Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was right to identify entitlements as a big threat to our nation's fiscal health, but it's hard to take his words seriously given Republicans' inaction on tackling spending.

“There’s been a bipartisan reluctance to tackle entitlement changes because of the popularity of those programs,” McConnell said on Tuesday talking about the increase in the federal deficit. “Hopefully at some point here, we’ll get serious about this. We haven’t been yet.”

McConnell said they had a chance when Barack Obama was president: “Think of Reagan and Tip O’Neill coming together in the early ‘80s to raise the age for Social Security. It took it out of the political arena and made it possible to be successful." He added, "That’s what we had the chance to do during the Obama years because we had divided government for six of the eight years, unfortunately it was not achieved.”

It's odd for a majority leader to suggest that when his own party has total control of Washington, it becomes harder to address a serious issue. During the six years he's talking about (January 2011— January 2017), Democrats controlled the White House and Senate for four of those years. By the time Republicans gained control of the Senate in January 2015, Obama was essentially a lame duck. So it's a bit odd to say that the best time to address a major problem is when Republicans are in the opposition.

Since Republicans took over the unified control, they failed to repeal Obamacare, which could have reduced spending if done properly, and then they passed a large tax cut, which reduced revenues and increased deficits. In January 2017, as Obama was leaving office, the Congressional Budget Office projected a $487 billion deficit for 2018, but in reality, it turned out to be $782 billion. The bulk of that is a result of $276 billion in lower revenues, primarily due to the tax cut.

Now, I'm the last person to oppose cutting taxes, but the simple math (as laid out in a new paper I wrote about last week) is that lower taxes will be unsustainable over the long run if not accompanied by dramatically lower spending levels. Instead of cutting spending or — heaven forbid — tackling entitlements, Republicans have actually marginally increased short-term spending over earlier projections. Specifically, spending for the 2018 fiscal year was $19 billion higher than the CBO projected as Obama was leaving office.

Not only has this been damaging in the immediate term, it also makes it a lot less likely that we'll see the sort of dream bipartisan solution that McConnell is talking about. The fiscal recklessness that Republicans have shown while in power is only going to reinforce the view on the Left that Republicans are acting in bad faith when they voice concerns about rising debt. This means when Democrats are back in power, they are much less likely to want to talk entitlement reform or responsible budgeting with Republicans. Instead, they'll feel emboldened to go full speed ahead with ambitious new government programs, while feeling much less obligation to find ways to pay for them.