Happy New Year and the Federal Spending Bill

Happy New Year and the Federal Spending Bill

By: Robert Scott

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views  and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser. 

The biggest news in Congress has been impeaching President Trump. The second biggest news – entirely overshadowed by the biggest news – is that the year 2020 will not start, as other years have, with a federal government shutdown. That is because just two weeks ago, during the week before Christmas, the House of Representatives and the Senate finally passed a budget bill for the current fiscal year, and it was signed by President Trump. It was a bipartisan bill, passing the House by 280 to 138 (Rep. Duncan voted against it) and the Senate by 81 to 11 (both Senators Graham and Scott voted in favor).

There are some good things in that new law. This column reported in its New Year’s column two years ago that the President’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, had come out in favor of Paid Paternal Leave, which was not enacted that year. Well, it’s now law; it provides all federal employees 12 weeks of leave for both mothers and fathers of newborns, newly adopted children or foster children. To quote Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton, whose district includes the Virginia suburbs of D.C., “This is going to help us attract a new generation of federal workers. Our federal workforce has been aging. We need to make sure we can attract and retain people who want to work for the federal government. This will help.”

That same argument can apply to other agencies, in particular to state government employees and (an area I know well) to University faculty in South Carolina and elsewhere.

There are many other aspects of the law, including that it continues the trend throughout the Trump administration of vastly increasing the annual deficit – likely why Rep. Duncan opposed it. The authorized expenditures of $4.75 trillion are over $1 trillion more than the expected revenue, and this in a year in which the economy, and hence tax revenues, are doing well. What if the economy begins to falter, what would happen to the deficit then?

The bill authorizes $1.4 billion for new border wall construction, which is either not enough to make a difference or is ridiculously wasteful, depending on your political point of view. And it continues the corporate and upper-income tax cuts enacted during the first year of the Trump administration, which can be seen either as the harbinger of our economic growth or the underlying cause of our huge deficits, again depending on your point of view.

But the good news is the government will not shut down as the year begins, with the massive federal layoffs that marked years in the recent past. 

Here is hoping that all our family budgets here in Edgefield County enable us to afford what we need, to provide for a few “nice to have” items, and to avoid both too much thrift and too much debt. Happy New Year, 2020!