Washington has been maneuvering around the debt ceiling for some time now. The national debt is currently capped at $14.3 trillion, a limit we are scheduled to pass by the end of March. Those who wish to raise the limit say that our government will “run out of money” and “shut down” if we don’t increase it. In a recent appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, for example, Democrat Senator Charles Schumer of New York warned that threatening not to raise the debt ceiling was “playing with fire” and could create a “recession worse than the one we have now, or even a depression.”
The general approach taken by Republicans is to vote in favor of increasing the national debt, but require a firm commitment to fiscal discipline in return. Suggestions range from demands for spending cuts, to the highly entertaining notion of linking ObamaCare repeal to raising the debt ceiling, in order to find out which hill the Democrat Party wants to die on.
The idea behind requiring spending cuts in exchange for a debt limit increase is to perform a kind of sharp turn back to fiscal sanity, instead of slamming on the brakes and sending Uncle Sam flying through the windshield. The problem with this approach is that Democrats have their feet jammed on the gas, and they’re not going to ease up on the accelerator.
Case in point: early word on President Obama’s State of the Union speech indicates he will actually call for more spending. The Wall Street Journal reports “the new spending could include initiatives aimed at building the renewable-energy sector – which received billions of dollars in stimulus funding – and rebuilding roads to improve transportation.” The trillion-dollar “stimulus” payoff to Democrat special interests in 2009 wasn’t enough, you see. We’re still parked at the gates of Utopia, scrounging for a few trillion more quarters to toss into the toll booth.
To call the President’s proposal a “disconnect” from the obvious will of the voters is an understatement. It’s not really a surprise. As far back as the presidential campaign – when Obama responded to a debate question about which programs he would cut with billions in new spending ideas – it’s been clear that his faith in the power of government is as bottomless as his contempt for the private sector.
This State of the Union speech will put new energy behind the school of thought that says Republicans should refuse to raise the debt ceiling. Nothing short of statutory crisis will so much as slow government spending, never mind reducing it. There is no sign of contrition from this President or his party about their free-spending ways, no sense they are prepared to concede they did anything wrong by pouring fresh deficits atop the landfill of our public liabilities. What future commitments to fiscal restraint can be trusted from a President who responds to the deafening midterm roar of “STOP SPENDING OUR MONEY!” with another hundred billion dollar wish list?
Ignore all the talk of “investments” in “America’s future.” The Democrat Party knows nothing of investments. They’re junkies looking for another hit of taxpayer cash. The State of the Union address will be the kind of elaborate justification you hear from an addict who turns up at the corner pawn shop with his mom’s television set.
When House Majority Leader Eric Cantor went on Meet the Press last weekend to describe these negotiations, and said “everything is on the table for spending cuts,” host David Gregory immediately asked if he meant defense spending and cancer research. That’s junkie talk – when you don’t give him money for a fix, he claims you’re starving him to death.
You can’t trust promises from a hopeless addict. If the Republicans give Obama more debt now, in exchange for restraint later, they had better prepare themselves for a tidal wave of hateful invective about their heartless greed when then insist on holding the President to his word. If they leave him an out for “emergency” spending, get ready for a tsunami of the most expensive “emergencies” known to man. If they insist on a balanced budget without spending cuts, we’ll soon be told massive tax increases are mandatory, with new spending programs launching even as we fill out our 1040 forms.
This State of the Union speech appears destined to make it clear that no understanding with the Democrats on fiscal restraint is possible. Forty thousand dollars of debt for every man, woman, and child in the country isn’t enough? We need even more government on top of that? Maybe it’s time for the irresistible force of liberal spending to meet the immovable object of the debt ceiling.