What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: SS&SS
America is in financial disarray as a result of a consistent, bi-partisan effort to enjoy easy money today at the expense of our children tomorrow. Decades of unrestrained spending and expanding entitlements have continually compounded to produce the monetary morass in which we currently find ourselves.
The news has exploded in recent days with chatter surrounding the debt ceiling, and the laughably pathetic attempts by various groups within the White House and Congress to “compromise” and “negotiate” to reach a deal that will prevent the government from defaulting on its financial obligations. Unfortunately for the average taxpayer, the solution most entertained for preventing that default is to increase the debt limit, thus allowing the government to borrow trillions more dollars to satisfy its ravenous appetite for spending.
These alarming circumstances have not been found without a silver lining by some. Several congressmen, Senator Mike Lee chief among them, are seizing the opportunity to impose more long-term restraints by exploiting short-term conditions. Specifically, they are demanding that a balanced budget amendment be passed (among other conditions, all part of the "Cut, Cap, Balance" plan) as a pre-condition to securing enough political support for raising the debt limit. In other words, they are generally suggesting that they support raising the debt limit, so long as a vote is taken on the proposed balanced budget amendment.
This is utter nonsense. Imagine a reckless teenager who spends all his parents’ savings, maxes out their credit cards, and then demands—with physical threats—that they increase their credit limit and give him a larger allowance. It would be absolutely absurd for the parents to yield to such demands, especially in conjunction with a request for the child to not spend as much of their money in the future as he had in the past. Any sane parent would cut up the credit cards and work tirelessly to prevent that child from having any access to their finances from that time forward.
There is no principled room in this discussion for entertaining a vote to raise the debt limit under any circumstances. Tens of trillions of dollars now rest heavily upon the shoulders of our posterity, and to suggest adding yet more of a burden upon them is irresponsible and immoral—even if political victories are made in tandem with those awful decisions. The fiscal malfeasance that has long been synonymous with Washington has but one proper solution: stop spending.
Indeed, the deficit could be easily eliminated, and the debt paid down, and taxes lowered, were Congress to simply apply pressure to existing programs and expenditures. Instead, threats are made in an attempt to scare people into voting for more debt. In 2006, Mr. Obama decried “our government’s reckless fiscal policies” which led to a request to raise the debt limit in that year, which he regarded as “a sign of leadership failure.” “Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren,” he said. “Americans deserve better.” The 2011 version of the same man is pushing hard for the opposing side, now threatening senior citizens in a political ploy to suggest that hard times are ahead for the nation’s vulnerable geriatrics if his demands—which he himself so vociferously opposed a few years ago—are not met.
Included in those demands is the condition that the debt ceiling be raised high enough to get the government through (on its current level of addictive spending) the next election, thus allowing the current party in power to not be taken to task over yet another debt limit increase. Few other circumstances than this one demonstrate how much of a political football this entire issue has become. Rather than reducing spending and governing properly, these politicians are (surprise, surprise) doing whatever is necessary to save face and retain power.
With such fraudulent motives exposed for what they truly are, it then becomes a concern to think that supposed solutions being touted as legitimate and necessary are being treated as if they would actually be effective. The balanced budget amendment, regarded highly by so many conservative congressmen, and touted so frequently as the only true “fiscal straightjacket” we can put on Congress, is itself a political football—a superficial attempt to restrain spending that includes within its very text numerous exemptions and loopholes. For reasons listed here, this is not just an ineffective idea; it’s a bad one.
If the Constitution itself is disregarded and disobeyed in countless and repeated situations, then why would any sane person think that an amendment to that document—especially one with an instruction manual on how to circumvent its supposed restrictions—would achieve a different outcome? What has the Constitution forbidden up until this time that has led Congress to restrain itself, because that document denies them the authority?
The way out of this mess is not to impose fictional restraints, nor to increase the burden of debt on our posterity, nor to increase taxes. The exact wrong thing to do is to justify, provide for, or in any way support the current level of government spending or anything close to it. The correct thing to do—the only correct thing to do— is to dramatically, quickly, and stubbornly reduce spending across the board. Rather than tying spending to GDP or any other artificial metric, spending should properly be tied to constitutional authority; if Congress is duly empowered to do something, and that thing is at the time both necessary and proper, then by all means, do it, and provide funds for it. Anything else whatsoever—social security, NASA, foreign aid, military adventurism, bailouts, education, medical research, and a host of other monetary commitments we now have but that should be eliminated—must be denied and defunded.
Balancing the budget is to properly be done by constitutional restraint, absolutely. But that restraint is not some percentage of the whole economy, but rather the very delegated powers Congress has been given, and the areas over which such powers relate. As such, and given Congress’ extreme and long-standing deviation from that standard, our current fiscal problems would be properly remedied by generating the political will necessary to drastically reduce spending—and killing Washington’s sacred cows.
Any other attempt—even if sincere—falls short of what this country needs. Our economy is being driven off of a cliff at an alarming speed. Corrective action entails slamming on the breaks and throwing the car into reverse—not simply slowing the car down while maintaining the same course.