Wall Street Journal Complicit in Rising Deficits

“The deficit in 2016 has begun to rise again” opined the Wall Street Journal’s editorial writers earlier this week. While the editorialists casually attempt to shift blame Barack Obama, the unfortunate reality is that the nation’s leading Republican-leaning editorial page is complicit.

There is no denying the massive fiscal harm of Obama’s time in office, but when the current Republican-controlled Congress cast crucial votes on deficit increasing spending boondoggles, they did so with the full support (and sometimes silent assent) of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board.

Last spring, lawmakers passed a so-called permanent Medicare ‘Doc Fix.’ According to the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), the deal would likely increase America’s debt by $500 billion over the next two decades. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warned the bill would increase direct federal spending by $145 billion over the next decade. Rather than heed such fiscal warnings, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial writers mocked the “deficit scolds” (The ‘Doc Fix’ Follies, March 2015) and suggested the deal would actually reform the “entitlement state for the first time in the Obama Presidency” (Bouncing the ‘Doc Fix’, March 2015). Upon passage, the paper’s journalistic arm noted “the objections of some GOP lawmakers worried about the impact on the federal budget deficit.”

While smaller in scale, the Journal’s flagrant misdirection over the demolition of the 2011 budget caps is perhaps even more egregious. In their most recent editorial, the writers dismiss this year’s $32 billion increase in discretionary spending as “the kind Congress approves each year” without the slightest acknowledgement that they supported the Boehner-Obama budget deal (The Best Worst Budget Deal, October 2015) that allowed for the new spending. They also supported an earlier effort to bust the budget caps too (A Least Bad Budget Deal, December 2013), just months after contending the budget caps were “providing better fiscal discipline than any budget deal has since 1980” (Don’t Abandon the Sequester, October 2013).

When the Journal’s editorial writers are not flip-flopping on the necessity of budget caps, they willfully ignored Republican-initiated efforts to spend more money.

Most conservatives would be alarmed if Nancy Pelosi tried to create a new mandatory spending program that was financed through one-time gimmicks. Yet, when the Boehner-led House moved the 21st Century Cures Act last summer, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated would cost of $9.3 billion over the next five years, the Journal’s editorial writers were nowhere to be found.

The editorial writers took a similar approach when Congress passed a $305 billion highway and transit spending bill in December. The independent CRFB warned the “funding that the bill uses is largely a gimmick, and the spending increases contained in the bill will make future shortfalls larger.” The bill also repealed one of the modest crop insurance reforms contained in the Journal-supported Boehner-Obama budget deal. Yet, the editorialists were predictably silent.

In a nod to reality this week, the Journal’s editorial writers note “the American public long ago dropped spending and deficits as major concerns.” Apparently the same can be said for the nation’s leading Republican-leaning editorial writers as well.

Dan Holler is the vice president of communications and government relations at Heritage Action for America (heritageaction.com).