The latest installment in a decades-long series of showdowns on Capitol Hill over raising the statutory debt ceiling is imminent. The ceiling has been raised ten times in just the last nine years to make room for almost $8 trillion in additional debt. But the stakes are much higher this time around, as the electorate is showing increasing awareness of the danger of having allowed Uncle Sam to abuse his credit card.
Talk of a government shutdown is heating up. The current continuing resolution funding the government is set to expire on March 4th. Last week, House Republicans passed a bill that would fund the remainder of fiscal 2011 at $61 billion below fiscal 2010 levels. Senate Democrats are balking at the $61 billion in cuts and the president has issued a veto threat.
The Washington Post recently featured an op-ed by Reps. James McGovern (D-MA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) on the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. This particular bipartisan pairing isn’t particularly noteworthy; the two men have collaborated before. But the arguments presented in the piece — one set designed to appeal to conservatives, the other aimed at liberals — have the potential to join together a much broader left-right coalition in opposition to an open-ended mission that, according to McGovern and Jones, has already cost U.S. taxpayers $450 billion dollars, and whose costs are accumulating at a rate of nearly $10 billion every month.
I testified this week to a a subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee looking at the effects of the 2009 stimulus bill (the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act”).
A lot has happened since President Obama introduced his last budget in February 2010. His party took an historic “shellacking” at the polls for its big government policies, his Fiscal Commission recommended serious spending cuts, and European governments have illustrated the severe problems of deficit spending.
The George W. Bush administration ushered in a new era of big government. The Obama administration has built on Bush’s profligacy, and the president’s new fiscal 2012 budget proposal would further cement the trend.
Despite the record $1.6 trillion deficit this year, and the consensus that exploding spending and debt is pushing the nation toward catastrophe, the Obama administration has completely chickened out on spending reforms in its new budget.
In his customary salesman style, Vice President Joe Biden recently made a pitch to a Philadelphia crowd for a plan to spend $53 billion over the next six years on a national system of high-speed rail.
House Republicans proposed some (tiny) spending cuts this week and the Obama administration will likely propose some (tiny) cuts next week in the federal budget.