Happy New Year! May the year be prosperous for you and for our nation.
Tomorrow begins 2012, the year that our national debt—now almost $15.2 trillion–will likely reach $16.5 trillion. This is certainly not the way to prosperity.
You heard last Friday that President Obama would request an increase to the debt limit by $1.2 trillion because the actual debt was within $100 billion of the statutory debt ceiling. His request would be postponed for a few days to give lawmakers time for their return to Washington in January. The mind-boggling factor is that it was only August 2011—less than five months ago—when the “Budget Control Act” was signed, and the debt ceiling was about $10 trillion higher than it was in 2000. In August the Act authorized $15.2 trillion and pre-approved additional borrowing until public debt would reach $16.5 trillion. But we’re already there! We continued to borrow more and spend more and pay more interest on what we borrowed until these five months later we already have to raise the ceiling to the max that was set just last August.
When it meets later in January, Congress will not disallow the $1.2 trillion increase. That’s right – Congress will likely express little more than “concerns” about the increase. Why? Because (1) the country is racing through the last $100 billion of its borrowing ability, again creating a crisis for federal programs, and because (2) after the President submits the request for an increase in accordance with the Act, unless both houses disapprove raising the ceiling within 15 days, the pre-approved increase automatically goes through. This structure is very close to “a done deal.” If Congress gives authority to borrow, we do not exhibit the restraint to live within our means; borrow more is the cowardly response for those who truly care about future generations.
We are dangerously testing to see how deep the river of debt can be. Fiscal responsibility in government means that we do not spend uncontrollably by jumping with full abandon into that river of debt. Elect women and men to Congress who have the courage to be fiscally responsible. Benjamin Franklin said “When you’re testing to see how deep water is, never use two feet.”