On the debt ceiling, Majority Leader Eric Cantor suggested Tuesday that the House might tie an increase to a one-year delay in Obamacare, but the GOP’s exact plans remain unclear. House Speaker John Boehner has spoken vaguely about demanding further budget cuts in exchange for agreeing to raise the debt limit. In the past he has called for a dollar in cuts in exchange for each dollar in additional debt.
Regardless, President Obama is insisting that he will not negotiate on the issue. Given Republican fecklessness on the CR question, it is hard to see them winning a confrontation over the debt limit. At the very least one would expect to see them coalescing around specific proposals for, say, entitlement reform. So far, one looks in vain.
In the short run, no issue is as important as war and peace. Lives as well as treasure hang in the balance. But for the long-term future of this country, preventing the looming fiscal crisis may matter even more.
True, the budget deficit has fallen significantly this year. The economic recovery, anemic as it is, has nonetheless generated additional revenue, and the sequester actually did hold down the growth in spending. As a result, the deficit so far this fiscal year is roughly $750 billion. That’s $411 billion less than last year, but still represents 23 cents out of every dollar we spend.
Moreover, declining deficits are just a temporary phenomenon. According to the Congressional Budget Office, by 2016, deficits will be rising again. By 2022, they will approach $900 billion annually. Our national debt remains above 100 percent of GDP. The unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare heap between $67 and $112 trillion on top of that.
Nearly everyone has remarked on the incomprehensibility of the Obama administration’s Syria policy. Yet, on the equally important issue of our fiscal future, the GOP is looking every bit as inept.
That is a failure we may one day rue even more than Syria.This article appeared on National Review (Online)
Michael D. Tanner is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, heading research into a variety of domestic policies with particular emphasis on health care reform, welfare policy, and Social Security. His most recent white paper, "Bad Medicine: A Guide to the Real Costs and Consequences of the New Health Care Law," provides a detailed examination of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and what it means to taxpayers, workers, physicians, and patients.