The Washington Times-Herald

October 11, 2013

Sad shutdown stories distract from debt crisis

Taylor Armerding
CNHI News Service

— Yes, the nation’s debt ceiling has to be raised.

Whether or not that action includes some kind of compromise on spending or delay of any Obamacare provisions that President Obama doesn’t want to delay (he delays others unilaterally, without even consulting Congress), the bottom line is that it has to be raised.

On that much, the president deserves some kind of validation, if only for stating the obvious.

And while Republicans are correct to push for controls on spending and for a delay in the individual mandate for Obamacare (since the president granted a year’s delay for employers), they ought to be smart enough to know that using a government shutdown or a vote on the debt ceiling as leverage is not a winning political strategy.

Republicans ought to know that the mainstream media will ignore the long-term catastrophic implications of unrestrained growth in the debt, since that would take doing some homework on the projections of the Congressional Budget Office. They ought to know the media will focus only on short-term sob stories from the growing ranks of helpless dependents, cruelly abandoned by a temporary halt in government support.

We have heard, and will keep hearing, that Republicans want children to die! Republicans don’t want poor families to be able to put food on the table! They don’t want new wonder drugs to be developed to save sick people! They don’t want children to have good schools! They want elderly people to freeze! Etc.

But, while Obama enjoys having his media lapdogs do his heavy lifting against his opponents, it would be nice if he could drop the sanctimonious tone about how he’s taking the high moral ground on the debt ceiling – that simply raising it means the nation is doing the fiscally responsible thing.

Obama keeps saying members of Congress must vote to pay for spending they have already authorized. Which sounds good.

It really would be good if the president really meant “pay for.” But what he really means is that he wants Congress to authorize borrowing the money from somebody else, like China, so that country can pay for it, and we will owe them even more. The U.S. can’t pay its bills today, never mind tomorrow.

Raising the debt ceiling only papers over the problem.

Can you imagine a financial counselor telling a family drowning in debt that the way to get back on their feet financially is to raise their credit card limit so they can go even deeper in debt? And then when they reach that limit, just get it raised again?

A few spoilsports have pointed out what then-Sen. Barack Obama said in 2006, when President George W. Bush sought to raise the debt ceiling. He called it, “a sign of leadership failure.”

“It is a sign that the U.S. government can't pay its own bills,” he said. “It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our government's reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren.”

Whoa, sounds like something the “Hezbollah wing of the Republican party” (one of the gentler epithets lobbed at conservatives by liberals) would say.

If only the president would listen to the senator he used to be. Or at least acknowledge that he once said what he now accuses Republicans of being irresponsible for saying.

As a few sober voices have pointed out, the government “shutdown” (the majority of it is still operating) and the fight over the debt ceiling are relatively trivial distractions from the real danger – debt that will crush coming generations and that puts the nation in serious danger of default.

It sounds almost quaint these days to recall former independent presidential candidate Ross Perot, who warned in 1992 how catastrophic it would be if “our children” were to inherit a $4 trillion debt.

If only. The nation’s debt is more than four times that now, closing in on $17 trillion and climbing. And that doesn’t count the unfunded liabilities for Medicare, Social Security and federal employee retirement benefits. Estimates of the nation’s true debt range somewhere between $87 trillion and $123 trillion.

The nonpartisan Concord Coalition, citing data models from the Government Accountability Office, found that by 2027, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and net interest would consume all revenues collected by the federal government.

Yet the unending mantra from the left is that everything would be fine, and government could do even more for the “most vulnerable” and the middle class if the rich would only pay their “fair share.”

With numbers like that, it is clear that the government could confiscate 100 percent of the assets of every “millionaire” (defined by the president as making $250,000 or more), and it would not even make a dent in that debt. Then, once the rich are broke, where would the next infusion of cash come from?

That’s what true leaders – the kind Obama spoke of when he was a senator – would be talking about. Instead, the White House and its enablers feed television stations stories about how little Susie could get her cancer treatments started again if only those mean Republicans would end the government shutdown.

Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at t.armerding@verizon.net