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Make Massive Government Spending Great Again

Half a decade after decrying ‘wasteful’ spending, the GOP is now its biggest cheerleader

In 2010, Senate Republicans stood united against a spending bill, one they saw as "a huge $8.4 billion slush fund paid by taxpayers that is open to abuse, fraud and waste." If passed, they said, the bill would raise taxes and expose taxpayers to far too much risk.

The bill in question was the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. It was intended to offer medical care and support to the people who responded to the attacks on September 11 and were suffering from the after-effects of breathing in toxic fumes and dust for weeks at Ground Zero. The bill was named for James Zadroga, a NYPD officer who died in 2006 at the age of 34 from a respiratory illness, five years after spending more than 450 hours in the rubble of the World Trade Center. Only after Democratic senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand introduced a smaller, $6.2 billion version of the bill did it pass both the House and Senate.

A little over six years later, Republicans seem to feel differently about spending taxpayer money. During an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday, Republican speaker of the house Paul Ryan said that Donald Trump's $8 billion border "wall" with Mexico would be paid for by Congress, despite Trump's repeated campaign promise that Mexico would pay for it. In fact, Ryan said, Congress — and the American taxpayer — would be thrilled to throw billions into the effort. "We agree with that goal [building a wall]," Ryan said, "and we will be working with [Trump] to finance the construction of a physical barrier — including a wall — along the southern border."

The wall in question — one that even Texans who support Trump question the necessity of — would likely cost far more than current estimates and require that private landowners along the U.S.-Mexico border (two-thirds of the land in that area is private or state-owned property) give up their land to the government or be forced to sell it — a practice known as "eminent domain." Some parts of the fencing that currently exists in the area, constructed largely during the Bush administration, cost nearly $5 million per mile to install. But the billions in taxpayer funds needed to pay for Trump's wall will be well worth it to many of the same Republicans who said that creating a fund for 9/11 responders was the same thing as creating a slush fund.

In the preamble to the GOP's official platform, "limited government" — meaning specifically a federal government that sticks only to what the Constitution requires of it — is a system that "must be preserved uncompromised for future generations." With the creation and promotion of a massive federally funded wall that likely won't work and will cost billions, perhaps the GOP should think of adding five words to that preamble: "when we feel like it."