U.S. Debt: Here Today, Gone to Borrow
“Alexander Hamilton started the Treasury Department with nothing,” Will Rogers joked, “and sometimes I think that’s the closest we’ve been to breaking even.” Not too many people were laughing on Friday afternoon, though, when the U.S. had the dubious distinction of crossing the $20 trillion debt mark. And while the government has maxed out its credit cards consistently for years, it’s never owed anywhere near this much. Still, that doesn’t seem to faze Democrats, who jumped at the chance to put off dealing with a mess created, in large part, by their party’s last president.
Despite all the finger-wagging from the Left, George W. Bush’s share — $4 trillion — seems like a drop in the IOU bucket compared to the money Barack Obama was spending. In eight years, Donald Trump’s predecessor had Americans swimming in red ink, thanks to back-breakers like Obamacare. Before taxpayers knew it, they were staring down another $9 trillion in debt — upping each family’s share to $152,000. Obama just shrugged, blowing a bigger hole in our credit than any White House in history. By the time the moving vans pulled up to Pennsylvania Avenue, America’s was overdrawn by $19.9 trillion. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and other Republicans could only shake their heads, pointing out that Obama left office having never offered a single budget that balanced.
But in fairness, Congress is as much to blame for this mess as Obama. It was a Republican House, after all, that agreed to suspend the debt limit until 2017, giving the government a blank check to borrow whatever it wanted! Add that to the millions in taxpayer-funded fish art, talking urinal cakes and IRS popcorn machines and the waste will have you crying more than the Vidalia onion promotion campaign. Now, days after rushing a short-term debt deal out the door, some Republicans are frustrated they didn’t tackle the spending crisis when they had the chance.
“We got a three-month increase in the debt ceiling, and we did not do anything to address the underlying problem, which is namely a $20 trillion debt,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) complained. “So, some of the options we put forward, we will raise the debt ceiling. We understand that needs to happen. But we will do it if we actually address the underlying problem, cap spending in the future, do some other things, things that need to happen to deal with this huge debt burden that we currently have.” Leading up to Dec. 8, when America bumps its head against the borrowing ceiling, there will be plenty of conversations about the meaningful reform that needs to take place. “We need to do something,” Jordan argued. “I would hate to give up the opportunity that a debt ceiling presents to actually go after the underlying and big concern we have.”
Some Americans will yawn at the country’s predicament, which isn’t surprising given their own lax attitudes toward spending. According to the latest report, a lot of people are deep in debt themselves — racking up $1 trillion collectively on their credit cards for the first time since 2008. Living within our means seems to be an ideal long lost in this age of excess and instant gratification. But as everyone eventually learns, borrowing is ultimately unsustainable — and it is immoral for us to leave it to our children and grandchildren to pay Washington’s piper.
Conservatives like Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker (R-NC) know the time for serious action is now. After leaders from both parties let the opportunity for change slip by, Walker says his team will force the issue in the next batch of negotiations — whether Democrats cooperate or not. “Before Congress agrees to increase the debt limit again, it is imperative we pass new laws that will change this disturbing trend instead of ignoring the root cause of our nation’s debt problems,” he said. Walker’s right. It’s time for Republicans to take charge — and not the plastic kind!
Originally published here.
PBS/WSJ: They Call Them Like They SPLC Them
If the latest batch of headlines is any indication, the brief honeymoon between the media and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) after Charlottesville may be drawing to a close. At least two major news outlets — The Wall Street Journal and PBS — are picking up where the press left off with its SPLC skepticism. Both are leveling serious allegations at the group for its methods and political vendettas in advance of the group’s testimony (now postponed) before the House Homeland Security Committee.
Retired Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain explains “What It’s Like to Be Smeared by the Southern Poverty Law Center” in a strong column for the Journal, which hasn’t exactly been holding back its skepticism of Richard Cohen’s group. For Dr. Swain, institutionalized prejudice is nothing new. As an African-American woman, she’s been threatened, protested, and verbally abused for exposing students to other views in one of academia’s elite laboratories of radicalism. Now, she can add “targeted by the SPLC” to her long list of distinctions, which, among other things, accuses Carol of expressing hatred toward minorities — which is ridiculous since she is a minority!
Still, Swain insists, she “wears the SPLC’s mud as a badge of honor because I know I am in the company of many good men and women who have been similarly vilified for standing for righteousness and truth.” But, Carol writes soberly, the SPLC’s labeling “has had a lasting impact on my life and career. Offers from other universities ended and speaking opportunities declined. Once you’ve been smeared in this way, mainstream news outlets are less likely to cite you as an expert of any kind.”
But, she continues, “Some of those vilified by the SPLC have been subjected to even worse treatment. The Family Research Council and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise have been violently attacked by individuals inspired by the propaganda the SPLC regularly dishes out — which is often accepted without criticism and passed on by media, law-enforcement agencies and universities.” Like others at The Wall Street Journal who think SPLC’s “hate list” feeds the polarization it claims to be fighting, Carol knows Cohen’s group has one goal (articulated, conveniently, by former staffer Mark Potok): “destroying” the groups it opposes.
That allegation was taken quite seriously by PBS’s Bob Garfield, who invited Cohen on his show to defend himself against the open letter signed by 47 conservative groups (including FRC). In a conversation that covered everything from SPLC’s suspicious offshore accounts to its modern mission, PBS’s “On the Media” doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the organization’s lack of credibility.
Hearkening back to its days as a legitimate civil rights groups, the PBS host talks about how the public’s perceptions of SPLC have changed.
PBS: My assumption has always been that you were free of any bias … but [now] I wonder if my trust has been misplaced…
Cohen: …Ninety-eight percent of all the groups [on SPLC’s hate] list, no one disputes. A tiny portion of them have been controversial at times, and I’m prepared to defend those as well… I don’t make any apologies about being partisan.
PBS: But you also don’t want to be the boy who cried Nazi, and I wonder if this current controversy has made you and [founder] Morris Dees reevaluate your methodology and your threshold for putting a prominent name on the list. You got burned when you included Ben Carson, for example, and there are other names on the list who may be politically conservative but certainly don’t seem to represent anything close to violent extremism.“
Cohen: Are you thinking about something like the Family Research Council, Bob?
PBS: Yeah, let’s talk about the Family Research Council, the very core of the so-called Religious Right. They’re on your list. Why?
Cohen: Yes they are, because of their continuous incendiary name-calling and lies about the LGBT community… So I think the FRC well-deserves the ‘hate label’ regardless of how the support they might have…
PBS: Well, if that’s the threshold, where is the Assemblies of God Church? Where is about a third of Congress? If you open the tent that wide, you’ll have an awfully long hate list… Do you not perceive that if Southern Poverty Law Center is viewed not as fighting the good fight but as being opportunists exploiting our political miseries, that it kills the goose that lays the golden egg? I mean, even as just a PR matter, is this not something that you’re thinking about right now?
Certainly, the media and conservative movement have given SPLC plenty to think about in these last few months. And until the phony civil rights group gives up its reckless ways, the hot seat will only get hotter!
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.