ROKITA: Debt-ceiling surrender
Congressional leaders pick posterity’s pocket to buy votes today
By Todd Rokita
Friday, February 14, 2014
As is generally the case in Washington, last week's debt-ceiling increase demonstrated once again that responsible solutions to help all Americans and their children live better lives are cast aside in favor of short-term political considerations.
I ran for Congress to solve the greatest problem facing our nation today and in the future — the national debt. The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, has called the national debt "the most significant threat to our national security," not to mention to our prosperity and that of future generations.
The very first ad of my campaign for Congress in 2010 featured my new son, Ryan, who, by virtue of having been born, had just inherited a $39,000 share of the then-$13 trillion national debt.
We do this to the children of tomorrow because people in the here and now, and their representatives of both political parties, do not have the courage to tackle our debt and propose the only reasonable solution that exists for this problem — cutting spending on government largesse.
For the past three years we have fought, with some success, to change the reckless, spending-addicted culture that this country has adopted over the past 50 years or so.
For example, as a country we have gone from debating how much to spend to how much to cut. Sequestration is now a household term.
While this cultural reform continues and may take decades, my son Ryan's share of the debt has now increased from $39,000 to $54,000.
We have secured meaningful cuts to discretionary spending, yet our national debt has only continued to soar above $17 trillion because mandatory spending on programs such as Medicaid, Social Security and Medicare — spending that accounts for approximately 60 percent of the federal budget — remains untouched.
The truth is, in divided government with a president and Senate intent on spending more, Republicans' best chance to gain the leverage necessary to reform mandatory spending is negotiation over raising the debt ceiling.
I will never apologize for using every bit of leverage I can to change the spending trajectory of this nation.
Unfortunately, our leverage was forfeited last week by agreeing to raise the debt ceiling and squandering any chance at mandatory spending reform.
Members of the Senate and the House will be congratulating themselves for "saving us from default," "making Washington work" and "showing responsible leadership" for ensuring that the real crisis — unsustainable spending — can continue.
The United States was not going to default as a consequence of taking the time to negotiate a debt-ceiling increase that reforms mandatory spending.
During the last debt-ceiling debate in October, Moody's, one of the agencies responsible for rating our debt, stated that "the government would continue to pay interest and principal on its debts even in the event that the debt limit is not raised."
Every month, the United States collects about $200 billion in revenue, but only makes about $20 billion in interest payments.
There is no denying that not raising the debt ceiling would result in aggressive spending prioritization and tough choices about what not to fund, but it would not have resulted in not paying our creditors.
The threat of default is a scare tactic used by politicians to bludgeon other politicians into continuing to spend money we do not have at the expense of our children and grandchildren.
A clean debt-ceiling increase is a surrender to short-term political considerations — on a bipartisan basis, I might add — superseding the interests of our posterity.
It's about politicians cynically putting more on the plate of people who can vote for them this November by picking the pockets of those who are yet to be born and who may never be able to cast a ballot for them.
Rep. Todd Rokita is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Indiana.