When I was growing up, I knew I could count on certain things always remaining the same. The Dodgers would always be in Brooklyn, and the Rams in Los Angeles. Life had stability.
Adulthood brought recognition that sometimes things change. The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and the Rams to St. Louis, of all places. But for 50 years, I was able to hold on to another absolute.
It was written in stone that God would always hold two truths as predictable as night and day: Democrats would spend every cent possible on a never-ending pilgrimage to make everyone’s life better, and Republicans would always preach the gospel of a balanced budget and would scream from the roof top in opposition to any national deficit.
I counted on those two opposite philosophies to act as a political and monetary check and balance against any extremes.
In 2011, Republican Paul Ryan held his ground against President Barack Obama and refused to raise the debt ceiling further for fear of fiscal crisis due to debt. Ryan preached the Republican orthodoxy of my youth that increasing the debt would cause calamity. Even though the federal response to the great recession of 2008 had caused much of the spending, Ryan still provided a wall of opposition and wanted cuts to domestic programs instead.
By 2012, the federal deficit had grown to $1.09 trillion.
But the last few weeks have brought my long-forgotten childhood disappointments of the Dodgers’ move to Los Angeles into perspective, as I came to the unyielding conclusion that the world is upside down and no longer makes sense.
Republicans control the presidency and both houses of Congress. They passed a tax cut, which isn’t needed because the economy is doing well, and which seems to favor people who already have money. Worse, it will push the deficit to $1.15 trillion next year and will increase the deficit by $7.1 trillion over the next decade. A trillion sounds like real money!
Oh, I know that Democrats still harbor a sincere belief that they can solve the world’s ills, and I am proud of them for their persistence and commitment to a consistent philosophy.
And as I get older I have come to more fully appreciate their support for old people. But the shock to my system, much like an unexpected facial of cold water while still asleep, is the repudiation of historical Republican fiscal policy. A bigger shock is that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) is one of the few politicians asking the right question.
Paul has always been an outlier with an odd philosophy and quirky manner that is more entertaining than serious. But he uttered the most profound words heard in months as he challenged his fellow Republicans, “How come you were against President Obama’s deficits, then how come you’re for Republican deficits?”
Such a rich question and with local implications. President Trump’s federal budget will delete almost $500 million from the light rail link between Angle Lake and Federal Way. How are the thousands of people who want to come and visit our new Performing Arts and Event Center supposed to get here? They can’t come from Lynnwood, which may have the worst congestion in the country, because $1.2 billion for their light rail link was also cut from the budget.
Cut taxes when you are in a deficit, and then cut needed programs that you could have paid for had you not cut taxes? Then after they passed the tax cut, Congress wants to spend $1.5 trillion on infrastructure over the next 10 years. Fortunately, the federal government will only contribute about $200 billion to that debt they are no longer worried about. That’s because they are going to pass the majority of the infrastructure costs on to state and local governments. That means you!
Even though our state’s highest priority has been education, Gov. Jay Inslee and the state Legislature will probably jump at the chance to make the national Republican tax cut look good by substituting state dollars for federal dollars. Won’t they? Well, maybe not. But then the federal government can look to our City Hall to make up the rest.
Oops! That may not work either. Mayor Jim Ferrell and the City Council just spent their entire retreat discussing the need for money and a sustainable income stream. In the next three years, those credit card bills for the PAEC, police, parks and public works will come due.
In a world where name calling, bullying, intolerance, bigotry, attacking the victim and undermining our core beliefs have become a common part of our discourse, we struggle with our ability as critical, rational thinkers. Passing a tax cut to our richest, adding to the deficit, potentially cutting programs such as Medicare and food stamps and passing all the costs down to the local level to those who can least afford it is not providing a check and balance on competing priorities. It is short-term thinking that is mortgaging our grandchildren’s futures in an attempt to buy votes in an election year with a couple of extra dollars in a paycheck already too short.
Is there a bright side to the shock of finding my childhood belief in the Republicans’ opposition to the federal deficit to be an insincere effort to score political points?
Yes, the Rams moved back to Los Angeles!
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former Auburn mayor and retired public official. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.