Republicans lost the trust of the American people during the last decade because they were fiscally irresponsible when they controlled all three branches of the federal government. Such recklessness helped allow Democrats to take over Congress in 2006 and the presidency in 2008.
While they were in power, however, Democrats showed even less restraint, spending taxpayer money as if they were on steroids and bringing the country close to hitting the debt ceiling.
In the midterm elections, Americans threw out many Democrats and gave Republicans another opportunity to govern in a way that is fiscally responsible.
The government’s current debt of $13.9 trillion is $400 billion below the current debt ceiling, which stands at $14.3 trillion. Analysts predict that by this spring, federal government spending will hit the debt ceiling.
But simply raising the debt ceiling is akin to paying off a high-interest credit card with another credit card. Without significant changes in behavior, bad spending habits will never end.
Republicans leaders, so far, seem to be getting the message.
Upon becoming Speaker of the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made it clear that he will embrace the fiscally responsible message that fueled the Tea Party movement.
“Our spending has caught up with us, and our debt will soon eclipse the size of our entire economy. Hard work and tough decisions will be required of the 112th Congress,” Boehner said. “No longer can we fall short. No longer can we kick the can down the road. The people voted to end business as usual, and today we begin carrying out their instructions.”
The new speaker is correct.
How members of the 112th Congress deal with raising the debt ceiling will be the first true test to determine if they have really heard the voice of the American people on fiscal issues.
Republicans should stand steadfast against raising the debt-ceiling unless they extract a concession:
Any increase in the debt ceiling must be accompanied by an off-setting serious reduction in spending and/or a balanced budget amendment. Further, Republicans should emphatically inform Americans that the irresponsible spending by Democrats in Congress have brought the nation close to hitting the debt ceiling.
And if the Republicans obtain concessions allowing them to vote for raising the debt ceiling, must make it clear to their colleagues that severe spending restraint, including entitlement reform is absolutely critical because it will be almost impossible to hike the debt ceiling in the future.