Framing the Debt Ceiling Debate: Attach a Balanced Budget Amendment
It is truly amazing to me that most of the talking heads on national television and in national publications are amazed, – amazed! – that there is actually a debate over whether or not to raise the federal government’s debt limit. This is continued proof that these people simply don’t understand what exactly it is that is bubbling up from the American grassroots, sweeping the state legislatures and governorships, and ultimately manifesting itself in Congress.
As Dan McLaughlin rightly points out, this debate is not just about revenue and expenditures. It is ultimately a debate about the role of the federal government in our free nation. As conservatives and tea party activists, we know that this debate is only the first in a series of battles that will define national domestic policy for decades to come. The incoming freshman class in the House of Representatives knows well the importance of this first battle.
The outcome, however, will be dependent on how it is framed in the public’s mind’s eye. If it is perceived as a hostile Alinskian attempt to intentionally bring about economic ruin in an effort to impose an extreme right-wing agenda, we will surely lose. The left is already hard at work framing this issue as being a coup d’etat by a lunatic tea party movement that wants to cut its nose off to spite its face:
The notion that (some) Republicans are increasing their “leverage” by threatening an economic murder-suicide does not make sense, either. If you think the unthinkable, with Congress actually driving the US into another man-made economic crisis, it would be political suicide.
Of course, people like Krauthammer who are hard at work undermining the tea party’s efforts to restore fiscal sanity to our nation’s capital are quoted by the left in support of their messaging agenda. Notwithstanding, tea partiers in and out of Congress are absolutely right that simply authorizing more debt without addressing the underlying causes for the debt is not the answer. Ultimately this battle will be decided based upon how the public perceives the combatants and their positions.
Authorizing new debt under the current circumstances should only be done under the express condition that the federal budget be balanced. Quickly. The problem is, few commentators are making the connection between the debt ceiling and balancing the federal budget. Ken Blackwell recently argued for such a connection, and Rand Paul, appearing with his father on Fox News, did as well.
However, Senator Paul’s statement that a “balanced budget rule” be a precondition of his vote to raise the debt ceiling does not go far enough. Rep. Paul Ryan, who intends to use the debate to exact spending reduction concessions, also fails as being too modest. You can’t buy two or three trillion extra dollars in debt with a modest $100 billion in deficit spending reductions. The math simply doesn’t add up, and the country still winds up in the toilet bowl.
Senator Paul is on the right track. However, Blackwell hits the nail right on the head. Blackwell’s argument is as follows:
Republicans should agree to raise the debt ceiling only if Democrats also agree to vote for a balanced budget amendment resolution.
After all, extracting spending concessions would likely have a short-term impact — but passing a balanced budget amendment would fundamentally address our nation’s addiction to spending indefinitely.
Frankly, there is nothing more important Republicans could do to actually fix the underlying problem with the deficit and the debt than to pass a balanced budget amendment and send it to the states for ratification.
There really is nothing more to say than what Blackwell says here. What voter will disagree with requiring Congress to balance its budget? Even liberals want a balanced budget – the disagreement is really over how to do it. Since the public will balk at any proposal that significantly increases tax rates, a balanced budget amendment will force Congress to reduce spending. What has happened in many states that are prohibited by law from borrowing to fund their operations, will have to happen in Congress.
If a balanced budget amendment is attached to raising the debt ceiling, the bill will either pass and the amendment will go to the states for ratification (where it will surely succeed), or it will fail and the failure will be at the hands of Democrats in Congress. Either way, it is a victory for the GOP, and especially for conservatives.
Conservatives need to achieve a major policy victory out of this debate. If a balanced budget amendment is attached to a law raising the debt ceiling, such a victory is guaranteed. Obama and liberals will either be forced to oppose the policy objective of balanced budgets (and thus be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt as rank hypocrites), or they will be responsible for whatever happens if the debt ceiling is not raised.
This message needs to get out, quickly and loudly.