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VA Politicians View Looming Debt Crisis Differently

Our nation faces no shortages of crises: inflation, energy shortages, supply-chain woes, political dissention, violence, aggressive foreign foes, censorship, illegal immigration, to name a few. But just as termites silently eat away at a home and you don’t know there’s a problem until your foot suddenly goes through the kitchen floor, one quiet but perilous problem looms:

The National Debt now stands at $31.7 trillion.

The issue of debt is nothing new. Influential talk radio personality and personal finance guru Dave Ramsey has popularized a verse of wisdom literature that’s some 3,000 years old, Proverbs 22:7 (NIV). “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.”

Interestingly, the issue of debt is a big reason why the US capital is in Washington DC. Shortly after the American Revolution, when our infant country was looking for a capital, most of the biggest and wealthiest cities were in the North such as New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. Thus, it seemed natural to place the capital somewhere in the North.

However, during the years of and after the Revolutionary War, southern states had been more fiscally prudent and had no debt, while most of the northern states had run up huge tabs. In one of many compromises to form the USA, the southern states agreed to let the federal government pay the northern states’ debts, with one condition. The new capital had to be in the South. And thus, an undesirable swamp between Virginia and Maryland was tapped to be the new Federal City. (So, when people today call DC “the swamp,” they are actually being historically accurate.)

The federal government has had times of indebtedness since those days, most notably during WWII when western civilization was threatened by fascism. However, in general, American leaders avoided huge debts. One large factor for that was the dominant Judeo-Christian worldview that prevailed in most earlier generations. For instance, Psalm 37:21a (NLT): “The wicked borrow and never repay….”

A second, related factor was the traditional American mindset that adults should sacrifice in order to provide a better life and opportunities for future generations.

The 1973 Roe vs. Wade US Supreme Court opinion turned that value system on its head, and not long afterward, the national debt began inching up too.

For instance, it took some 200 years, from George Washington to Ronald Reagan, for the US to first hit a $1 trillion debt. And, regardless of which party controlled the White House of Congress, it’s been exploding ever since. So, we can call this a “bipartisan disgrace.”

Most news media, far from calling attention to this growing menace, over the years have downplayed the issue or else played cheerleader for constantly running up more red ink.

One dissenting voice that has sought to educate the public about this danger is The Roanoke Star. In his July 2018 column, the late Dick Baynton decried the US as being the world’s largest debtor nation, owing $21 trillion. Now, less than five years later, the US debt stands, per the US Debt Clock, over $31.7 trillion. That breaks down to $94,767 per US citizen (including children) and $247,766 per taxpayer.

By law, there is a debt ceiling that Congress must vote to raise. Time after time, despite speeches and political posturing, Congress has kept raising that limit regardless of which party held the legislative branch. Over the past few decades, many GOP voters who support fiscal responsibility have felt like Charlie Brown running to kick the football while Lucy promised to hold it – only to have it pulled away at the last second. Those voters have sent Republicans to Congress in hopes of instilling some budget discipline, only to see them join with Democrats to continually raise the debt ceiling.

The current debt ceiling is scheduled to be breached sometime in late May or early June. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and other Democrats including President Biden have been calling for a “clean debt limit increase,” which is political-speak for more debt, no budget cuts, and a blank check to keep spending.

In contrast, the GOP-led House of Representatives has agreed to raise the debt ceiling, but only if certain budget cuts are made going forward.

For those who see the national debt as a looming disaster, the bad news is that both parties want to raise the debt ceiling. As expressed in opinion pieces in The Washington Times and The Hill, the ballooning government debt is the GREATEST threat to America’s national security.

The federal debt is now around 100% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The only time that’s ever happened before was during WWII. Plus, the interest being paid on $31.7 trillion is money we can’t spend on anything else.

Some Democrat politicians are tweeting how the GOP-proposed budget will make cuts to Meals on Wheels and veteran services. However, there is no mention that all this spending is with money we simply do not have. Simply put, some tough choices need to be made, and they need to be made now, or the proverbial foot will indeed go to the floor – and the pain felt by ALL Americans will be much deeper.

On May 1, US Sen. Warner tweeted: “We have about a month until the U.S. defaults on paying its debt. Let’s be clear – this isn’t new spending, this is about paying bills we’ve already incurred. We cannot unleash economic catastrophe on the American people – it’s time to pass a ‘clean’ debt limit increase.”

On May 2 he added: “The debt limit is a political hand-grenade – and every day that we march closer to default puts the hard-earned retirement savings of Virginians further in jeopardy. We can’t mess with default, and we can’t drag our feet to passing an increase.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) on May 1 tweeted: “Now feels like a good time to remind folks that @SenJeffMerkley [D-Massachusetts] and I have a bill—the Protect our CREDIT Act—that would prevent a debt default by letting the president raise the debt ceiling, subject to congressional override. We should pass that bill and end this brinksmanship.”

In contrast to Democrats calling for more debt without any budget cuts, Republicans want President Biden to negotiate some common sense cuts.

On May 9, Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA6) posted this to his Twitter account. “Under Joe Biden, the federal gov’t has run a near $1 trillion deficit since October. With a record-breaking deficit like that, it’s no wonder Biden won’t negotiate on the debt ceiling. I’d be embarrassed of that outrageous spending too.”

On May 10 Cline issued this follow-up: “While President Biden wasted 97 days to even begin debt ceiling negotiations, @HouseGOP passed the only bill to avoid default & reduce future debt. It’s time to stop playing games with our debt & come to the table, Mr. President.”

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA9) summarizes his position on the budget issue, including the GOP plan to defund the 87,000 new IRS agents the Democrats have hired, in this Roanoke Star commentary.

According to the Constitution, the House initiates all budget bills. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and President Biden met to discuss the budget impasse on May 9 but the talks were generally described as fruitless. They are to meet again on May 12.

–Scott Dreyer

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