(Sept. 30) Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia may have understated the case when he rightly described a pending $3.5 trillion spending bill as “fiscal insanity .” Worse than insanity, it’s a fiscal obscenity.

Sometimes numbers get so big that most people see a big blur and lose any real sense of what they mean. And no, this isn’t just one of those explanations that if a dollar were a mile, it would take more than 14 million trips around the Earth’s equator to reach 3.5 trillion (although that is true). Instead, this is a simple lesson of comparative history and budgetary reality.

First, let’s understand that even the 10-year, $3.5 trillion price tag (for what I’ll henceforth call the “Big Bill” to distinguish it from other legislation) comes from all sorts of highly dishonest budgetary gimmicks that hide the bill’s true cost of nearly $5.5 trillion . Yet for the sake of argument, let’s accept the official number at face value.

This is new spending, over and above the existing federal budget, which even before the coronavirus had risen by astronomical amounts — more than twice the rate of inflation for two solid decades — under presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump. On top of that outrageous government largesse, Congress in just 14 months approved $5.7 trillion, more than the entire annual, pre-COVID federal budget, for an orgy of everything it could possibly pretend was for “COVID relief.” Then there is the pending $1 trillion “infrastructure” package, of which some $550 billion is new spending and which itself uses more gimmicks to hide even higher costs .

Even at the dishonestly low official numbers, the infrastructure package and the Big Bill together would add more than $450 billion per year to the existing bloat-atop-bloat described above. That $450 billion would have covered all federal domestic discretionary spending (not counting “international affairs”) in 2008, former President George W. Bush’s final year in office. But again, this is new money — on top of that Bush baseline, on top of the huge increases since Bush, and on top of the COVID relief.

If your mind isn’t getting dizzy yet, you’re a mathematical genius…. [The full column is at this link.]


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