The Myth of GOP Stinginess
Obama is driving off the cliff, but Republicans filled the tank.

The Republican congressional leadership: Mitch McConnell and John Boehner


Andrew C. McCarthy

Mitch McConnell wanted you to know he was livid on Thursday. The Senate was about to Greece the wheels for adding yet another trillion and change to President Obama’s yet-again tapped-out credit card. “More spending, more debt,” brayed the minority leader. “That’s what we’ve gotten from this administration.” Well, no, Senator, that’s what we’ve gotten from you.

Yes, I know, Obama is the one driving us off the cliff. But as McConnell and his fellow Republicans are well aware, he couldn’t have filled his tank without them — and they are the guys who got us halfway up the summit before handing the president the car keys. No one is falling for this week’s debt-increase “disapproval” charade, the stage for which was set by last summer’s sleight-of-hand, when Republicans agreed to borrow another $2.4 trillion. As if to prove that Obama has not cornered the market on cynicism, the GOP apparently feels the need to insult your intelligence while it helps our latter-day Robin Hood take from the unborn to give to the insatiable.

For the record, it was Republicans who nearly doubled the national debt during the Bush years — increasing it by almost $5 trillion. Some context: It had taken the nation over 200 years to accumulate roughly the same amount of debt rung up from 2001 through 2008 — a time during most of which, besides holding the White House, Republicans held the Senate (with McConnell in the leadership, first as whip and later as leader) and the House (with now-speaker John Boehner in the leadership, first as a committee chairman, then as leader).

Of course, for the Left, enough is never enough. So when Obama took over, he made the GOP look positively stingy — running up more debt in half the time, with perennial trillion-dollar deficits projected as far as the eye can see. With debt rising about $4 billion per day and each citizen’s share nearing $50,000, frightened voters opted to give Republicans a second chance, electing them in historic numbers in the 2010 midterms. This was not because they suddenly loved Republicans. They didn’t — and don’t. It was because the GOP was the only available alternative. And it was because leaders such as McConnell and Boehner, affecting a chastened pose, promised that if given the opportunity, they’d slam on the brakes.

Last summer, they had their big chance: Debt hit $14.3 trillion, the statutory ceiling — “ceiling” being Washingtonese for the point at which the money we’ve borrowed to pay the interest on prior loans for ever-expanding government spending no longer covers the tab because of the added interest on the new loans, necessitating more loans, resulting in more interest, triggering more — well, you get the idea. Now in control of the House and with near parity in the Senate, Republicans were in a position to stop the madness: to decline to authorize more borrowing and thus force spending cuts.

Instead, they did what they always do: They caved. They shriveled in the heat of Obamedia scaremongering about a purportedly imminent sovereign-debt default that would shred the full faith and credit of the United States. It was bogus. As McConnell and Boehner knew, the debt ceiling was scraped only because the total government spending they annually authorize now outstrips revenues by well over a trillion dollars. There was no credible threat of default because revenues remain vastly higher than what it costs to service the government’s bonds. The real threat — the threat too terrible to contemplate — was that our elected representatives might be forced to make hard, accountable decisions about what spending would need to be cut in order to live within their $14.3 trillion limit (i.e., a ceiling about three times as high as what Leviathan cost us in the mid-Nineties, when President Clinton pronounced the era of Big Government over).