• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Penny "Unwise", Pound Foolish

December 2018

When it isn’t outright anomalous to hear spoken by a Democrat the necessities of thrift and the exorbitances of cost, such language strikes the average, even apolitical ear as a glib amusement. However, not everyone is so easily entertained. Really, among those still intent on listening, I think only few would consider themselves genuinely amused at hearing this sort of talk. Fewer still would be brought all the way to the edge of laughter or somewhere happily beyond.

Instead, rather solemn and impatient are the countless, overwhelmingly conservative faces that find in this newly “prudent” and financially revamped Democratic Party little humor and nothing at which to laugh. Those observers from the right know the Party for what it is and they clearly see what’s developing before their eyes: a display of the other side’s insincerity, of its speaking of but not living out a frugal ideal. They are, in their response, forgivably mirthless.

Not known to take warmly to the dirty marriage of the words “fiscal” and “responsibility”, Democrats are usually and, for that matter, quite shamelessly content in spending your money beyond their or anyone else’s conceivable means. Thus, the political becomes the prodigal and the public servant empties the country’s wallet like a king. To them, debt is more than merely fashionable or useful for a short time. It’s enduring, vital, and omnipresent.

The following aptly sums up the general consensus when it comes to economics on the left: taxes should be high and complaints low; future bills should be ignored and modern welfare embraced; free markets should be fettered and subsidies ingrained; government should be munificent and income redistribution within easy reach. Deficit spending is no temporary crutch, upon which one relies for a short-while as Keynes might’ve hoped. Rather, it’s a perennial pair of stilts upon which one balances and from which one hopes not to stumble and fall. The stilts, it might be said, tend to grow taller. One is then led not by his volition, but by a wobbling, ponderous stride. Above all, though, enjoined on each adherent to this philosophy is this: one ought not to ask at the checkout isle exactly what was the cost. To do so would be to spoil the decades-long shopping spree.

And so, fiscally “irresponsible” feels as though it’s too weak a word when attempting a description of the Democratic Party’s spending habits. Profligacy, then, might be better suited to its fundamental creed (however unavoidably pejorative the word might appear to be). But disparagement isn’t my chief, nor even my secondary aim. In the above, hasty, and perhaps for that reason unfair description of the manner in which the Democratic party conducts its business, I simply wanted to point out the exiguous degree to which the party normally concerns itself with cost.

But, normality, or something at least approximate to it, has become a nearly mythic idea. We’ve heard talk of it, but cast aside those whispers as the illusory, bygone ramblings of old. We expect it not to arise again in our life and so we sally forth. Now, as the tempestuous debate over border security funding stretches on toward its third week, one must ask how it is that Democrats care so passionately about cost when they never seem to have before.

Doubtless, the $5.7 billion with which the president plans to “build his wall” is a quite large bundle of cash. And, as in all cases of government expenditures on so grand a scale, one ought to examine fully the manner by which it’s spent. Such scrutiny ought to always be applied to ventures such as these, whether you’re an immigration dove or hawk. That said, unlike numerous other government checks, whose ultimate products we seldom see, this one will be tangibly, incontrovertibly, and publicly known. The southern border, forever so pervious, will at long last have become a veritable barrier. What was illusory will have become forged in steel. What was yearned for will have become effectuated and built. Beyond the curvaceous, thoughtless natural flow of the Rio Grande from the American southwest to the Mexican Gulf, our nation will have become unequivocally defined. It will have become finally concrete.

Perhaps it’s for that very reason the Democrats in Congress have become so manifestly loath to sign onto the now three-weeks idle government funding bill. The contentious part of the bill is, of course, the $5.7 billion worth of funding for the proposed border wall (for whose final construction, most analysts shyly agree, the actual cost will soar in excess of $10 billion). But Democrats aren’t arguing against this inflated though not inconceivable number. They think that $5.7 billion is far too high a cost.

And a fiscal conservative (doubling as an immigration dove) might even agree. But just as the Democrats state their case for the wall’s excess and its fiscal inanity, they’ve consolidated the new, progressive liberal agenda on which they’ll be running from here on out. In brief, it enumerates among its top priorities a “Green New Deal” to combat the ravages of climate change, a universal health insurance program by the name of Medicare for all, and universities gratis—a “free” national college tuition measure through whose endowment every person might obtain a degree. Henceforth, the phrase “fiscal responsibility” won’t even have a place in the most archaic of political dictionaries. This tripartite platform of healthcare, education, and the environment, is laughably economically untenable. And if $5.7 billion sounded like a discomfortingly large sum of cash, just imagine the cost of putting into action this bloated, chimerical agenda.

In comparison with what “free” healthcare and education and an overhauled energy program would cost, $5.7 billion is hardly a drop in the pale. It’s a penny in the purse of a Democratic Party indefatigably eager to spend beyond its means. It’s clear, on the final score, that the Party is indeed “pound foolish” and is only pretending (by rebuffing the president’s spending bill) to be “penny wise”. Rather, it’s pound foolish and penny unwise.

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