Raise the debt ceil­ing and put Un­cle Sam on a diet

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

What do you do when you are gain­ing weight and your clothes get too tight? Some peo­ple might refuse to buy new ones, hop­ing the tight fit will keep them from eat­ing. But if you keep overeat­ing ev­ery day, the tight clothes will do noth­ing to keep your weight down. They’ll just be painful.

Not rais­ing the fed­eral debt limit is the equiv­a­lent of wear­ing tight pants. Our fis­cal prob­lem is too much spend­ing. The bal­loon­ing fed­eral debt is a symp­tom of the prob­lem. Just like tight clothes won’t end the weight gain, re­fus­ing to raise the debt ceil­ing will not solve our fis­cal prob­lems — it will just be painful. For ev­ery­one.

We have real work to do to en­sure the Amer­i­can pub­lic un­der­stands the true depths of the bud­get cri­sis. Polls show too many Amer­i­cans think that we can bal­ance the bud­get by slash­ing for­eign aid and elim­i­nat­ing waste, fraud and abuse. We have not done the job of shed­ding light on the real is­sue — that our gov­ern­ment has made too many com­mit­ments to too many peo­ple and can’t af- ford to meet those com­mit­ments in the fu­ture.

Repub­li­cans won Amer­i­cans’ votes last fall by vow­ing to come to Wash­ing­ton and talk truth to power.

Be­cause Repub­li­cans have been adamantly fo­cused on be­ing re­spon­si­ble truth-tell­ers, Pres­i­dent Obama has had to move to the ground on which the Repub­li­cans want to de­bate.

In Fe­bru­ary, he pro­posed a bud­get that trimmed the debt by $1 tril­lion over 10 years, and last week, just two months later, he em­braced a goal of cut­ting the debt by $4 tril­lion.

While Repub­li­cans dis­pute his vi­sion of how to do that, they de­serve credit for mov­ing the de­bate from “whether” to “how.”

How­ever, that mo­men­tum and cred­i­bil­ity will be lost if Repub­li­cans pre­tend that vot­ing “no” on the debt-ceil­ing in­crease will ac­tu­ally rein in Wash­ing­ton spend­ing.

How would that vote change the out-of-con­trol growth in en­ti­tle­ment spend­ing?

How would it re­form the tax code to re­ward busi­nesses for hir­ing more in­no­va­tors to de­liver world-beat­ing prod­ucts in­stead of re­ward­ing them for hir­ing more tax lawyers to look for loop­holes?

A “no” vote on the debt-ceil­ing in­crease is not a way to avoid that hard work, and we shouldn’t let any­one think it is.

In or­der to get big-gov­ern­ment lib­er­als to come to the ta­ble and make the hard and nec­es­sary de­ci­sions to re-es­tab­lish fis­cal san­ity, Repub­li­cans have to con­tinue to be hon­est. And it is just plain dis­hon­est to say that re­fus­ing to raise the debt ceil­ing will help put our fis­cal house in or­der. In­stead, it would im­pose real pain on all Amer­i­cans.

We are able to fi­nance our debt at very low costs to­day be­cause peo­ple around the world trust that they will be paid back.

Trig­ger­ing a fis­cal cri­sis would send those bor­row­ing costs up — rais­ing the cost of fi­nanc­ing our na­tional debt, rais­ing the cost of credit for ev­ery con­sumer, mak­ing busi­ness loans more ex­pen­sive and stalling our econ­omy.

Vot­ing against rais­ing the debt ceil­ing will only make the pain of our fis­cal prob­lems worse.

Repub­li­cans have told the Amer­i­can peo­ple that there’s no sil­ver bul­let, and they are lis­ten­ing be­cause of their frank ap­proach on bud­get mat­ters.

Re­sort­ing to a gim­mick like vot­ing down the debt-ceil­ing in­crease will look like noth­ing more than the same old “pol­i­tics over pol­icy” attitude in Wash­ing­ton that got us into this prob­lem in the first place.

And it will di­vert ev­ery­one from the hard work of putting the gov­ern­ment on a real diet.

Michele Davis, a part­ner at the Brunswick Group, is associated with the Amer­i­can Ac­tion Fo­rum and a for­mer Trea­sury of­fi­cial in the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion.

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