CNS News and the Media Research Center climb into the Wayback Machine and travel to January 4, 2007, Nancy Pelosi’s first day as Speaker of the House, to recall this gem of a political promise. After years of overspending by Republicans, Democrats had run on a platform of fiscal responsibility and taken control of both chambers of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections. Pelosi started off the 110th Session of Congress by declaring an end to deficit spending:
“After years of historic deficits, this 110th Congress will commit itself to a higher standard: Pay as you go, no new deficit spending,” Pelosi said in her speech from the speaker’s podium. “Our new America will provide unlimited opportunity for future generations, not burden them with mountains of debt.”
Pelosi has served as speaker in the 110th and 111th Congresses.
At the close of business on Jan. 4, 2007, Pelosi’s first day as speaker, the national debt was $8,670,596,242,973.04 (8.67 trillion), according to the Bureau of the Public Debt, a division of the U.S. Treasury Department. At the close of business on Oct. 22, it stood at $13,667,983,325,978.31 (13.67 trillion), an increase of 4,997,387,083,005.27 (or approximately $5 trillion).
Pelosi, the 60th speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, has added more to the national debt than the first 57 House speakers combined.
The $4.997-trillion increase in the national debt since she took the gavel is more debt than the federal government amassed from the speakership of Rep. Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania, who became the first speaker of the House on April 1, 1789, to the start of the speakership of Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia, the 58th speaker, who took up the gavel on Jan. 4, 1995.
The national debt first topped $5 trillion on Feb. 23, 1996, more than a year into Gingrich’s speakership.
Gingrich served as speaker in the 104th and 105th Congresses, officially taking the office on Jan. 4, 1995 and leaving office on Jan. 3, 1999. During that period, according to the Treasury Department, the national debt increased $812.4 billion dollars ($812,423,595,162.98), rising from $4.8 trillion ($4,801,793,426,032.89) to $5.6 trillion ($5,614,217,021,195.87).
Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), the 59th speaker, who presided over the 106th, 107th, 108th and 109th Congresses (serving as speaker from Jan. 6, 1999 to Jan. 3, 2007), enjoys the distinction of having increased the debt more than any other speaker except Pelosi. During Hastert’s time, the national debt increased $3.1 trillion ($3,061,785,703,851.74).
Thus far (the 111th Congress will not be done until the end of the year), Pelosi has increased the debt by an average of $2.5 trillion for each Congress she has led as speaker. Hastert increased the debt by an average of about $785 billion per Congress, while Gingrich increased the debt by an average of $406 billion per Congress.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the federal government cannot spend any money that has not been approved by congressional appropriations; and, by congressional precedent, appropriations bills originate in the House.
“No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law,” says Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution.
“By precedent, appropriations originate in the House, with the Senate following suit,” says the House Rules Committee in an explanation of the appropriations process.
Annual federal expenditures have increased by about $730 billion in the Pelosi era, while annual deficits have increased almost 8 fold. In fiscal 2007, when Pelosi became speaker, the federal government spent $2.73 trillion and ran an annual deficit of $162.8 billion, according to the Treasury Department. In fiscal 2009, the federal government spent $3.52 trillion and ran an annual deficit of $1.4157 trillion. In fiscal 2010, the federal government spent $3.46 trillion and ran an annual deficit of $1.2941 trillion.
Democrats will often blame this on the continued existence of the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. However, the CBO reckons that the federal government will only get $4 trillion over the next ten years if all of the Bush tax cuts expire, as they are set to do on December 31 of this year. That ten-year revenue (which is itself highly debatable) still wouldn’t have covered all of the deficit spending Democrats did while in control of Congress in just four years. In fact, at their rate of deficit spending in three budget cycles, Democrats would add almost $15 trillion to the national debt in ten years:
Republicans in control for 12 years: Added $4.034 trillion (avg $336.17 billion per year)
Republicans in control during Bush era: Added $3.201 trillion (avg $533.5 billion per year)
Democrats in control of Congress during Bush/Obama era: Added $4.603 trillion (avg 1.48 trillion per year)
Democrats did not aim to control spending when they took control of Congress. They aimed to expand government at a historic rate, and they succeeded beyond even their wildest dreams. And what happened when Democrats finally got around to passing pay-go, more than three years later? They made more exceptions to it than bills that actually got the pay-go treatment.
This is exactly why voters can’t trust Democrats on spending, deficits, and taxes.
To those that point to the Hastert years, and reprimanding, ask where the Tea Party-type/fiscal hawks were then — they were at the voting booth. When their elected representatives acted irresponsibly, the electorate called them on it.
A quick glance at the headline and data above, and one can’t possibly be surprised that this may be the shortest-lived House majority in fifty-five years.
Funny line. The piece is a bit much.
I wrote a play about politics (November)…
The play, while being a laugh a minute, is, when it’s at home, a disputation between reason and faith, or perhaps between the conservative (or tragic) view and the liberal (or perfectionist) view. The conservative president in the piece holds that people are each out to make a living, and the best way for government to facilitate that is to stay out of the way, as the inevitable abuses and failures of this system (free-market economics) are less than those of government intervention.
I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind.
As a child of the ’60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.
These cherished precepts had, over the years, become ingrained as increasingly impracticable prejudices. Why do I say impracticable? Because although I still held these beliefs, I no longer applied them in my life. How do I know? My wife informed me. We were riding along and listening to NPR. I felt my facial muscles tightening, and the words beginning to form in my mind: Shut the fuck up. ”?” she prompted. And her terse, elegant summation, as always, awakened me to a deeper truth: I had been listening to NPR and reading various organs of national opinion for years, wonder and rage contending for pride of place. Further: I found I had been—rather charmingly, I thought—referring to myself for years as “a brain-dead liberal,” and to NPR as “National Palestinian Radio.”
This is, to me, the synthesis of this worldview with which I now found myself disenchanted: that everything is always wrong.
But in my life, a brief review revealed, everything was not always wrong, and neither was nor is always wrong in the community in which I live, or in my country. Further, it was not always wrong in previous communities in which I lived, and among the various and mobile classes of which I was at various times a part.
And, I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama.
I found not only that I didn’t trust the current government (that, to me, was no surprise), but that an impartial review revealed that the faults of this president—whom I, a good liberal, considered a monster—were little different from those of a president whom I revered.
Bush got us into Iraq, JFK into Vietnam. Bush stole the election in Florida; Kennedy stole his in Chicago. Bush outed a CIA agent; Kennedy left hundreds of them to die in the surf at the Bay of Pigs. Bush lied about his military service; Kennedy accepted a Pulitzer Prize for a book written by Ted Sorenson. Bush was in bed with the Saudis, Kennedy with the Mafia. Oh.
And I began to question my hatred for “the Corporations”—the hatred of which, I found, was but the flip side of my hunger for those goods and services they provide and without which we could not live.
And I began to question my distrust of the “Bad, Bad Military” of my youth, which, I saw, was then and is now made up of those men and women who actually risk their lives to protect the rest of us from a very hostile world. Is the military always right? No. Neither is government, nor are the corporations—they are just different signposts for the particular amalgamation of our country into separate working groups, if you will. Are these groups infallible, free from the possibility of mismanagement, corruption, or crime? No, and neither are you or I. So, taking the tragic view, the question was not “Is everything perfect?” but “How could it be better, at what cost, and according to whose definition?” Put into which form, things appeared to me to be unfolding pretty well.
Do I speak as a member of the “privileged class”? If you will—but classes in the United States are mobile, not static, which is the Marxist view. That is: Immigrants came and continue to come here penniless and can (and do) become rich; the nerd makes a trillion dollars; the single mother, penniless and ignorant of English, sends her two sons to college (my grandmother). On the other hand, the rich and the children of the rich can go belly-up; the hegemony of the railroads is appropriated by the airlines, that of the networks by the Internet; and the individual may and probably will change status more than once within his lifetime.
What about the role of government? Well, in the abstract, coming from my time and background, I thought it was a rather good thing, but tallying up the ledger in those things which affect me and in those things I observe, I am hard-pressed to see an instance where the intervention of the government led to much beyond sorrow.
But if the government is not to intervene, how will we, mere human beings, work it all out?
I wondered and read, and it occurred to me that I knew the answer, and here it is: We just seem to.
Just read it.