Just in case you were worried about it, the Republican-controlled House Budget Committee reassured Americans in its budget plan released this week that congressional Republicans are committed to increasing federal spending.
They will do so, their plan says, in a more responsible manner than envisioned by President Obama.
But it is their intention to prudently perfect welfare-state programs, which, in this budget, they discuss with kind and careful rhetoric.
Yes, they will repeal Obamacare. But Medicaid and food stamps they will "reform."
"Medicaid is an important program that offers health care coverage for Americans with insufficient financial resources — including low-income children, parents, women who are pregnant, and seniors," says the Republican plan.
"Strengthening, saving and securing programs like Medicare and Medicaid is not necessary just to address the nation's fiscal well-being," says the plan. "It is about making those programs work better so they actually deliver on the promises made to the American people."
The Republican plan would completely repeal Obamacare's Medicaid expansion along with the rest of Obamacare, but it seeks to fix Medicaid "through State Flexibility Funds that give states greater freedom to build the most effective programs for their communities."
It also envisions converting the food stamp program into a "State Flexibility Fund so state governments have the power to administer the program in ways that best fit the needs of their communities with greater incentives to achieve better results."
But not just yet.
"There are no changes made to the [food stamp] program until 2021, so that states have enough time to build their own program and craft innovative solutions," says the plan.
In 2021, the first post-Obama president will be starting his or her second term — or the second post-Obama president will be starting his or her first term.
Even if the Republicans succeed in repealing Obamacare and creating state flexibility funds for food stamps and Medicaid, their budget plan envisions increasing federal spending — just at a slower rate.
"Under current policy, the federal government will spend $48.6 trillion over the next 10 years," says the Republican budget plan. "Under this proposal, it will spend roughly $43.2 trillion. This budget does not make sudden cuts. Instead, it increases spending at a more manageable rate. On the current path, spending will rise by an annual average of 5.1 percent. Under this budget, it will rise by only 3.3 percent."
This is the new platform of the congressional wing of the party Ronald Reagan once led: We will increase federal spending by 3.3 percent per year.
But, while increasing spending, the House Republican plan will also balance the budget.
True, they will not do it next year. Or the year after that. Or the year after that. Or the year after that. Or the year after that. Or the year after that. Or the year after that. Or the year after that.
But they will do it the year after that — which, in case you lost count, is 2024. That is when John Boehner could be in the 14th year of his speakership.
A little more than two years ago, this column noted the speech Reagan gave at the Orange County Press Club on July 28, 1961. That speech — as published in Vital Speeches of the Day — was titled "Encroaching Control: Keep Government Poor and Remain Free."
Back then, Reagan did not use kind and careful rhetoric in discussing the welfare state. Among other things, he openly criticized Social Security, which had been signed into law by FDR in 1935.
"The average citizen has been led to believe he and his employer are contributing to a fund and that some day he will call upon this, his own money, to carry him over his non-earning years," said Reagan. "But this isn't what Social Security representatives said before the United States Supreme Court. They stated that Social Security was not an insurance program and was not based on any actuarial standards. They stated that Social Security dues are a tax for the general use of the government, and that payment of that tax does not automatically entitle anyone to benefits. Benefit payments are a welfare program which can be curtailed or cancelled anytime Congress should so decide."
"And what of our sons — the young man joining the work force in the next few years?" asked Reagan. "He will be taxed to try and catch up on that mounting deficit. If he could have his Social Security tax to invest in private insurance, it would provide for almost double the benefits provided by Social Security."
The current House Republican leaders don't talk like that about the welfare state. But their new budget plan does suggest they do understand the crisis of big government America now confronts.
"The depth and seriousness of what we face should not be underestimated," says their plan. "These fiscal and economic challenges cannot be ignored or solved with minor or half-hearted reforms. And the longer we go without implementing serious solutions, the worse our future will be and the fewer opportunities our posterity will enjoy."
The question is: Do they have the will to pursue anything other than halfhearted reforms?