The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 11, 2013

Debt ceiling increase must be met with spending cuts

Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — When Congress approved legislation on the so-called “fiscal cliff,” the nonpartisan Concord Coalition deemed the deal a “political punt.”

Devoid of hard choices, the agreement didn’t address the statutory debt limit.

“It still looms as the next self-imposed crisis to remind everyone of how dysfunctional the legislative process has become on Capitol Hill,” Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert L. Bixby said.

Here are the basics on the debt ceiling, the congressional cap set on what the government borrows that includes public and intragovernmental debt: More spending and tax cuts increase the country’s borrowing. Raising it allows the Treasury Department to pay its congressionally approved obligations, according to CNN.

President Obama insists he won’t negotiate with Congress over raising the nation’s borrowing limit. We think stubbornly refusing to negotiate is not a realistic tactic.

Sequestration is coming next, with more squabbling over pet projects. Washington leaders deferred $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, giving the Pentagon and domestic programs temporary reprieve.

For the record, Obama has fully flopped on the debt ceiling since 2006, according to PolitiFact. As a senator, he voted against raising it, but now regrets the decision.

According to the Congressional Research Service, our debt limit has increased 76 times in the last half century. It reportedly was raised 18 times under President Ronald Reagan, seven times during George W. Bush’s presidency and thrice under Obama thus far.

Since Obama’s obstinance, a trillion-dollar coin is even being discussed. Not exactly a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s factory, the far-fetched notion reportedly is based on this technicality: The Treasury could mint the platinum coin and deposit it in the Federal Reserve. We hope that’s not the real solution.

As the Concord Coalition puts it, “raising the debt limit is essentially a decision to pay the bills,” and we need “a sustainable framework for spending, taxes, deficits and debt.” We agree that a reasonable increase would allow the politically fractured process time and avoid a potential default crisis on our credit.

We have to increase the debt ceiling, but this must done with future budget cuts. We have to reduce spending, and everyone must take a bite of the austerity apple.

Let’s use the debt limit debate to forge a realistic and specific plan for fiscal sustainability. Balancing an actual budget would be nice, too.