Throughout the tense debt-ceiling showdown in Washington, pundits and commentators seem to be longing for yesteryear, when both parties more easily agreed on important issues; the good old days, when lawmakers, regardless of party identification, would blithely resist making tough choices like balancing budgets or curbing spending.
A CNN reporter waxed nostalgically about the time when rancor between the parties was minimal and Republicans fell in line with debt ceiling increases.
“It wasn't always this way,” Alan Silverleib lamented. “Since March of 1962, Congress has enacted 74 measures altering the federal debt limit, according to analysts from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service. The ceiling was increased under Democratic and Republican administrations alike, with much less angst and outrage than we're seeing today.”
For these wistful pundits, the crux of the problem is headstrong and inflexible Republicans. Billionaire investor Warren Buffet complained last week that Republicans are playing “Russian Roulette” with the economy.
Political guru Nate Silver, who recently authored an article entitled, “Why the Republicans Resist Compromise,” pedantically diagnoses the source of GOP intransigence: conservative zealotry dominating the party. Silver further proves his thesis by mapping out the ideological distribution of GOP voters. Needless to say, his tone is disapproving. Still, he makes no attempt to answer why GOP voters may be more fiscally conservative now than they were in years past.
Even David Brooks, one of the New York Times’ token right-leaning columnists, took aim at the GOP last week. Assailing the Republicans as irresponsible, morally depraved fanatics for their hardheaded approach to debt-ceiling negotiations, Brooks concludes that the current GOP is unfit to govern. Similar to fellow pundits, he essentially advocates that compromise in the name of fiscal unsustainability supersedes necessary and responsible reforms.
The irony is that the only deal-breaker for GOP House leadership is the tax hikes, an unacceptable prospect given the state of the economy; even President Barack Obama noted such when he extended the Bush tax cuts last December. Pundits seem to forget that the White House and congressional Democrats refuse to offer significant reforms in the tax code or entitlements like Medicare or Social Security. All the while, the president and his party have not bothered to pass a budget during the past two years, let alone make a serious attempt.
Given these realities, one must wonder how the Republicans can agree to extend the $14.3 trillion debt limit without demanding greater and more lasting cuts.
At the very least, increasing the debt ceiling cannot be done casually, as it demonstrates our nation’s dangerous addiction to borrowing. Furthermore, it not only represents a concession that we spend more money than we have, but that we are also willing to augment such an ugly imbalance.
Many in the press either downplay or ignore this travesty. Instead, they nostalgically long for simpler times when past congresses and presidential administrations routinely approved increasing the amount our nation could indebt itself. Weren’t those the days, they will thoughtlessly think to themselves, before placing blame on those trying to alter our perilous direction.
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