Have you ever thought about the purpose of the federal debt limit?
It’s easy to forget why it was ever self-imposed, because, in recent years, it has been more or less automatically lifted whenever Washington wanted to spend more than revenues permitted.
But the purpose of the debt limit is to remind officials and the public that government is exceeding its budget – borrowing from future generations.
Is it necessary to do that sometimes?
The government needed to borrow money during World War II for the defense of the nation. That’s legit. You could even argue that some borrowing was justified after 9/11.
But since then it has become a matter of routine. When anyone questions raising the debt limit these days, we hear hysterical cries that someone is trying to “shut down the government.” In fact, lately, few have even tried to freeze borrowing, as the debt has risen to an astronomical $18.5 trillion.
Dr. Ben Carson, a leading Republican presidential candidate, wants to change that way of thinking. He has put forward a bold plan to use the debt limit to rein in overspending – it’s precise purpose. In fact, the debt limit represents an opportunity to re-evaluate priorities and remind the nation it is spending beyond its means.
He also makes the point that borrowing money endlessly, simply as a means of expanding government power and buying votes with handouts and programs that exceed the constitutional authority of Congress, is immoral.
This should be music to the ears of the American people, who, in polling done over the last four years, have steadfastly opposed raising the debt limit by staggering majorities. In fact, both Republicans and Democrats say they don’t support borrowing as standard government policy.
Dr. Carson says the national debt is the No. 1 national security threat to the nation. And he may be right. It is completely, hopelessly unsustainable as national economic policy. Some day – sooner or later – we’re going to have to pay the piper. It gets more difficult to deal with the debt the longer this policy continues.
Furthermore, deficit spending makes the government unaccountable to the people and the law of the land because it permits government to grow and expand without a thought as to its ability to pay for operations.
In January 2011, I launched a movement to freeze the debt – the very first step in addressing the problem. As Dr. Carson points out, if you find yourself in a gigantic hole, the first thing you should do is stop digging.
The No More Red Ink campaign was successful in one sense. It generated more than 1 million letters to Republican members of the House of Representatives in 2011 and 2012 because the new GOP majority in that house had complete authority to say no to any increase in the debt limit. They refused. They refused in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and they are about to refuse in 2015.
Clearly, neither elected Democrats nor Republicans have the will to just say no to more borrowing and spending.
And that’s why this needs to be a major issue in the 2016 presidential race.
Are we going to keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results?
You know what they say about that idea: It’s the definition of insanity.
I don’t expect either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders to propose a debt freeze. They philosophically believe deficit spending is good for the economy. So if a change is to come, it will have to come from a Republican president.
Dr. Carson’s strong statement on the debt should be welcome news. This is the time for a national debate on this subject.
To those who oppose the idea, ask them these simple questions:
- Is there any point at which you would say America has borrowed enough?
- Why should my children and grandchildren be stuck with bills their generation did not run up?
- Isn’t that, in effect, taxation without representation?
- And, at what point do you believe it becomes irrational, immoral and dangerous to just keep borrowing?
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