Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Biden’s Budget Spends Too Much Money — On the Wrong Things

“Don’t tell me your values. Show me your budget and I will tell you what you value,” Joe Biden frequently proclaims. Biden’s 2025 budget proposal shows what he values: too much spending and spending on the wrong priorities.

Rather than trimming the federal government’s sails after the Covid spending binge led to a prolonged bout of “Bidenflation,” the administration’s budget would accelerate the growth in spending that has seen federal debt balloon. And it would do so while not spending enough to secure our nation, and its border, from growing threats overseas.

Spending on Steroids

Other sources have spent the two weeks since the budget’s formal release dissecting specific provisions and proposals within it. But it’s worth focusing on the macro-level issues.

Start with the topline spending number for this year’s budget, which covers the fiscal year beginning this Oct. 1 and going through Sept. 30, 2025. The estimate of spending under Biden’s proposal? $7.3 trillion. Or, to be precise, $7,265,963,000,000.

It’s hard to imagine a number that big. But to break it down on a more granular level, the total comes to just under $20 billion in federal spending per day. At that rate, the federal government would spend down the net worth of people like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos in just over a week. (So much for the idea that taxing “millionaires and billionaires” can solve all our fiscal problems.)

The number also looks immense by historical comparisons. In fiscal year 2017, which included Barack Obama’s last few months in office, the federal government spent just a hair under $4 trillion. If Biden’s estimate holds true, that means federal spending will have increased by about $3.3 trillion, or nearly 82.5 percent, over the past eight years.

How many Americans’ incomes have gone up by 82.5 percent during that time? Mine sure hasn’t. And according to the budget, the economy will grow by only 51.4 percent from 2017 through 2025, meaning government is growing faster than the economy and crowding out the private sector in the process.

Even compared to the Covid spending binge of recent years, Biden’s budget looks ridiculously large. In fiscal year 2023, the federal government spent “only” $6.1 trillion. The budget proposal would lead to spending growth of 18.4 percent between 2023 and 2025. That’s growth coming on top of the Covid levels of spending.

Wrong Priorities

Apart from the horrifying numbers inside it, the words in the budget document speak volumes themselves. The phenomenon of searchable PDFs allows readers to examine in detail the Biden administration’s priorities, and unsurprisingly, they are grossly misaligned.

Take two simple words: “climate” and “border.” In the 188-page main budget document, the word “climate” appears 148 times — nearly once every page. That’s consistent with an administration that seemingly insists on sending America back to the Stone Age, publishing a de facto ban on gasoline-powered cars, and much else, in the name of addressing the “climate crisis.”

By comparison, the word “border” appears only 65 times, or less than half as much. That’s sadly consistent with an administration that will only do something about the border, not that its half-measures will work, when hordes of migrants are appearing on Americans’ television screens every day. To put it more bluntly, this administration believes protecting Americans is a political problem to be managed, not a sacred obligation under our Constitution.

Likewise for the administration’s defense spending proposals, which will see defense spending remain nearly flat in 2025, amounting to a real-terms reduction after taking inflation into account. Over the longer term, defense spending under the budget will decline to 2.4 percent of GDP in the coming decade. That’s down from about 3 percent of GDP now, and amounts to cutting defense spending nearly in half as a share of the economy from fiscal year 2010, Barack Obama’s first full year in office, when defense spending totaled 4.7 percent of the economy.

Wrong Budget for America

On every single level, Biden’s budget demonstrates the wrong priorities. Too much spending on a woke and weaponized bureaucracy, more proposed expansions of the welfare state, and not enough spending on securing our border and keeping our country strong from foreign threats. Thankfully, the slender Republican majorities in Congress should at a minimum get to sand the roughest edges off of these wrong priorities when considering next year’s spending measures.

But it will take a larger change of course to start turning the course back in the right direction, and the political will to apply meaningful constraints to federal spending for the first time in a long time. The latest fiasco of a bill that passed Congress does not engender much hope for actual fiscal discipline — but the American people desperately need some, and fast.

This post was originally published at The Federalist.