What $14.4 trillion and growing means on planet Earth


Monday night, President Barack Obama scorched the airwaves with his partisan call for bipartisanship and imperial instructions to congressional leaders: Produce a bill "I can sign."

During yesterday's news cycle, House Republican leaders called upon conservative backbenchers to play ball with the administration despite repeated claims from the White House that it will veto Speaker of the House John Boehner's compromise bill. Instead of accepting the president's olive branch covered with snake oil, Boehner would be wise to deliver the following message to the American people and call upon Senate Democrats to allow a true vote on the "Cut, Cap and Balance" legislation brought forward last week:

My Fellow Americans: Since the fall of 2008, the federal government has been on an unsustainable spending spree. To understand just how unsustainable, imagine a family that makes $60,000 a year but keeps charging its credit cards until it has spent $100,000. Now imagine 38 million families doing that three years in a row-that's the federal government. We all know that a real family couldn't get away this. Neither can our government. Unfortunately, President Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress seem determined to try. Harry Reid's Senate hasn't even proposed a budget for two years and the president's last budget called for trillion-dollar deficits for the next 10 years. The only reason we are talking about spending cuts today is that you gave the Republicans a majority in the House last November and we're insisting on them.

Now think about that big-spending family again. Sitting around the dinner table one evening, husband and wife-we'll call them Barry and Harriet-look at their growing pile of bills and finally decide they have to do something. Looking for advice, they talk to their good friend Karl, who convinces them that if a few senior executives took a pay cut, there'd be plenty of money for middle managers like Barry. So the next day, Barry goes to his boss, tells him that he is almost bankrupt, and demands a $40,000 raise to cover his expenses. Unfortunately, Barry's boss is a little slow and has a hard time understanding why he should be paying Barry's extra bills. So Barry tries again and promises that if he can just have his money now, he'll reform his ways and try really hard not to ask for another raise too soon. And, to show that's he's serious, he'll even cut out one of his daily trips to the soda machine right away.

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What will the boss say? That's the question before the American people. Will they trust the promises of the free-spenders or tell them that what they really need to do is cut up their credit cards and live within their means?

For 50 years, the federal government has spent about 20 cents for every dollar of goods produced in our country. I'm sure a lot of you would say that that is too much. Well, I agree. But if 20 cents on the dollar is an awfully big share for Washington, what about 25 cents? That's how much the president and his administration have claimed the last three years.

When they say we need to raise "revenue," what they mean is that you and I aren't paying enough taxes to cover all their new spending. Well, they're right. But you know what? We are paying enough taxes to cover three-quarters of that old 20 percent share-and with some reasonable reforms on the spending side and an economy freed from all the dead weight this administration has heaped upon it, we could close the rest of the gap. That, in essence, is the plan the House Republicans passed last week.

Now, if you think our Republican plan doesn't go far enough, you might be right. But, if someone tries to tell you we're going to starve children and kill off the elderly if we spend money like we did just three years ago, or when Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, and Clinton were president, then you know he is just playing politics-and this is not the time for that.

We'd probably all like to be able to spend more than we make each year, but we know that it's not right to leave our bills for others to pay. And so it's time to end our spending spree and listen again to Poor Richard: "Would you live at ease, / do what you ought, and not what you please." With this simple wisdom as our guide-and God's continued blessing-America's best days may yet be ahead.

David Corbin and Matthew Parks
David Corbin and Matthew Parks

David is a professor of politics and Matthew an assistant professor of politics at The King’s College in New York City. They are co-authors of Keeping Our Republic: Principles for a Political Reformation.


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