It's time for our more-or-less annual Debt Ceiling Joust, in which Democrats tell us the national debt has to keep growing forever, while a few Republicans briefly threaten to keep the debt ceiling right where it is, unless they receive a balanced budget promise... which would probably end up being another one of those 10-year plans that dissolves into a mass of wet tissue paper as soon as the tax hikes have been imposed.
Swinging into the saddle of his fiscally responsible charger and raising his balanced-budget lance for the first tilt is the dashing Sir Marco Rubio of Florida, who used his speech before the Concerned Veterans of America on Thursday to make the sort of entirely reasonable demand that goes absolutely nowhere in these days of madcap spending. The Washington Times reports:
Warning that the nation is on the “road to decline,” Sen. Marco Rubio called on Congress Thursday to defund “Obamacare” and not raise the nation’s debt limit until the White House agrees to a plan to bring the budget into balance within 10 years.
Mr. Rubio said that Obamacare is choking economic growth and that Congress should not support any short-term spending bills to keep government running if they fund the health care law.
“I believe that we should not vote, nor pass, a continuing resolution unless that continuing resolution defunds Obamacare,” Mr. Rubio said. “You want to delay implementation, don’t fund it.”
Mr. Rubio also said that Congress should not agree to raise the nation’s borrowing limit “a single cent” until lawmakers pass and Mr. Obama signs off on a spending plan that shows how the federal budget will be balanced in 10 years.
“This is not an unreasonable request,” Mr. Rubio said. “They will say that it is, but it is not. They will say, ‘Well you are going to risk default.’ The $17 trillion debt is a risk of default. The lack of any plan to fix it is the risk of default — and not a statutory default, a real default.”
"Continuing resolutions" are Congress' cute little way of getting around their sworn duty to write budgets for the bloated Leviathan State they have created. I gather Rubio is saying that unless we get a real budget instead of more continuing resolutions, it's curtains for ObamaCare funding. Of course, if the rest of the Republican Party takes up his call, they'll be savaged as uncaring brutes who want poor people to die. Funny how we don't hear about those poor people dying when President Obama decides the "fierce urgency of now" suddenly means sometime after the 2014 elections, and delays the ObamaCare employer mandate for a year, even though he has no legal authority to do so.
ObamaCare is such a disaster that the Democrats might just have a hard time working up public sympathy for preserving its funding, while simultaneously avoiding those yucky budgeting duties the Democrats hate so much. But the traditional demand for balanced budgets in exchange for more debt will probably be dismissed as usual by the spendaholics. Liberals desperate to blame ObamaCare's failures on dissenters are already writing shrill op-ends about "sabotage government" and the horrors of Republican "obstructionism," while of course ignoring the huge pile of Republican House bills buried at the bottom of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's in-box.
Government only moves in one direction for the Left: forward, bigger, more spending, more taxes, more programs. Slowing the growth of government is an outrage; actual spending cuts are unthinkable; no inch of territory the State has conquered can ever be returned to the liberty-seeking rabble. With that in mind, Rubio and his colleagues should avoid half-hearted calls for ten-year balanced budget "plans." The power-hungry President who rewrites his own health care law on the fly is not going to feel bound by any such "plans." And a vanilla Balanced Budget Amendment with no other restraints on spending is a vehicle for perpetual tax increases. Cut, Cap, and Balance is the only way to go. It was the only way to go during the last debt ceiling drama. Proponents of the idea were utterly vindicated by everything that came to pass after their initiative was defeated. There weren't any real spending cuts, the budget didn't come anywhere near balancing, the deficit-cutting Super Committee was a sick joke, and the resulting sequester was blamed on Republicans instead of the Democrat President who insisted on it.
There's no point in pretending the Democrats are reasonable negotiators who really want to kick their deficit-spending addiction, if they can just get a little help. There's no reason to talk about drawing up plans that would take a decade to reach fruition. Only laws matter... and not even they matter enough any more. We really need to do more than merely balance the budget - we must greatly reduce the size of the government that is choking the life out of us. But a serious, fearless, rational, and unified commitment to putting a tourniquet on that deficit bleeding is an important first step. Republicans should all sing from the same hymn book on this.
It's time to make the Democrats own up to their delusions and psychoses. Put them on the defensive in the next debt ceiling battle. Remind the public of everything they said during the last one. Ask how much debt is too much - $25 trillion? $30 trillion? Run through a list of crazy government expenses and abuses - those from the last six months should be sufficient - and ask if the Democrats still think their lean and muscular government doesn't have an ounce of fat on it. If deficit spending doesn't matter, and it's all just money we owe ourselves, why not implement some immediate and dramatic pro-growth tax cuts?
And make this about more than just ten-year quests for deficit reduction. The real issue here is the growth of government, and the attenuation of liberty. Deficit spending is nitrous oxide pumped into the engine of government growth - a way to conjure big money out of thin air right now, to create obligations that will endure forever. It's a way to pretend that every constituency can have everything they want, without sacrifice or compromise. It won't be good enough to downshift the growth of government by insisting it raise enough taxes to sustain itself. It's not even good enough to freeze taxes and spending right where they are today.
It's time for freedom to move "forward" for a change. That's a battle cry you can rally the American people around, and build a governing philosophy on top of. It is a challenge the other side has no good answer for, beyond the dismaying insistence that Americans are no longer strong and brave enough to be free. They already have an answer to "Cut down on the red ink, or we'll shut the government down," and they have no reason to believe it won't work again.