House votes to put billions more in military spending on the credit card, by Andrew Lautz

What if they held a war and the U.S. government had maxed out its credit card? It’s certainly happened to other governments. From Andrew Lautz at

What would happen if we tied a tax to each budget hike? Don’t ask, it won’t happen

It’s nearing mid-December, which for many Americans means wrapping up their work for the year and figuring out when, where, and how they’re going to obtain holiday gifts for their loved ones. Unfortunately for those of us whose job it is to follow Congress, the potential flurry of activity for the month is just getting started.

This week on Capitol Hill features votes on two measures that are unrelated at face value but inextricably tied at the hip in practice: an increase in the federal government’s debt ceiling and a final, “compromise” version of the annual defense policy bill (also known as the National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA) negotiated between the House and the Senate. As of this writing, the House had passed both measures on Tuesday.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats in Congress really think of defense spending as contributing to the nation’s debt and deficits — even though they should. Unlike some so-called “mandatory” spending programs like Social Security, which are supposed to be self-funding through dedicated revenue streams like the payroll tax, there is no dedicated tax to fund our military budget. And even as federal revenues fall hundreds of billions of dollars short of meeting the government’s spending commitments and choices year after year, lawmakers rubber-stamp multi-billion dollar increases in the defense budget without batting an eye.

Would those big budget increases — which often go to military goodies like the failing F-35 program and an extra Navy destroyer — happen if Congress needed to raise taxes every time they increase the military budget, like they did in 1917 with the War Revenue Act? Maybe, and maybe not.

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