In the Colosseum

The Next Showdown

Conservatives must win concessions for a debt ceiling hike.

By From the March 2013 issue

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There's an old maxim that says “When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” One of those two sentences more accurately describes America today.

Just look at the harassment that Hobby Lobby founder and CEO David Green and the Cathy family of Chick-fil-A have experienced for expressing their First Amendment religious liberty in the face of Obamacare. Or at the White House’s moves to restrict Second Amendment liberties, and law-abiding Americans’ purchases of firearms in response.

But perhaps the greatest threat to American liberty is the out-of-control spending and debt our country has accumulated. If current and future generations become enslaved to debt, then we’ll have lost the liberty to pursue our goals and dreams.

I have been critical of both Republicans and Democrats in Washington for avoiding the bold steps needed to stop the reckless borrowing and spending that have led our nation to the brink of a debt crisis.

Think back to last July, when President Obama asked Congress to raise the debt ceiling by more than $2 trillion. He wanted us to agree to raise the country’s credit limit with no strings attached, and he argued that America had to borrow money to pay its bills.

The House’s solution was a plan called “Cut, Cap and Balance,” which would have cut current spending, capped future spending, and sent to the states a constitutional amendment requiring the federal government to balance its budget. A CNN poll showed that two-thirds of Americans supported the bill, which easily passed in our chamber. Had we adopted Cut, Cap and Balance, we would be on track to balance the budget in a year or two.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) instead cut an 11th-hour deal with congressional leaders and the White House.

Their deal increased the debt ceiling by more than $2 trillion and created the infamous “super committee,” a bipartisan group tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade. To aid negotiations, the agreement scheduled $1.2 trillion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts if the super committee failed.

This was all a big hit inside the Beltway, but Standard & Poor’s downgraded the federal government’s credit rating a few days after the deal was signed into law, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by 1,300 points over the next week.

Today, 18 months later, we are in a similar position. The super committee failed to reach an agreement, yet the subsequent “automatic” cuts were postponed by Congress. America carries an additional $2 trillion in debt, yet President Obama has asked for another increase in the debt ceiling with no strings attached, because America has to borrow more money to pay its bills.

In the 2012 fiscal year, Washington took in $2.5 trillion and spent $3.8 trillion. That’s equivalent to a family making $50,000 and spending $77,000, putting the remaining $27,000 on its credit card.

How long could your family sustain that reckless plan?

My colleagues and I have been working on two fronts to help change Washington’s spendaholic ways.

Step one is to give Congress a strong incentive to pass a budget. We are already required by federal law to do so, but the current law has no teeth. This has allowed the Senate to go four years without a budget. A good first step is “No Budget, No Pay,” a provision that passed both chambers in January. Under the new law, if the Senate or the House fails to pass a budget, then senators’ or congressmen’s pay will be temporarily withheld.

Step two is to bargain for real spending cuts that will put us on a path to a balanced budget. Washington has a bad habit of promising cuts but never following through. Those of us fighting for fiscal responsibility often feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football. We get “promises” of spending cuts in exchange for tax hikes and debt ceiling increases, but the promised cuts never happen. Lucy always pulls the football away.

No more. We must insist that cuts happen first, before a long-term increase in the debt ceiling. Not 10 years from now, but this year.

In exchange for those two steps toward fiscal responsibility, conservatives have agreed to raise the debt ceiling for just a few months to give the Senate one last chance to pass a budget,

We cannot continue down the same road that got us into this mess. We cannot continue to allow Washington to make excuses for not tightening its belt and ending its irresponsible spending.

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About the Author
Jim Jordan represents Ohio's fourth district in the U.S. House of Representatives.