Another Debt Ceiling Crisis?

It looks like we will soon be fighting that debt-ceiling battle again.  The President, and his party, will want Congress to rubber-stamp an increase to the debt limit, while the Republican lawmakers will insist that some meaningful spending cuts be initiated.  When that happens, Democrats, including the President’s election campaign, will accuse the Republicans of trying to shut down the government.  The conflict will then be in full swing.  There will be meetings, debates, and lots of television interviews, where mud-slinging will be the rule of the day.  It won’t be pretty.


Of course, the President and Congress could use this as an opportunity to help the country, and, at the same time, improve voters’ attitude concerning politicians in general. 


The incredible popularity of Texas Congressman Ron Paul speaks volumes about the way many in America feel about politics in general and spending specifically.


The fact that Ron Paul has – more or less – suspended his campaign in relation to attempts to win primary contests hasn’t stopped Ron Paul supporters from rallying around the fiscal conservative. Tea Partiers and Republicans of every other stripe are still clamoring for Paul in spite of his (we imagine) pipe dreams of ever being elected. The message to politicians everywhere – STOP SPENDING.


In an election year, it would be political suicide for Republican congressmen to vote for a tax increase of any sort.  Let’s be realistic – the debt-ceiling will have to be increased.  Everyone knows that.  Republicans need to stop pretending that not increasing the limit is an option.  Even the rightest-of-right-wingers know that a debt-limit increase will be mandatory.  On the other hand, Democrats, except for a few liberals, know, in their heart-of-hearts that we can’t allow the debt to keep increasing forever.  They also know that taxes can’t be keep being increased forever.  However, if both sides were at all interested in reducing the debt, there are some methods of debt-reduction that could be performed immediately, even in an election year.


First, out elected officials could simply accept the findings of the GAO, which found that the government is wasting about $250 billion a year, mostly in program overlaps.  $250 billion, out of a budget deficit of id="mce_marker".2 trillion is significant, and would reduce the debt by about $2.5 trillion over the next ten years.  We pay folks at the GAO for this kind of advice, so why don’t we take that advice?  Not taking this GAO advice is like a 400-pound man’s doctor telling him that he will soon die if he doesn’t stop eating cheeseburgers, and then, as soon as the man leaves the doctor’s office, he goes out and eats a dozen cheeseburgers.  It’s just stupid!


Secondly, the federal government operates with the general understanding that the budget will be increased 8% per year.  Now, ordinary folks, in ordinary households across the country understand that, when they need to cut spending, they must actually CUT spending.  Their budget for the coming year has to be less than this year’s budget. In Washington, the term “cutting the budget” has an entirely different meaning.  In Washington, our officials refer to “cutting the budget” to mean reducing the projected INCREASE in future budgets.  The so-called “super-committee” of last year suggested making Washington-type budget cuts only by about id="mce_marker" trillion, in specific programs, over the next ten years, and the President refused to adopt their suggestions without any tax increases. 


If the President, and the Democrats in Congress, would just agree to these two ideas, the Republicans would soon agree to a debt-limit increase, and voters would begin to think that our government might finally be making some real progress.


IMHO, there are two chances of that happening. Slim. None.


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