The fiscal year 2013 budget proposed by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has received attention this week. He proposes to balance the budget within five years. A balanced budget is a laudable goal and necessity for true economic recovery. However, five years is a long time in politics, and the GOP will have to fight and win elections before getting to 2017, and the international scene is far from a foregone conclusion. Can America wait for reform?
No Congress can bind its successor. Except sending a constitutional amendment to the states, anything done by a Congress elected in 2010 or 2012 can be undone by one elected in 2014. Ironically, the founders ensured that, constitutionally, military budgets cannot be appropriated more than two years in advance (Article I, Section 8). The reality is that a GOP Congress will have a less than two-year window to guarantee reforms that will be hard to undo.
According to page 87 of Sen. Paul’s “A Platform to Revitalize America,” the FY 2013 budget of Barack Obama accumulates $901 billion of debt, while Sen. Paul’s budget adds $795 billion worth of debt. In FY 2014 they are nearly identical, with $668 billion of debt for Obama and $631 billion for Paul. Only in FY2015 do you see a significant difference, with Obama adding an additional $610 billion and Paul adding $62 billion to the debt. However, the fact remains that in the first two years of Paul’s budget he increases the national debt by $1.426 trillion, only $143 billion less than Obama.
Page 17 of Paul’s plan admits that reducing government spending will cause temporary economic “pain.” We should know by now that any “pain” will be used by the DNC and their “news” media supporters in the 2014 elections. Will the GOP be able to justify any “pain” while adding nearly $1.5 trillion to the debt?
American politicians do not have the privilege of arbitrarily fixing the times of the elections. We know when they will be. Every two years the House must go before the voters. There will be an election in November 2014, and in November 2016 we will have a presidential contest. Sen. Paul’s budget, if adopted, will be the focus of the 2014 campaign. The 2014 midterm election will be fought over any economic “pain” caused by his minor cuts in 2013 and 2014. The DNC media will see to that. Because Paul’s budget in those years is so close to Obama’s, it will be difficult for the Republicans to claim that they are fiscally responsible. There will be little to stop the DNC from creating an alternative three- or five-year plan that claims fiscal responsibility in FY 2015 – without the pain – and we are well aware the big corporate media will not hold them to their word when they break their promises.
So why add more debt?
We need to think of the future. We know the goal in 2012 is to defeat Obama. The Republican Party should choose the issue of the 2014 midterm elections now. That issue should be an immediate end to new debt. If in 2013 the GOP has the presidency and Congress, they must refuse all new debt and immediately return the government to levels equivalent to actual revenues. We already know this will cause economic pain, but it will restore confidence in the U.S. government and by extension the economy. It will also allow the GOP to dismantle many structures of anti-constitutional government. To his credit, Paul does call for the elimination of the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Education, and Energy. The 2014 midterm should be fought over the question “Do you support the GOP balanced budget, or do you want more Democratic debt?” That is a better argument than “Do you support the potential for a GOP balanced budget in 2017 while running Obama levels of debt in 2013-2014?” It is time to take our medicine now.
The other reason to go big is the unpredictability of U.S. and world politics. We should be attentive enough to recognize that wars are not always of America’s choosing, and the Iranian situation is not likely to go away. Similarly, the price of oil is an issue that will affect the economy and is tied the increasing power of America’s enemies. We could suffer another horrendous terrorist attack, or the U.S. or a major trading partner could suffer a major natural disaster. What will China do in the intervening five years? Federal Reserve policy is another issue the government cannot currently control. Within five years an irresponsible president may even attempt amnesty for border violators, further straining the economy and American credibility. Several crises could intervene to provide a “justification” for new debt and an end to austerity. A Democrat could even take the White House in 2016. Can we predict what will happen over the next five years? No, and that is why a Republican Congress should balance the budget in year one, not year five.
Waiting for 2017 and for the economy to react is like an ambulance crew explaining to a crash victim: “Not to worry, we have the best medical facilities in world and we are taking you in” – but the patient dies on arrival because the paramedics never stopped the bleeding.
No more debt.