The Spectacle Blog

Moving Beyond the National Debt

By on 1.27.14 | 1:42PM

This year is shaping up to be a good one for the right. Barack Obama is arguably at the nadir of his presidency. Obamacare is collapsing and vindicating Republicans in the process. The GOP’s chances of taking back the Senate, while far from air-tight, are trending positive.

Yet as Politico reports this morning, there’s still good reason to be cynical:

President Barack Obama isn’t expected to spend much time on deficit reduction and entitlement reform during Tuesday’s State of the Union address, instead focusing on issues such as economic inequality and raising the minimum wage that will be the centerpiece of his 2014 agenda.

Republicans don’t want to divert attention from Obamacare and plan to demand changes in the health care law, not spending cuts, in exchange for a debt-limit increase next month. They dismiss grand bargain talks with Obama as fruitless.

Lawmakers on both sides, according to Politico, are “done dwelling on the debt.” (Why get hung up on a measly $17.3 trillion?) Congress is going back to what it does best: spending outrageous amounts of money on patently absurd things. And the little deficit reduction that was actually achieved is being nullified by the sequester-canceling Ryan-Murray budget deal. The deficit was projected to decline over the next two years before exploding again; expect that to happen sooner without the mandated sequestration cuts. Entitlements, unchecked and already consuming two-thirds of the federal budget, will continue to bleed profusely.

It’s not surprising that progressives, who scream “Austerity!” at every spending cut, want to ignore the debt. It’s far more alarming that much of the GOP’s energies have shifted. Republicans, per Politico, are focused on “issues like increasing take-home pay, creating new incentives for school vouchers and charter schools, and some form of immigration reform.” It’s a return to the failed George W. Bush style of governance—using federal power to tinker in the economy and achieve "conservative ends." It’s not entirely without its merits; school vouchers are certainly a good idea. But such an approach, decoupled from any meaningful attempts to shrink government, puts conservatives squarely on the left’s playing field of government activism.

That means shutting out the Tea Party, defanging the GOP of any commitment to fiscal prudence, and ignoring one of the most important moral issues of our time. It’s not like the debt is going anywhere. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen still says borrowed money is our greatest national security threat. China just increased its holdings of Treasury bonds to a record $1.317 trillion. The debt currently measures up to 73 percent of GDP and will reach 100 percent in about 25 years. The Democrat solution to all this has been to turn deeply indebted young people upside-down and shake them until even more money falls out, in the vain hope that this will stimulate economic growth later on.

Republicans ought to be battling this down to their last breath. Instead they’re content to sit back, avoid political risks, and, oh by the way, why don’t we take another whack at this amnesty thing? For an opposition party, Republicans need to get better at opposing.

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