(Opinion) How Republicans Can ‘Man Up’ on the Debt

November 4, 2010 - 4:01 AM

There was a lot of talk by Republican candidates during the campaign about the need to “man up.” Sarah Palin and Chris Christie both used the term. Christine O’Donnell told her primary opponent to “get your man pants on.” Georgia gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel told her run-off opponent that it was “time to put the big-boy pants on.”

But it was most widely noted when Sharron Angle told Harry Reid to “man up” and face the problem of Social Security solvency.

Good advice. Especially for Republicans in the new Congress who will need to man up and face the accelerating monetary and fiscal crisis I describe in “The Dollar Meltdown.” And the only way they can face it head-on is to refuse to increase the national debt ceiling.

Today’s $13.7 trillion debt is racing to the statutory debt limit of $14.3 trillion. Expect the collision in February or March. While Bush presided over seven increases in eight years, Obama, going for a new world indoor record, already has signed off on three hikes in less than two years. 

His last, a debt increase on steroids was $1.9 trillion, which Republicans voted against, knowing full well it would pass without them. Now for his fourth hike, House Republicans won’t be able to stand on the sidelines.

There is no chance that office-holding, power-loving politicians are going to let the government default, and end the Washington party. With the ball in the Republican court this time, Democrats will expect them to take the blame for allowing for more federal debt, but Republicans need to exact a price for doing so.    

That price is meaningful and across the board budgets cuts. 

Meaningful: The Republican’s Pledge to America to save “at least $100 billion in the first year alone” doesn’t qualify as meaningful. A mere one percent rise in interest rates alone would increase the cost of funding federal debt by more than that amount. The Heritage Foundation’s call for cutting $170 billion in fiscal year 2012, is closer, but it is still only $550 per American. A federal budget that spends $12,000 per American can surely do better than that. 

Across the Board: The Heritage Foundation’s paper “How to Cut $343 Billion from the Federal Budget,” although still not 10 percent of the budget, gets closer to being meaningful. But it fails by leaving the cost of the U.S. empire intact. Pentagon spending is set to roll past $700 billion, while Congressman Ron Paul and others calculate total war and foreign spending at about $1 trillion a year. That’s a rich target of budget cutting opportunity. To minimize the claims and counterclaims of the cuts being unfair and favoring powerful industries, cuts must be across the board, applied equally across the budget.

It will always sound shocking to members of the governing classes and the D.C. commentariat – the requirement for the government to live within its means – but only because they have become accustomed to what are now clearly unsustainable levels of irresponsibility. 

And they will make the expected noise when there is pain associated with the cuts –which there will be. But the people need to be reminded it is the pain of the Sunday morning hangover and the time to avoid it was Saturday night. Or as Henry Hazlitt once said, “Today is already the tomorrow which the bad economists yesterday urged us to ignore.”

Whatever Washington experiences, it will be far less disrupting than what the American people have had to live through in the current economic debacle. And it is nothing compared to the calamity the entire country will experience if we don’t stop ourselves from borrowing money we cannot pay back except by destroying the currency with printing-press money. 

For if we don’t stop ourselves while our fate is in our own hands, our creditors will stop us when it isn’t. 

Still gun-shy from the public’s take on the last shutdown 15 years ago, Republicans may recoil from the prospect of using the tactic again. But haven’t we heard it’s time to man up? And unlike last time, there is nothing distracting this time about where Newt Gingrich got to ride on Air Force One. The equation is simple. 

The government cannot be allowed to borrow more money until it agrees to cut spending. Meaningfully. Across the board. It even makes a good sound bite: “Either Washington cuts the spending or we cut up their credit card.”

They sure sounded sincere on election night, Republicans did, about having found religion. Serial apologies from the winners about how they went astray last time they were in the big city of Majorityville. Over and over we were told by party leaders and candidates that Republicans will have to earn back the people’s trust. 

Now, in the glow of their victory and the Democrats fear of defeat, they can put on their man pants and get started. “Either Washington cuts the spending or we cut up their credit card.”