Cut, Cap, and Balance Returns


It seems like only yesterday that the “debt ceiling” – which is really more like a fiscal alarm clock with a snooze bar – was raised to $16 trillion.  The President was counting on getting through the 2012 election without having another debt ceiling battle, but alas, his free-spending ways have caught up with him.  He’s still pumping out record deficits, half a year after Congress passed something called “The Budget Control Act of 2011,” and it looks like another debt increase will be necessary before November.

The one great advantage enjoyed by serious fiscal reformers is that the previous debt battle happened so recently that it still lingers in our short political attention span.  Rarely have we received such swift confirmation that the people who “won” the last fight were wrong, and the people who “lost” were absolutely right.

One of the right people is Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), who came within a few votes of getting real “budget control” through the Senate, in the form of the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act.  It cannot be stressed enough that everyone who supported this Act has been utterly vindicated.  Every single criticism they leveled at the unappetizing tapioca pudding of our last “bipartisan compromise” was true: its “Super Committee” was a joke, its fiscal restraints were a farce, and it did precious little to restrain deficit spending.

Working with Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Marco Rubio (R-FL), DeMint penned an op-ed at Politico today in which the return of the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act was heralded:

Our course is unsustainable. The Congressional Budget Office has stated it can no longer make long-term budget estimates because our projected level of debt causes the computer models to break down somewhere in the 2040s. These trends aren’t those of a super power in decline, but a banana republic in the making – and a global economic anchor.

That’s why last year we co-sponsored a balanced budget amendment that would have, for the first time, not only forced Congress to get control of spending, but bound future Congresses to do the same.

We called on Congress to cut unnecessary, and unconstitutional, spending immediately, cap future spending in line with average historical revenues and send a balanced budget constitutional amendment to the states for ratification.

As Congress begins a new budget season, we stand by that call.

The Senators acknowledge that they will face stiff opposition from a President who “thinks a 10-year balanced budget is unnecessary, impossible, and extreme.  As the author of the greatest spending binge in human history, he understandably prefers to change the subject to tax increases and income inequality.”

The case for a balanced budget is economic, moral, and political.  The Senators assert that “a balanced budget will encourage Congress to reorganize the federal government around principles of wealth creation rather than wealth redistribution, and force long-overdue reforms to long-outmoded policies.”

That’s a very important point.  Much of the redistributionist State we have come to accept as “normal” was built through deficit spending, because it provides a seemingly painless way to manufacture obligations which bind future Congresses and Administrations.  Yesterday’s madcap spending program, funded by borrowing forty cents on the dollar, becomes today’s baseline for Big Government spending… and, when threatened, it will become tomorrow’s “vicious spending cut.”

Over in the House, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) of the Budget Committee prepared for the coming fiscal struggle with a short but powerful video, mocked as an emotional appeal “heavy on theatrics but light on specifics” at the Washington Post, because only big-spending liberals are allowed to make such appeals:

Anyone familiar with the work of Paul Ryan knows that he has no problem coming up with plenty of specifics.  If he could talk fast enough to cram detailed proposals for cleaning up Barack Obama’s titanic debt into a one-minute video, he’d be able to work part-time as an auctioneer on Storage Wars.

These gentlemen seem to have learned a great deal from the last budget fight.  They’re preparing the next battlefield early, and wisely taking the stance that the last debt-ceiling argument never really ended, because the other side still hasn’t come up with a real argument. 

As Ryan says in his video, everyone can see what is coming.  Refusing to act, while there is still time to avert disaster, is shameful.  And as DeMint and company note in their editorial, we “literally cannot afford” another generation of politicians who refuse to meet the challenge before us.