The Corner

Press On

Media reports reveal a good deal of fury among liberals over the debt-ceiling deal, with President Obama receiving a sizeable share of the opprobrium for failing to hold fast against “cuts” in federal spending and failing to secure tax increases.

At the risk of being a wet blanket, conservatives shouldn’t get too pleased about the distress on the Left. Yes, despite a number of tactical misfires, Republicans performed satisfactorily during the debt-ceiling negotiations, effectively changing the language of our fiscal debates, perhaps for some time into the future. But Republican performance was decent only compared with previous Republican Congresses. Let’s face it, the bar was exceedingly low.

The fact remains that what some may see as a relative, intermediate-term political success for Republicans isn’t even short-term economic success for America. The “savings” achieved from the deal are substantially illusory. The deal merely lowers the amplitude of our spending trajectory. The federal government will continue to spend at alarming rates and accumulate staggering, unsustainable amounts of debt — trillions of dollars worth. In fact, based on projected revenues, we will quickly arrive at the point where 50 cents of every dollar spent by President Obama will be borrowed from sources who don’t necessarily share our interests.

What’s more, the deal now puts the defense budget — and accordingly our national security interests — at risk. There have been assurances that large-scale defense cuts likely won’t materialize, but the deal as structured certainly leaves open the possibility.

That’s why this isn’t even the end of the beginning of the fight. Further, serious deficit and debt reductions are imperative — actual reductions in current spending, not just reductions in the rate of spending increases (one small step would be a requirement that English be spoken in Washington. Stop the corrupt baseline fictions. Cuts should be a cuts as normal people understand the term, not simply a tweak in profligacy).

No time for pauses.The fight must be engaged now. Conservatives need to formulate a negotiation strategy for fiscal sobriety immediately, because we’re going to be involved in the battle again in just a few weeks, when, under the debt deal, a new Gang will try to come up with more “cuts.”

Make no mistake, liberals will be prepared. They’ll approach the next round of negotiations almost as if it were an existential battle. They’ll eat the lunch of any conservative content with the tiny cuts gotten in the last round. It would be profound error to think even those “cuts” can’t be reversed. 

Conservative politicians need to use the August recess not to crow to their constituents about the “cuts” gotten in the first half of the deal, but to make their case to the public for real spending reductions, entitlement reform, and tax reform. The facts are on their side: $14.5 trillion in debt; spending at $3.6 trillion; tax revenues of $2.2 trillion; aggregate Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid/interest payments of $1.75 trillion; GDP at 1.3 percent; unemployment at 9.2 percent; a downgrade on the horizon.

But your spokesmen shouldn’t act like they just wandered into the broadcast studio while looking for their keys. No reason more can’t be nearly as prepared and conversant as, say, a Paul Ryan.

This is a good fight to have. It’s long past due.

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