Obama said it best:
'America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership'
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure… a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills… that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. …

Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally… Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better….

Over the past 5 years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion… That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers…

This year, the Federal Government will spend $220 billion on interest. That is more money to pay interest on our national debt than we’ll spend on Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program … on education, homeland security, transportation, and veterans benefits combined.

And the cost of our debt is one of the fastest growing expenses in the Federal budget. This rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy, robbing our cities and States of critical investments in infrastructure like bridges, ports, and levees; robbing our families and our children of critical investments in education and health care reform; robbing our seniors of the retirement and health security they have counted on.

Every dollar we pay in interest is a dollar that is not going to investment in America’s priorities.

— U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., floor speech on public debt, March 16, 2006

A long quote: I could have rephrased it and offered it as my own analysis, but that would be wrong. I’ll just update it, noting that the debt ceiling was raised over Senator Obama’s objection, and the national debt then increased from $8.6 trillion to $10.7 trillion when President Bush left office, to $14.3 at this point in the Obama presidency, heading for double where it was when Senator Obama so accurately defined the problem.

So having read this far, you understand the situation as well as President Obama once understood it, as libertarians have always understood it, as Republicans always talked as if they understood it, as the Massachusetts Congressional Democrats should finally face it, as the Tea Party clearly understands it and wants us all to face it now with a refusal to raise the debt ceiling again.

Forget being partisan: who can defend another increase in the debt ceiling? All of us are smart enough to understand that this can’t go on. So the only discussion should be on how to run a government without adding more debt. What are the priorities? What should be cut, should taxes be raised?

One thing for sure: we have to pay the debt we owe. This is obvious, and doesn’t require a brand new silly debate about whether the constitution allows the president to raise the debt ceiling without a vote of Congress; no, it doesn’t.

Moving on to a more common debate about raising taxes, and on whom. Though a taxpayer activist devoted to the “no new taxes” pledge, I can understand the argument to raise taxes, not on “the rich” as in un-American class warfare, but on people who can afford to pay more without undue suffering. It is, after all, in their best interest too that the economy survive.

But while this “balanced approach” seems to make sense, it doesn’t work. Raising taxes is the traditional, easy way for politicians to avoid facing essential prioritization and government restructuring. Raise taxes, on anyone, and kiss real solutions goodbye. In the past, according to Americans for Tax Reform, politicians raised $1 in new taxes and spent $1.37, as debt increased.

We should certainly begin the process of tax reform, tax simplification: ending loopholes, subsidies, lobbyist-purchased imbalances, while cutting rates that can be shown to stimulate economic activity and create jobs.

Meanwhile, where to cut? That’s easy. Just continue doing nothing about setting priorities and the decisions will be made automatically, as the money runs out. Then clean up the mess made by politicians who have not faced the problem, and those of us who elected them.

Don’t like that plan? Then, the least we can do, short-term, is support the National Taxpayers Union “One Percent Spending Reduction Act” to get us started on real long term solutions. Cut one cent of every dollar spent, each year for six years, then cap spending at 18 percent of GDP in line with annual revenue averages. No exemptions, except interest payments on the national debt.

Get started on long-term solutions with a vote to create a federal balanced budget requirement, with a two-thirds supermajority protection against economy-damaging tax hikes. Redo national healthcare reform, with a rational debate using lessons we’ve learned so far from the ObamaCare and RomneyCare experiments.

Admit we can’t afford to save the world, then keep our returning troops employed on our national borders. Teach our children history, including the 2011 “battle of the budget,” which I’m hoping will have saved them from unendurable debt.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette.

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