The debt ceiling is actually not the issue
By Frank Salvato
As we tick-tock toward August 2nd, the day President Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner have set as the day the Executive Branch will have to start prioritizing expenditures – establishing what programs are covered exclusively by actual tax revenue and not borrowed money, we approach an artificial deadline for a secondary issue created by a much more systemic national malady. Where the news media and elected officials argue, whine and mislead on the issue of raising the federal debt limit ceiling, the debt ceiling isn't even close to the issue that all inside the beltway, but for the TEA Party, are refusing to address seriously: overspending.
Many on the Left side of the aisle have been caught rationalizing the need to raise the debt ceiling by noting it has been raised 78 times since 1960 – 49 times under Republican presidents, and 29 times under Democrat presidents, an irrelevant attribution due to the fact that Congress holds the power of the purse, not the Executive Branch. In fact, if one wants to split hairs about which party has presided over the majority of debt ceiling raises, and, consequently, which party has presided over the most deficit spending, it would be more accurate to point out that Democrats, from 1960 to 2010, have held the majorities in the Senate for 36 years and the House for 41 years. Ergo, Democrats and Progressives are far more to blame than Republicans for bringing the nation to the precipice of financial ruin.
Truth be told, both sides of the aisle are to blame for spending beyond their means, the honest man – or woman – recognizes and acknowledges that Congress has been spending more than it takes in for generations, whether under Republican leadership or Democrat leadership. That said, our nation would be infinitely better served if the news media and the elected class abandoned the blame game and political gimmicks – something that Progressives and especially Pres. Obama are not wont to do, to focus on the urgent need for them to commit to balancing the budget.
Recognizing that the real disease afflicting our federal government is an addiction to overspending; an addiction to using the disingenuous tool of promise, balanced on the back of the taxpayers, to buy votes from the narcissistic, the argument over raising the debt ceiling becomes a false one, because the debt ceiling itself is an illusion. If the debt ceiling were something that was binding, it would be different, but the fact that it has been raised 78 times in 50 years suggests that it is a "feel good" declaration that literally holds no weight. If a restriction doesn't restrict, is it really a restriction?
Keeping that thought in mind, let's pretend that a balanced budget amendment were passed out of Congress and each and every State signed on to it, making it law of the land backed by the US Constitution. So what? The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 mandates that Congress must complete its annual budget resolution by April 15th – the same day Americans must pay taxes. If Congress fails to pass a budget resolution, legislation that affects budgetary matters cannot be considered. Yet our federal government has been without a budget for two Congresses running. And what can we do about it? Nothing. It takes an act of Congress to punish Congress and those elected to Congress – at least until the TEA Party came to town – are too gutless to do the right thing. So, you will excuse me if I am not as excited about a balanced budget amendment as everyone seems to be.
To that extent, what I see an necessary to rectify the spendthrift ways of our federal government would make Nancy Pelosi's face crack off at the stitch-line and Harry Reid actually prove that he is awake.
First, legislation needs to be passed that defines the prioritization of spending for the federal government. One would have thought that the Constitution was pretty clear on that but when an elected class believes that the Commerce Clause paves the way for penalizing people for not buying a product...well...that presents as proof positive that the opportunistic political class cannot be trusted to make honest financial decisions from Congress to Congress.
Second, legislation needs to be passed that reforms the tax code to provide for either a flat tax – for both personal and corporate taxes, no deductions but for those who have disabilities or exist below the poverty level – or a complete transition to a consumption tax. Personally, I prefer the latter as it allows those here illegally and those who are transient to pay into the system. All other forms of taxation would be abolished but for taxes on foreign entities with regard to trade and sales. Both reforms force the elected class to limit their reach into the taxpayers' pocket.
Third, and this is the one that will prove most controversial and objectionable, legislation must be passed that makes it a crime, punishable by incredibly high fines, mandatory incarceration and a 10-year exile from US markets, for any financial institution and their enabling officers – both domestic and international, and for any foreign entity, be it sovereign government or corporation, who enter into financial arrangements with the United States federal government resulting in the accrual of national debt, exempt to wartime and/or in the event of a national disaster.
Drastic? You bet. But with a professional elected class that has proven beyond doubt that it cannot be trusted to be fiscally responsible, "drastic" is called for.
Of course, all this could be avoided if the American people would only execute their constitutional duty to governmental oversight. If we were calling our elected officials out on spending taxpayer monies for private sector programs (i.e. Planned Parenthood, ACORN splinter groups, etc.), rejecting their use of taxpayer monies as political payola bribes for special interest groups (i.e. eco-zealots and unions) and demanding that we close the global pocketbook that is the "be my friend" money tossed about the globe by the State Department, no drastic measures would be necessary. That said, until the American people stop believing that government "owes" them something, the need for drastic measures will remain.
Back to the drastic measures noted above. None of the measures needed to put our nation back to good can be achieved if the fiscally responsible don't run for office and are not elected to office. 2010 was a great start. The TEA Party did a good job. But now is not the time to rest on our laurels. Now is the time to hit it even harder than we did before the 2010 elections. Conservatives and TEA Party Americans – and let's remember that the TEA Party encompasses Republicans, Conservatives, Independents, Democrats and Libertarians – must make dramatic gains in Congress while retaking the White House in 2012. Short of that...well...our country is doomed to Democratic Socialism.
Frank Salvato is the Executive Director and Director of Terrorism Research for BasicsProject.org a non-profit, non-partisan, 501(c)(3) research and education initiative. His writing has been recognized by the US House International Relations Committee and the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention. His organization, BasicsProject.org, partnered in producing the original national symposium series addressing the root causes of radical Islamist terrorism. He is a member of the International Analyst Network and has been a featured guest on al Jazeera's Listening Post and on Russia Today. He also serves as the managing editor for The New Media Journal. Mr. Salvato has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor on FOX News Channel, and was featured in the documentary, "Ezekiel and the MidEast 'Piece' Process: Israel's Neighbor States." He is a regular guest on talk radio including on The Captain's America Radio Show, nationally syndicated by the Phoenix Broadcasting Network and on NetTalkWorld Global Talk Radio catering to the US Armed Forces around the world. Mr. Salvato is also heard weekly on The Roth Show with Dr. Laurie Roth syndicated nationally on the USA Radio Network. His opinion-editorials have been published by The American Enterprise Institute, The Washington Times, Accuracy in Media, Human Events, BigGovernment.com and are syndicated nationally. He is a featured political writer for EducationNews.org and is occasionally quoted in The Federalist. Mr. Salvato is available for public speaking engagements. He can be contacted at email@example.com.