-binding resolution says that “that deficits are unsustainable, irresponsible, and dangerous,” and that Congress is committed to “addressing the fiscal crisis faced by the United States.”

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., who introduced the legislation in the House, claimed in a press release announcing the bill that the country “has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.”

“Congress is taking few measures to solve this problem, and it is beyond time for our colleagues in both chambers to become serious about balancing the nation’s budget and recognize this issue as a threat to our national security,” he said.

While it’s true that federal spending is up, much of the increase has gone to the military, which accounts for about 17 percent of the country’s $4 trillion annual budget, the Washington Post reported. Last year, 85 senators voted to approve one of the biggest military budgets in US history.

It is not true that revenues are up, however, because the numbers are significantly lower when adjusted for inflation, Harvard Business Review Group editorial director Justin Fox wrote at Bloomberg.

The New York Times reported that tax revenues fell by 2.7 percent or $83 billion last fiscal year as the economy grew by 3 percent. Prior to the tax cuts, when the economy saw a 2.9 percent growth rate in 2015, tax revenues grew by about 7 percent.

Republicans repeatedly claimed the tax cuts would pay for themselves in added revenue driven by economic growth, which has not happened, as their own experts at the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation warned prior to the law’s passage.

While economic growth has been higher over the last year compared to 2017, it has fallen far short of Trump’s repeated claim that he would grow the GDP by 4 percent and even the administration’s revised goal of 3 percent, Business Insider reported.

"Based on the available data, we estimate that gross domestic product (GDP) rose a little less than 3% last year following a 2.5% increase in 2017," Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said in testimony to Congress on Tuesday.

“Most economists also don't expect Trump to capture the 3% goal in 2019 either,” Business Insider added. “The Fed projects 2019 growth to come in at 2.5%, well below the target.”

Despite mounting evidence that the 2017 tax law has failed to produce any positive revenue, while much of the increased spending has been driven by Republicans pushing more money to the military, Republicans pushing the new anti-debt resolution insist the key to solving the problem is cutting spending to better fund the military.

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., who introduced the resolution in the Senate, told the Washington Times that “alarm bells” should have gone off when the debt topped $22 trillion earlier this year “but bureaucrats and career politicians didn’t even blink an eye.”

“The single greatest threat to our national security is our national debt, and it’s time Washington comes to grips with that reality,” Perdue said. “Ultimately, the debt impacts our ability to fund priorities, like providing our men and women in uniform with the resources they need to protect Americans. This debt crisis will only get worse, and if we don’t act now, our country will lose the ability to do the right thing.”

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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