As this is being written, an official compromise to raise the federal debt ceiling has yet to be reached, and not even a plan put forward by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to raise the debt ceiling until December with a trade-off of over $900 billion in spending cuts had enough votes to pass the Lower Chamber, with the GOP’s staunch conservatives joining Democrats in a case of strange political bedfellows to let the Speaker know that his plan won’t hold water.What many in the press are not explaining is that Speaker Boehner’s plan-well-intentioned and thought through as it is, does little to deal with the real cause behind the debt monster of the federal government. No matter how tough any Washington politician may talk about the debt ceiling debate, until they admit that entitlements not only are the problem, but have always been the problem, we’ll never be able to deal with our sovereign debt problem as a nation, and we will confront a similar political crisis to our current one in three to five years. That is the real reason why many House Republicans have so far been unable to completely swallow the Boehner plan, and are equally as likely to reject a Senate Democratic plan that does nothing to tame the entitlement beast at all.
Who is responsible for the situation we now find ourselves in? Under George W. Bush, the national debt was roughly 40% of Gross Domestic Product, but the Congressional Budget Office and The Wall Street Journal report that the national debt will account for a whopping 71% of GDP for fiscal year 2011. If any American household had that kind of number, they’d be in bankruptcy court seeking relief. Considering that under Mr. Obama’s watch debt as a share of GDP has jumped 31% in less than three years, the President cannot lay the blame on those who came before him when he had it in his power from the very beginning to prevent this crisis. The President and his Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, also know that the August 2nd deadline they have contrived is an artificiality.
To lay the blame on the President alone, however, would be to hide a much deeper problem-we are all to blame for the current fiscal situation, whether we understand that or not. Even if you have never taken a federal grant, loan, or entitlement (and most of us have, in some way, either directly or indirectly-we aren’t just talking about welfare and food stamps anymore), your local municipality, county, or school board probably has done so. Our local governments now depend on Washington to fund everything from more police, to school reform and funding, to fire and safety equipment, to recreational grants. As a society, we expect certain amenities from our local and State governments, yet we give little thought to the fact that much of the money for these things comes from Washington. Tennessee often uses federal money to fund many of the prerogatives of State government. Such has become the normal cycle of political life in this country and in our State, but it is not the proper constitutional order of things. States should not be dependent on Washington to sustain them, and the fact that they are is a telling example of why we have a debt crisis on the last weekend of July in 2011.
If Tennesseans are concerned about the future of our Union, we must learn to do for ourselves with as little help from Washington as possible. It isn’t an easy task in the least, but in view of the national debt crisis, it is an absolutely necessary one. We cannot rely on an irresponsible and overstretched federal government to build our schools, repair our bridges, and fix our water lines and sewers any longer, but local and State governments must learn to be more wholly responsible for local and State business. We must learn to do more with less, or else we will have little to show for it in the decades to come.