By Kathi Bliss
I was almost delighted to read my standard news sources on Friday afternoon and discover headlines that revealed that President Obama was planning to hold off on asking Congress for another increase in the nation’s debt ceiling, an increase that will drive our national debt up to $16.4 trillion. For a half second, I was excited to see that maybe, at some point, our leadership discovered that they need to rein in their spending. I thought it was a great way to start a new year.
But then, of course, I read the articles and discovered that, no, the President isn’t holding off on the request because of any newfound need to tighten our national belt. No, he’s holding off on asking for the increase because Congress will be back in Washington, D.C. mid-month, and no one particularly wanted to call them back early for an “emergency session” to vote on the debt limit.
There are no fewer than three dozen reasons why this revelation makes me want to vomit – not the least of which being the idea that we hired (elected) these people to do a particular job, and we’ve become far too complacent about allowing our governing bodies to rearrange their work around their vacation schedules, instead of arranging their vacation schedules around the work that needs to be done.
Let one of us in the private sector try that, and see how long it lasts.
Still, that’s an issue for another day.
The bigger issue with yet another increase in the debt ceiling is what it means for us, as a nation, as taxpayers and as individuals. What it means, basically, is that our elected leadership hasn’t learned a thing in the last several years, as our economy has continued on its downward spiral. They haven’t yet learned that we’re not going to spend our way out of this hole.
As I’m sure the rest of us do, I expect that next week, when the President asks Congress to approve the increase, we’ll see the standard course of action – we’ll see bluster and filibustering, political maneuvering and backbiting, and probably even another threat of a government shutdown, before Congress and the President eventually approve the increase and everyone goes on about their day. And at the end of it, our so-called leadership will have approved a debt limit that essentially equates to $58,275.49 in debt for every man, woman and child counted in the 2010 Census.
I broke the number down that way so that we can begin to get a handle on just what “$16.4 trillion” means. At best, the United States’ external debt is about double the debt for other “civilized” nations in the world. On average, it’s 10 times higher – or more.
I’ve said this many times, but it bears repeating: You cannot borrow your way out of debt. When you look up and discover that you’re in a hole, you have to put the shovel down.
Now, I’m not operating under any delusion that we will ever eliminate the national debt. I’m not trying to say that if we cut spending, we can turn it around. But at some point, this “borrow-and-spend” stuff is going to have to stop. Our government is going to have to start living within its means.
No conversation about government spending is ever complete without discussion of who is and who is not paying their fair share of taxes. And again, that’s a conversation for another day. Because our government’s “income” is only part of the problem, and the smaller issue, at that. Our big problem, in my estimation, is our outlay – it’s the simple fact that we spend so much more than we take in.
Instead of yelling and screaming at us – and at one another – about hot-button issues, I hope that this year, our so-called leadership can actually engage in a discussion. I hope they can start speaking honestly about getting our nation out of the hole. Clearly, borrowing our way to prosperity isn’t working. So maybe this year, we should try something else.
Maybe this year, we should have actual conversations about bloated government spending. We need to talk about pork barrel projects that have reaped little, if any, true reward. We need to talk about systemic abuses that cost our government billions every year. We should be talking about ways to decrease our spending – and then we can talk about ways to increase our income.
So do us a favor, Mr. Doggett, Mr. Cornyn and Mrs. Hutchison: when you go back to Washington, D.C., next week, bring your thinking caps, and leave your shovels at home.