One year from today the Washington and media establishments will be hysterical over what they say is the absolute need to raise the debt limit again to avoid the catastrophe of a government shutdown.
How do I know this?
Because former House Speaker John Boehner’s revenge was to give Barack Obama all the borrowed money he would need to “fundamentally transform America” before he left power and this little gift to Paul Ryan, his successor.
As a result of that deal, Washington can borrow as much as it can spend until about March of 2017.
Why is this important now?
Won’t the new president have to deal with that in January?
Why start worrying about this now?
I’ll tell you why: The burgeoning, exploding debt the federal government is accumulating represents an existential threat for America.
There’s another reason: Whoever is elected president in November won’t have time to do what is necessary to shut off the debt spigot two months later without developing a radical plan right now.
I actually believe the debt limit represents a great opportunity for America – not only to wean us away from borrowing but to wean us off the bigger problem of unlimited government. While the Constitution mandates strict limits on the powers of the federal government, unlimited borrowing power effectively negates those limits.
Think about it. There’s no need for tax increases to expand government anymore. Washington can just borrow whatever the powers that be determine they need.
No matter who is elected president in November and sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017, he or she is going to inherit $20 trillion in debt. Less than two months later, he or she is going to be tempted to do what presidents have been doing on auto-pilot over the last 20 years – ask Congress to raise the debt limit. If history is any indication of future behavior, Congress will enthusiastically comply with minimal opposition.
And that’s the problem. Nobody thinks about the unsustainable debt burden until 30 days before the debt limit is reached. Nobody plans ahead to avert the “need” to borrow. Nobody in Washington or the media makes the case for making cuts in spending that will prevent the “need” to keep borrowing.
Like it or not, though, the day of reckoning is coming. When interest rates rise, even servicing the debt will become prohibitive – placing a bigger and bigger burden on individual taxpayers.
No one can live like this. No nation can survive like this indefinitely.
So, what needs to be done now, a year before the next debt limit is reached?
The presidential campaign represents an excellent opportunity for someone – particularly on the Republican side – to make this issue his or her own. Someone in that race needs to stand up and say, “Enough is enough.” No great nation can continue to be great while dependent on borrowing.
Planning needs to begin now for the next president to end the borrow-and-spend pattern. That should begin with a budget that requires no new borrowing beginning in 2017 – a budget that eliminates not just fraud and waste in government, but unconstitutional programs and departments as well.
You can’t start that planning in 2017. It has to begin now. It must be sold to the American people. Congress needs to be put on warning.
Personally, I think this is a winning idea for the right candidate. Polls consistently show 80 percent of Republicans oppose borrowing to sustain government operations. Surprisingly, perhaps, those polls also show close to 60 percent of Democrats agree.
I certainly wouldn’t expect Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders to make that case.
But what about Ted Cruz? What about Donald Trump? What about all the other Republican candidates?
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