Americans Don't Want Any More Wasteful Spending | Opinion

Right now in Washington, President Joe Biden and leaders in Congress are focused on one goal: muscling through $3.5 trillion in new spending. But with more than $5 trillion in recent emergency response funds already provided, and growing pushback from the American people and even Democrats in Congress, it's time to pump the brakes.

The American people are rejecting this spending binge not only because it's divorced from their actual concerns and priorities, but also because they can foresee the damage it will inflict on an economy that is still extremely fragile.

I've traveled around the country to dozens of states these past few months, and the consistent message I get from concerned Americans is that Washington is badly disconnected from the reality they're facing. People are anxious to get beyond the pandemic. They want to restore vibrant private-sector growth, fix our education system, expand health care options and stop the games in Washington that only lead to more waste.

This proposal offers none of that. It will increase middle-class taxes, crush job and wage growth and put inflation into overdrive, causing the costs of everyday goods to soar even higher than they are already—an "inflation tax" that will reduce the value of every paycheck.

Supporters of this plan say we don't need to worry about its impact on inflation or the debt, because the government will raise enough in taxes from the rich to pay for the new spending. They even claim that the real cost of the plan would be "zero dollars."

Put aside the obvious fact that a $3.5 trillion bill could not possibly be free. Middle-class Americans know that, no matter what the politicians say, they will end up paying higher taxes and the federal debt will grow, adding to an already huge problem.

In 2019, 22 cents of every dollar of federal spending was borrowed. That has ballooned to a whopping 40 cents in 2021. People understand that this extraordinary level of spending and borrowing—which has occurred under both parties—is not sustainable, especially as we rebound from the coronavirus pandemic and confront other challenges.

Sen. Chuck Schumer
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 19: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) arrives at a press conference after a Senate Democrat Luncheon at the U.S. Capitol Building on October 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. Senate Democratic leadership spoke on a range of topics including plans to vote on voting rights legislation and an update on budget reconciliation. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

These concerns are at the front of Americans' minds. We recently commissioned a YouGov survey on their views of the spending package being pushed by the president, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The findings aren't pretty.

Despite rhetoric that Americans like the multi-trillion-dollar reconciliation bill, people favor scrapping it by a clear 46-35 percent margin. By a similar margin (47-33 percent), they believe all this new spending is more likely to trigger higher inflation and increase the cost of living than to make things better in the long run.

What's more, people recognize that middle-class families are likely to see higher taxes as a result, despite promises to the contrary. By a wide margin of 55 to 25 percent, they think the middle class—not just the wealthy—will end up paying higher taxes. And 52 percent of self-described independents are concerned it would cause higher inflation.

Who do Americans think will be helped by the spending package? Not individuals and families. Only 39 percent said the plan would benefit the middle class while 48 percent said it would benefit the wealthy and 61 percent said it would benefit special interests.

Americans know what they're talking about. That's exactly what this proposal would do.

If lawmakers insist on sticking with their plans, they'll face constituents bewildered at the dangerous waste of money, shocked at the price tag and worried about the consequences for the economy.

If the politicians want to earn the trust of constituents and address their concerns, they should start by rejecting spending bills we can't afford. Instead, lawmakers should work to identify practical, affordable reforms on the issues people care about. They should expand options in health care and education and eliminate barriers to prosperity for workers and entrepreneurs.

That's an agenda that would earn widespread support, and one that constituents will appreciate.

Tim Phillips is president of Americans for Prosperity.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.