Testing America’s Debt Limit

For better or worse, hyperbolic, the-sky-is-falling rhetoric is commonplace in political debate – think global warming, TARP, the auto bailout and December’s tax deal.  Now, we’re seeing the same rhetoric when it comes to the debt limit.  According to The Heritage Foundation, the sky is not falling, nor will it.  They say, “keeping the debt ceiling at its current level would not, in and of itself, risk default on the debt.”

A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll suggests Americans are not convinced by the hyperbolic rhetoric.  Opposition to increasing the debt limit is in the stratosphere – 71%.  Given America’s crushing debt burden, such opposition is not surprising.

Not only does opposition to raising the debt limit have broad, bipartisan support across the country, it is picking up support among political heavyweights.  According to the Wall Street Journal:

Three potential Republican candidates for president came out against boosting the federal debt limit without substantial spending cuts, raising the temperature in a debate that is quickly becoming a test of Washington’s newfound appetite for financial discipline.

Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana and former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Monday joined former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty in calling for spending cuts and opposing any increase in the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling without them.

Despite some claims to the contrary, most Americans understand this is not a radical position.  Indeed, President Obama opposed increasing the debt limit when he was in the Senate in 2006:

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure.  It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills.  It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally.  Leadership means that “the buck stops here.”  Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren.  America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership.  Americans deserve better.

Rather than defiant, political opposition, conservatives are mapping out a plan that will avoid future debt limit increases – substantial cuts in spending, reforms to entitlements and actual changes in the way Washington does business.  Now, if only the President would listen.

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