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Editorial: Budget bargain a bad deal for taxpayers

The Detroit News

American taxpayers must be wondering what just happened to them. Faced late last week with yet another government shutdown showdown, Congress rallied to a deal supported by both Republicans and Democrats to not only keep the doors of government open, but to substantially increase its size.

If this is what bipartisanship looks like, America can’t afford it. Give us back gridlock.

The accord raises the strict limits imposed in 2011 to contain the growth of federal spending. Over the next two years, military and domestic spending will be able to rise by about $300 billion.

It’s a major addition to the $666 billion deficit posted in 2017, and will push even higher a national debt that already stands above $20 trillion.

This sketchy piece of business started when Republicans decided to use the threat of a government shutdown to leverage increased spending for the military.

America’s military, stretched by a decade and a half of wars, is in need of a cash infusion to upgrade and replace hardware and better support its troops.

But the increase in the $700 billion defense budget of roughly $80 billion a year for two years is $26 billion more than President Donald Trump requested.

The Pentagon will be awash with money, and that will kill any incentive it may have had to root out the massive waste and inefficiencies that have become institutionalized in the Defense Department.

Even as Congress is giving the military more money, an internal audit revealed the Pentagon lost track of $465 million for construction projects and couldn’t properly account for another $384 million in spending.

Since Democrats consider defense a Republican priority, they couldn’t allow a budget deal to go through without loading up their own cart with pork.

They asked for, and got, their own $160 billion over two years for a variety of domestic projects, including infrastructure improvements and a continuation of the Obamacare subsidies.

Just a couple of months ago, Democrats were bemoaning the impact on the deficit of the Republican tax cuts. And yet they added an amount equal to the annual cost of those cuts without blinking.

Perhaps the most curious thing about this exercise in fiscal recklessness is that it was signed by Trump.

The president who pledged to drain the swamp is now swimming laps in it. Those who voted for Trump because he promised to end Washington’s gluttony must be wondering how Hillary Clinton could have done any worse.

The bargain increases the likelihood that Trump will end his first term in three years with both the federal government and the federal deficit larger than when he took office.

Taxpayers should look at this deal as confirmation that the dysfunction in Washington is costing them big money.

Instead of debating the president’s annual budget proposal and working toward a consensus he can sign, Congress has opted for the past several years to fund the government through continuing resolutions. So priorities are never set, tough decision are never made, wasted dollars are never found.

Over and over, the threat of a government shutdown is used as an excuse to bloat the budget. And the swamp wins again, as it always does.