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SCOT LEHIGH

Let’s say ‘thank you’ to the people who made the budget deal possible: The voiceless younger generation

SHAWN THEW/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell walk to the Senate floor on Feb. 7.

By Globe Columnist 

Just when it seemed like Washington was hopelessly mired in budgetary brinkmanship, the same leaders who have saved us before stepped forward again to make possible a budget deal!

The military will get more money — and so will domestic programs. (Who says you can’t have both guns and butter?) The win-win agreement will extend for two years. If it takes effect, we’ll have a respite from the month-by-month or even week-by-week funding battles that have so embarrassed this once great nation.

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Why, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Senate minority leader Charles Schumer were so awash in the spirit of bipartisanship that they came close to saying nice things about each other.

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We honestly should celebrate the incredible leaders who made it all possible. No, no, no, I don’t mean those two. I mean the folks who will really put their shoulders to the wheel to get this done: The nation’s youngsters. How so, you ask, since they weren’t involved?

Well, how did the new budget deal get done? By lifting budget caps and agreeing to spend tens of billions more on programs favored by Republicans in exchange for adding tens of billions more for programs dear to Democrats.

The military gets another $165 billion over two years, domestic programs another $131 billion.

Net out the one-time spending for things like disaster relief, and we’re talking roughly another $300 billion over two years. Details of the plans are still murky, but if this deal establishes the new spending expectations — and there’s little reason to believe it won’t — the cost quickly snowballs. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a well-known fiscal watchdog, estimates the budget deal will add about $1.5 trillion to the national debt over a decade.

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Hmmm. Now, why does that figure seem familiar? Oh yes, it’s also the rough cost of the big tax cut, targeted disproportionately at businesses and upper earners, that Republican lawmakers passed and the president signed just before Christmas. Like this deal, that wasn’t offset or paid for either.

No, the budget deal isn’t yet done. But if it does become the template, that will mean that in less than two months, this nation will have made unfunded fiscal commitments that could incur $3 trillion in additional debt over 10 years.

And who will bear that debt? The younger generation. And future generations.

“This is called a breakthrough because they didn’t shut the government down, but it blows through any pretense of fiscal responsibility,” says Bob Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, another nonpartisan fiscal watchdog.

Republicans no doubt sincerely believe the military needs this new money. And the Democrats no doubt honestly think domestic programs need the extra dollars. But that being the case, they should find a way to pay for the new spending now, not pass the expense on to the future. That’s not a way out of our problems.

After all, Congress is not doing this during a recession, when you could justify deficit spending as a way to prime the pump, but rather at a time when the economy is healthy.

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This should be a period when we get our fiscal house in order, not mortgage the future. Instead, they’re adding stimulus to an already strong economy, thereby stoking worries about inflation and rising interest rates, and sending waves of volatility through the stock market.

It’s a sad day when putative leaders pat each other on the back for a pact like this.

It raises this question: Who in today’s Washington speaks up for future generations?

And answers it too:

No one.


Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com
Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.