Debt follies

Debt follies

May 27th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

As Congress and the president rush headlong into another surreal battle over raising the federal debt limit, it behooves us to think for a moment about what exactly it is that the pro-debt-increase Democrats are asking of the country.

Where the national debt is concerned, they insist that we suspend all the rules of common sense and rational finance that we believe are prudent when a family, business or private organization finds itself struggling to pay the bills.

We must not reduce spending, they tell us. We must increase it.

We must not look at previous outlays and slash those whose returns are dubious or nonexistent. We simply must trust that more spending on unproductive programs will magically transform them into job creators and will generate "broadly shared prosperity" -- or something.

The evidence of history avails nothing among those whose mindset is marinated in the notion that government -- far more so than the individuals and companies that bear the good or bad consequences of how they allocate their resources -- is competent to say how privately earned money should be spent.

They devise inscrutable arguments to defend the idea that the $862 billion "stimulus," for example, somehow was a success. Just try pointing out to them an Associated Press analysis, conducted well into the stimulus spending binge, which showed that the counties across the United States that received the most stimulus money per capita for road work produced no more jobs for construction workers than the counties that got no stimulus cash.

You'll get nowhere.

And don't dream of pointing out famous (and numerous) flops such as heavily subsidized Solyndra, the California solar panel manufacturer that went under, costing U.S. taxpayers half a billion dollars. Any such flop, even if admitted, is dismissed as an anomaly.

Meanwhile, the Hurricane Katrina of red ink draws closer.

CBS News -- scarcely a skeptical source of information on the Obama administration -- acknowledged a few weeks ago that the growth of the national debt had exploded under Obama.

"The national debt has now increased more during President Obama's three years and two months in office than it did during eight years of the George W. Bush presidency," CBS reported in late March.

"The debt rose $4.899 trillion during the two terms of the Bush presidency. It has now gone up $4.939 trillion since President Obama took office."

The debt was less than $11 trillion the day Bush left office and Obama came in. It now is approaching $16 trillion.

Obama's defenders will cry foul at that criticism. Obama alone is not responsible for the gargantuan increase in the debt during his term in office, they will note.

And they will be correct, even as they set a land-speed record for missing the point.

It is true that Obama did not singlehandedly put the national debt into orbit. A catastrophe that vast requires plenty of assistance, and it came over a period of decades in the form of heavy Democratic support and considerable Republican support for spending that our nation cannot afford. (Remember that nifty Medicare prescription drug benefit, GOP?)

But today, it is not Republicans but Democrats led by Obama who are pressing for yet another increase in the debt limit by the end of the year.

And they will have enormous help from the news media to promote their cause.

Play a fun game of Spot the Bias with this lead from an article in the Los Angeles Times: "Republicans in Congress are heading into summer much the way they did last year -- instigating a showdown with the White House by demanding massive federal budget cuts in exchange for what used to be the routine task of raising the nation's debt limit to pay the government's bills."

Wait a second. If anyone has to carry the burden of proof in debates on more federal spending, it is surely those who favor that spending. Nothing in the fiscal recklessness of the past three years -- from the stimulus to ObamaCare to failed "green energy" subsidies -- offers the faintest evidence that America's economic problem is rooted in lack of government spending. What's being instigated is debt-fueled crisis after crisis, and it's Democrats doing the instigating.

We now pay hundreds of billions of dollars annually in interest on the debt, with no serious thought among a majority in Congress of cutting the debt itself. And the president wants still more "investment."

Raise the debt limit indeed.

Congress and the president alike ought to be attacking the debt with a vigorously sharpened hacksaw. Alas, that first would require admitting that mammoth levels of spending have failed to produce jobs and meaningful economic growth.

And admitting failure of such Herculean proportions is something that just isn't done in Washington.