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Where did all the real fiscal conservatives go?

As the House nears a bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling, Dr. Ronald E. White wonders aloud how hypocrisy on the economy has become the rule of the day.

The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington on Sunday, May 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

It is ironic that 24 years after the United States was projecting budget surpluses, it is a Republican, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who wants to force spending reductions to raise the debt ceiling limit.

It was a Republican president, George W. Bush, who proposed the trillion-dollar tax cuts that Congress passed in 2001 that led to a continued deficit. They were passed, however, based on projections that never materialized. It was irresponsible and designed to “give the people their money.” All it really did was entrench behavior that benefits the wealthy and stifles investment in our nation’s people and infrastructure.

In 2001, the nation was in debt and after years of budgetary deficits, was on the verge of running a budget surplus. To give away money that was projected, not in hand, was not a fiscally conservative thing to do. It was the beginning of the end to fiscal conservatism as we knew it. Had America not gone down that path of giving out tax cuts as a Republican methodology to gain and hold office, our nation might not be in such a dire predicament today. A true fiscal conservative would have recommended rescinding the tax cuts when it became clear that the budget surpluses would not materialize.

The interest payments since that initial trillion dollars in tax cuts have been astronomical. America has probably not spent nearly as much on welfare assistance programs as it has doled out in tax cuts and interest payments over the past 20 years. Let us be mindful that fiscal conservatism has been gone for more than two decades and it is shameful that a Republican Speaker of the House would threaten not to raise the debt ceiling when his party is the one that started this fiasco.

15 years ago, I wrote a piece and shared it on social media on the next conservative agenda for America. It has not come to fruition: values are not taught in schools, personal responsibility is lacking, parents are not held accountable for raising their children, and the government fails to exercise fiscal restraint. On top of it all, Republicans want to increase tax cuts while cutting spending. If politicians would take the bold step to raise taxes, reduce loopholes, and cut spending, the nation might be able to balance its budget.

If one were to analyze government spending over the past four presidencies, one might be surprised to know which one spent the most money during his administration. Government spending under Donald Trump was high, and when you factor in the individual and corporate giveaways from the Paycheck Protection Program and SBA Disaster Loan programs, you find that the government gave away billions and loaned billions more at reduced rates. One will never know how much of those funds were necessary, but it is obvious that the Republican Party designed a massive program that would make the most liberal Democrat blush. It’s no wonder that our national debt exceeds 30 trillion dollars.

For Republicans to now want to push for spending cuts is hypocritical. Where was McCarthy and his push for spending cuts during the Trump administration? Why do Republicans always push for spending cuts when there is a Democrat in the White House? When will Republicans face the truth: even with tax cuts, they cannot hold onto power in each branch of government? A true fiscal conservative would be consistent in his/her pursuit of a fiscally responsible government regardless of the party in power.

If the American people have not figured out the hypocritical game that Republicans and Democrats are playing, shame on the people. It is obvious: politicians do whatever it takes to stay in power. The health and well-being of the nation is not their top priority. Addressing issues like immigration, crumbling infrastructure, homelessness, and the lack of affordable housing require prioritization. Politicians are elected to address the real problems this nation faces, and it takes compromise to do it well. Unfortunately, voters have learned to play a similar game: vote for the person that will do the most for them financially. We should be voting our conscience and our values, not our pocketbooks!

What will it take for elected officials to finally decide to change business practices? I’m starting to think that a government shutdown would be in the best interest of America. It might force us to adjust to a new reality where the dollar is no longer the strongest currency on the planet. People might decide that nationalism and security come from bringing jobs back to America rather than from cutting taxes. Americans might make wiser choices in voting for individuals and political parties. Americans might even create a moderate political party to offer a real choice.

If we can adjust to inflation, we can adjust to higher taxes. After all, we were doing just fine before President Trump lowered them. The nation almost balanced its books in 2000 with higher taxes, after all. America can survive higher taxes. I’m not sure how long we can survive political shenanigans.

The reality is clear: the US could not raise taxes enough or cut spending enough to offset the annual interest payments on the national debt. The nation may have passed the point of no return 10 or 20 trillion dollars ago. At 30 trillion dollars, I am not sure that a viable solution exists, as it would require increasing taxes, eliminating most tax loopholes, reducing government spending 20 to 30 percent, and creating millions of new jobs in the US to manufacture the products that are consumed here.

If this is true, how can we ever pay down the debt? It appears that McCarthy’s ploy is just part of the game, and we will have to wait to see who blinks first.

Ronald E. Smith, Ed.D is a lifelong Catholic who enjoys writing. He is a parishioner at St. Edward the Confessor Church in Dana Point, California. He and his wife Sandy recently founded Friends of St. Kizito Rubuguri Primary School in Rubuguri, Uganda, where they spend a lot of time. He can be reached at

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