DEBATE OVER THE “FISCAL CLIFF” IS MISSING THE BIGGER POINT
By Jeff Duncan || Just when Americans were hoping for some post-election relief from politics, this so-called “fiscal cliff” comes to the forefront just in time for the holidays. Like most political crises, this one didn’t start overnight.
The stances of the two parties are fairly clear: President Barack Obama wants to raise taxes, Republicans do not. But with all the sound bites floating around about why this approach is good or bad for the country, I think we’ve forgotten that this debate is supposed to be about the national debt.
Our country’s $16.3 trillion debt is growing faster than at any other point in modern history. To put this in perspective, our debt is now larger than the United States’ entire private economy. We currently spend around one trillion more a year than we bring in, and our country has over $86 trillion in future liabilities it will have to pay out over the coming decades.
When you look at our country’s balance sheet, we’re reminded of why Congress forced an extensive debate about this problem in 2011. Unfortunately, instead of taking bold action to solve the problem back then, Washington threw its hands in the air and decided to kick the can down the road a little bit longer (without the support of the S.C. Republican delegation).
We’ve finally arrived at “the can,” but we’ve managed to forget, or are choosing to ignore, what problem the can ultimately represents. What’s worse is that President Obama seems to have a severe case of political amnesia, and has either forgotten about his desire to solve this debt problem or was never really concerned with it from the beginning.
President Obama’s wish to raise taxes will generate an estimated $80 billion a year. That is a lot of money to you and me, but is less than 10 percent of our government’s annual deficit, or enough to fund government for about eight days. If you tinker with the president’s proposal so it won’t severely impact small business as much as it’s currently projected to, the amount of new revenue flowing to the government is even less.
Assuming the entire $80 billion a year went directly to paying down our debt (which is a very large assumption); we will have failed to solve the problem and will have practically done nothing to slow it down.
If we agree that the reason for all this political drama is to truly solve our debt problem, then simple math shows us that only major cuts in government spending can solve this crisis. President Obama is demanding a return to Clinton-era tax rates when he needs to be calling for a return to Clinton-era spending levels. However, the president has failed to offer any significant spending cuts, and has already discussed ways he would like to spend this new tax revenue.
This leads me to believe that the president’s primary objective is not to raise taxes to pay down the debt; the president’s objective is to raise taxes in order to spend more money on government programs.
That’s the message that’s been lost during this debate and the problem with the president’s approach. If I am wrong, then why would President Obama object to constitutional spending caps that force us to use any new revenue to pay down the debt? Why would President Obama oppose a Balanced Budget Amendment that forces us to only spend what we take in as a nation? Why do the president and his supporters already have plans to spend this new tax revenue?
I fear that the president’s true motivation for raising taxes from the beginning was to grow government through more spending. It’s not about paying down the debt; it never has been for most Washington Democrats. It’s about growing the size and scope of government. I respect their position, but I completely disagree with their philosophy and fear that it puts our nation down the path of becoming the next Greece.
We’re often criticized in Washington for not being able to compromise, but I think you’ll agree with me that if you’re going to work together to solve a problem, you have to first agree that there is a problem.
President Obama’s approach, rhetoric and actions on spending cause me to seriously doubt whether he recognizes the seriousness of our debt crisis at all.
Jeff Duncan represents South Carolina’s third congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. This article – reprinted with permission – originally appeared in The Greenville News.