July 27 2011

The Debate on U.S. Debt Is Just Beginning

Carrie L. Lukas

I'm looking forward to the resolution of this round of debt ceiling/debt reduction debates.

I understand the frustrations of people on the Right: both those who feel as though the spending cuts in the GOP House leadership plan don't go far enough, and those who feel that conservatives are being unrealistic in expecting to achieve big changes in our government's budget process during this debate, in particular given a Democratic-controlled Senate that has no interest in reducing spending (they haven't bothered to even initiate a budget process since 2009) and a President who pays lip-service to debt reduction, but has offered no plan other than to pile on trillions more debt and raise taxes to make our bloated government (spending 24 percent of GDP) the new normal.

At a minimum, conservatives who have pushed for more have succeeded in controlling this debate. Tax increases haven't been seriously considered. The question has been how much to cut, not whether to cut.

It's frustrating, however, that too many Republicans seem to think that it's a victory to slow the growth of spending and want applause for cutting future increases, rather than recognizing that we need to truly reduce how much government spends. We need actual spending cuts in real dollars so that agencies are spending less this year-and a lot less-then they were last year, and then they should expect to have even less to spend the year after that.

As Michael Tanner writes in today's National Review, Boehner's plan is far from austerity.  Whether it's the best that could be hoped for in the current political climate is another issue. But this isn't enough in the long-term to put our country back on track toward balanced budgets and financial security.

This current debt ceiling debate may be coming to an end, but how to getting the federal government's runaway spending under control will be one of the central political debates for years to come.

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