"We don't have a spending problem."
Those soothing words are apparently none other than President Barack Obama's. As The Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore reported, House Speaker John Boehner says that Obama insisted to him that America has a problem with healthcare, not federal expenditures.
Maybe the spendaholic-in-chief is missing something. America is being tortured by a free-spending federal government that acts irresponsibly on good days and illegally on bad ones.
In just the first quarter of fiscal year 2013, Washington dug Americans $293 billion deeper down the hole, the Congressional Budget Office announced Jan. 8. That pace likely will make this the fifth consecutive year with a federal deficit exceeding $1 trillion. This was obscene enough when President George W. Bush botched the 2008 financial meltdown. Since then, Obama gleefully has frolicked in red ink.
Also, federal welfare spending is set to increase 80 percent through fiscal year 2022 and total $11 trillion. What fuels this explosion in the dole? According to a Jan. 15 analysis by Senate Budget Committee Republicans, bureaucrats use "aggressive outreach to those who say they do not need financial assistance." Also, "recruitment workers are even instructed on how to 'overcome the word "no'" when individuals resist enrollment."
Last week, the Republican-led House approved $33 billion in Hurricane Sandy assistance. This sum, atop another $17 billion, includes such non-sequiturs as $10 million for FBI paychecks, $50 million to plant trees around America, $150 million for fisheries and $2 billion for interstate highways.
Enough wobbly Republicans joined spend-happy Democrats to save these and other slabs of pork. Republicans should have used this legislation as a tutorial on limiting disaster relief to relieving disaster, not opening the vault to those with the stickiest fingers.
Meanwhile, Washington's record-shattering profligacy may be less frightening than its burgeoning lawlessness. Legal, schmeagle. Washington does whatever it wants.
Senate Budget Committee Republicans report that the departments of Agriculture and Homeland Security "have promotions to increase the number of immigrants on welfare despite legal prohibitions on welfare use among those seeking admittance into the United States."
Congressman Tom McClintock, R-Calif., complains that Congress routinely spends tax dollars on programs whose legal authorization has expired. This is like using a company credit card years after you were fired.
Last year, McClintock tried to cut about $250 million from the International Trade Administration. "The ITA's authorization lapsed in 1996 -- 16 years ago," McClintock marveled. "It has not been reviewed or authorized by Congress since then, but we still keep shoveling money out the door."
The 1985 Balanced Budget Act requires that authorizing legislation "be in place before the regular appropriation bills can be considered" by Congress. Nonetheless, the CBO confirmed last year that "Congress has appropriated about $261 billion for fiscal year 2012 for programs and activities whose authorizations of appropriations have expired." These included $3 billion for community block grants, $24 billion for No Child Left Behind and $31 billion for the National Institutes of Health.
These and other initiatives may have merit. If so, Congress must reauthorize them, so that they are rooted in the law, rather than inertia.
For its part, the Democratic-run Senate is a crime scene. The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 compels senators and representatives to pass a budget each year by April 15. Whatever. The Senate has not enacted a budget since April 29, 2009. (The GOP House did so in 2011 and 2012.) Too bad this law is toothless.
Rather than huddle with Republicans to rescue America from this mess, Obama is as petulant as ever. He refuses to bargain with Republicans, saying they simply should raise the debt ceiling without restraining spending. Obama said he would not "have that negotiation with a gun at the head of the American people," presumably with GOP fingers on the firearm. What vulgar rhetoric, post-Newtown.
Finally, what about the national debt of $16,456,185,258,774 and counting? Like Old Man River, it just keeps rolling along.
(New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service, a Fox News contributor and a media fellow with Stanford University's Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace.)