The Budget: Where Do We Go from Here?
Whatever one thinks of the sequester agreement, it is only one stage in a campaign on the budget that we are going to have this year. The next battle will be the debt ceiling. What are we going to do about that?
The first thing to realize is that we are going to do something about it. That is not a choice. We are at the limit of our borrowing. The issue is on the table. A decision is going to be made.
Now we come to the big divide. For reasons that none of us can understand, that Thomas Sowell cannot understand, the GOP leadership simply will not take its case to the public. And yet, the public is the only force that can give power to your argument when you are confronting the implacable rapacity of the Dems in general and the president in particular.
What to do? Take the GOP case on the debt ceiling to the public! After all, what are Boehner, Cantor, and the others there for? It can't be just that being a member of Congress is a very nice rice bowl.
Everything that happens in the next month is totally, completely foreseeable. That is the one edge that the GOP leadership has. The president is already out there pre-emptively with his usual audacity and mendacity (emphasis added):
While I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they've already racked up through the laws that they passed[.]
Takes your breath away. Aside from the fact that raising the debt ceiling is not about paying past bills, but about paying future bills, Obama's position is not that the country is being ruined financially to pay the bills for his spending, but rather that he can no longer countenance Congress's irresponsibility! That tells the GOP two things: (1) Obama is the best of the best at making his case -- he is totally unencumbered by the facts -- and (2) after you have forsworn your position and deserted your base for a deal...he is going to laugh at you.
The one asset that the GOP has is that we know where Obama is coming from. First, he either doesn't see or pretends not to see that the nation's borrowing problem is a spending problem and that that spending problem is one of not degree, but kind. It is not going to be solved by a nip here and a tuck there. It can be solved only by restructuring the entitlements. That is going to be messy and will take some time. But the longest journey...
Second, Obama is not in the White House just representing himself. He is the culmination of two centuries of philosophy. The U.S. of A was blessed -- incredibly blessed -- by the fact that the Founding Fathers were the children of the Scottish Enlightenment. As compared to what? As compared to the French Enlightenment. Although political science professors will gnash their teeth, the difference between the two can be summarized as follows: in the Scottish Enlightenment, the individual comes before the state; in the French Enlightenment, the state comes before the individual.
The American Constitution establishes a government where the people are sovereign and where they delegate certain enumerated powers to the government for the common good. In the French Enlightenment, the state is the highest expression of human endeavor, and the role of the individual is to serve the state. This is usually prettied up by pretending that a state can be a "community" where everybody cares for everybody else. This is indeed a most attractive idea, its only shortcoming being that it is inconsistent with human nature, and the effort to build it means that the recalcitrant must be eliminated. Thus, a "community state" means there must be a gulag. Hillary Clinton forgot to put that chapter in her book It Takes a Village.
Socialism has no creative impulse: it can liquidate a society; it cannot build one. The advantage of socialism from the standpoint of its practitioners is that it gives them power, from which they derive the same satisfaction that conservatives derive from accomplishment. And it also establishes them as an aristocracy, which has always been a nice thing for the aristocrats. In a socialist country, about 10% of the population become nomenklatura, and the rest wait in line for empty shelves. The nomenklatura are the politicians and people they favor. No rugged individualism to deface the picture!
Being an aristocrat means being better than your neighbor, and that insulates you from understanding that you are acting in political self-interest and lets you disdain those who act in economic self-interest. The result? The greatest feeling of all: self-congratulation! Socialism is a society ruled by self-congratulation of the nomenklatura.
When the GOP comes up against Obama, they are coming up against all that. It is not going to be pushed aside by the faint of heart or the unprepared, particularly when the opponent is someone as polemically agile as the president.
What to do? Take the case to the public -- always remembering Rush's aphorism that we cannot expect to be praised by our enemies, meaning the MSM. But the debt ceiling issue is so current that the MSM won't refuse interviews with Boehner, Cantor, et al. slots on the Sunday news programs -- perhaps even a special or two. They will be accompanied by skepticism, scorn, and derision, but they will be heard!
The message? Couldn't be simpler.
The economy can provide only so many resources to the government. Historically, that has been about 20% of GDP, which is being generous, as it is slightly above the norm of the last 50 years. The House can provide those revenues, but to increase the debt ceiling, the Senate will have to stop its lawless refusal of the last three years to pass a budget, and the White House will have to provide a roadmap back to a balanced budget within a reasonable timeframe -- not greater than eight years.
While we will need a down payment on that process before raising the debt ceiling, we do not require a balanced budget now; a roadmap to one will be sufficient. But we must have that roadmap. If, indeed, the debt of the country is due, as the president says, to bills Congress has "racked up," rather than due to our accommodating the president's reckless policies, well, we have come to the end of that. We are not racking up any more bills until we have the roadmap to a balanced budget.
And let the fur fly. Get out a copy of Henry V and keep it close by. As Captain Kirk said to the Triskelions, "we humans are meant to struggle." GOP leadership, this is your moment! Freedom or socialism? What is it to be?