Hells No


Back in March, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed in which he said he would “vote to defeat an increase in the debt limit, unless it is the last one we ever authorize, and is accompanied by a plan for fundamental tax reform, an overhaul of our regulatory structure, a cut to discretionary spending, a balanced budget amendment, and reforms to save Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.”

On Friday, Sarah Palin said on Fox News, “Hells no, I would not vote to increase that debt ceiling.  Otherwise it just shows the American people we’re not serious yet.  We’re still going to incur more debt. No and we don’t have to increase the debt ceiling in the next few weeks. It turns my stomach to hear this assumption articulated that ‘well we have to,’ despite the fact we’re raking in, the federal government, six billion a day. Take that money and service our debt first and pay down some of that debt. Make sure that we’re showing the international financial markets and our lenders that we’re serious about getting our debt and our deficit problems under control.”

“Hells no” is an interesting turn of phrase.  Dante said there was more than one hell – nine of them, to be exact.  The ninth and worst hell was reserved for traitors.  They spent eternity frozen in ice.

There’s increasing talk of demanding hard spending caps and a balanced budget amendment, in exchange for one last debt ceiling increase, as Marco Rubio proposed.  I respect the arguments made by advocates of this approach, and it seems in line with the way Washington works – deals must be struck, compromises reached, and so forth.  I lean more toward the Palin prescription, though… and really, aren’t she and Rubio saying essentially the same thing? 

Take away Palin’s churning stomach and invocation of the infernal, and swap in Rubio’s list of demands that Congress will never meet, and you end up in the same place: the hells of no.  If Rubio is serious about his terms, he’s just one disappointing Senate vote away from standing on Palin’s ground.

The Obama Administration notoriously tried to suppress Standard & Poor’s warning about the danger to America’s credit rating.  This warning was not meant as some kind of threat, to pressure Obama into doing S&P’s bidding.  They were projecting what might happen in the next couple of years.  Muzzling them wouldn’t have made the danger go away – it would just prevent us from knowing about it.  That is not the behavior of a government preparing to get serious about its irresponsible spending policies.

What is pouring out of this Administration right now is a profound betrayal of the American people – an act of treachery against their treasury, and their trust.  If Obama is successful and wins re-election, he won’t have “saved” the benefits of America’s growing dependency class.  Instead, he will have made the inevitable crash of the system providing those benefits painful beyond belief. 

The people of the next decade will look back on plans like Paul Ryan’s “radical” Path for Prosperity and tearfully wonder why it wasn’t adopted, as a prelude to even more profound reforms to entitlements and spending.  Ryan’s plan still gives people choices.  Existing Medicare beneficiaries are grandfathered in.  New enrollees get some say in how their Medicare money will be spent.  Such choices are what we will be losing in the hells of no, when an overburdened and unstable system collapses with devastating speed, and nobody gets “grandfathered” into anything.

The smooth-talking con men who promise endless new spending, funded by a few little tax increases on the faceless and hated rich, will be very hard to find on that terrible day.  I hope Americans have the wisdom, in the coming hours of decision, to pay more attention to people like Ryan, who are ready to put their careers on the line now.  Their commitment is worth far more than airy promises from people selling nebulous “budget concepts” that can never add up. 

People like Obama will be very comfortably retired on the day America discovers the snake oil they were selling has soured into high explosives.  Listen instead to the guy who’s running himself ragged to sell a plan that all the “smart people” say is electoral suicide for him.  Listen to those whose reluctance to raise the debt ceiling has gotten them branded as “loony” and “our version of al-Qaeda terrorists, really” by Bush’s bizarre former Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill.  They understand the political consequences of their plain speech.  It’s about time we started listening to people who know what consequences are.

Marco Rubio called for some highly laudable reforms that have very little chance of getting through Congress, including some that require amending the Constitution.  Even if all of these reforms passed, forcing this out-of-control government to obey them would be a never-ending battle.  It’s much simpler to get where he wants to go by leaving the debt ceiling in place – one epic vote that would compel the federal government to begin the painful process of living within its means, right now. 

One way or the other, the New Deal and Great Society models of government will be an unhappy memory in a few more years.  All we control is how unhappy the memory is.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to your face.  The “debt ceiling” is a lie if we keep raising it.  Let it become truth instead, and let us have an end to the treachery of empty promises, made by politicians who should no longer be allowed to pretend they don’t know any better.  Otherwise, we’ll be the ones who end up frozen in ice, on the rapidly approaching day when we have consumed all the debt in the world.