Another Debt Ceiling ‘Apocalypse’ Descending Upon America
On December 3, Congress faces another national debt ceiling deadline. Spendthrift Washington Democrats predict apocalyptic doom unless America’s debt ceiling is lifted or, preferably, eliminated, because, otherwise, the $trillions in new spending they’re plotting are toast.
Raising the ceiling is a lousy idea. Rather, Congress should right-size government and enact meaningful spending reforms.
Facing a 2013 debt ceiling impasse, the White House reached a “sequester” agreement with the Republican-controlled Congress to impose temporary spending limits during the impending government “shutdown.”
Government did shut down – and it didn’t. Essential functions continued. They always do.
So, shut it down again. Another shutdown and debt-ceiling negotiation could offer opportunities to make government smaller, more efficient and less costly.
Nobel Prize winner in Economics Ronald Coase observed: “[G]overnment…operates on such a massive scale that it…reached the stage of…negative marginal returns. Anything additional it does, it messes up. But that doesn’t mean that if we reduce [government’s] size…we wouldn’t find…that there were some activities it did well. Until we reduce the size of government, we won’t know what they are.”
Washington is famous for policy excesses, overspending and waste, yet, in 2013, Representative Nancy Pelosi nonsensically (and ungrammatically) declared, “There’s no more cuts to make.”
The U.S. Education Department never taught a single child a single fact; the Transportation Department never transported anything or anybody six inches; the Ag Department’s headcount approaches the number of American farmers; and, established to make it more available, the Energy Department is making domestic energy scarcer, less accessible and more expensive.
Most Americans get nothing from/would never miss those top-heavy, overstaffed money pits. Ditto other overweight, underperforming agencies.
During the 2013 government shutdown, more than 800,000 civilian employees – a number greater than the entire population of Denver, Colorado – were considered nonessential, including nearly everyone at Education, EPA and Housing and Urban Development.
To reduce costs, Congress should cut fat by exercising its constitutional spending oversight responsibility and demand that, annually, every department in every agency make a public case for continued funding.
Simplifying and flattening the tax code would reduce IRS headcount, errors and agency abuses, close loopholes and reduce compliance costs for individuals and businesses.
Agencies should stop increasing supervisors’ ratings and salaries based on the number of employees they supervise. The practice only encourages federal managers to increase headcount by slowing down their staffs to create artificial backlogs.
Clerks, bookkeepers, purchasing agents and many other employees do similar jobs everywhere, so agency staffing, salaries, benefits and workloads should be calibrated to the private-sector counterparts many/most government employees out-earn.
Government should outsource jobs that are not inherently governmental. Competition increases choices, drives down prices and improves services. Why pay unskilled and semiskilled laborers government-level salaries and benefits when privately-owned companies could do the same or better jobs at less cost?
In fact, the prospect of another government shutdown could stimulate a national debate about spending and debt, and, since most of the leviathan isn’t closed at all, discredit Democrats’ hyperbolic, apocalyptic keening over another government “shutdown.”
Given the will, the House of Representatives could force American finances and the economy back from the abyss. A responsible House would highlight the institutional waste in government, use the debt-ceiling debate to educate the public about the national debt problem, and attempt to fix it.
Sadly, America lacks a responsible House majority.
Frankly, fiscal conservatives also consider the House GOP a class of invertebrates who satisfy themselves with merely trimming the Democrats’ spending goals. Nonetheless, some congressional Republicans have shifted the debate, if not the immediate reality, from taxing and spending to capping and cutting.
Thrift is essential, because, in a recent report, the U.S. Treasury’s estimate of the national debt (rounded) was $28.7 trillion. This amounts to:
- $86,300+ for every person living in the U.S.
- $223,600+ for every American household
- 1.3 times total annual U.S. economic output
- 7.9 times annual federal revenues
In 2013, then-President Barack Obama said: “Raising the debt ceiling…does not increase our debt; it does not somehow promote profligacy.”
History shows it does both – and it’s not a ceiling if Congress keeps raising it.
In a perfect world, America would elect fiscally-responsible people who are willing to restore constitutional order, make government smaller, less costly, more effective and less intrusive.
Clearly, we cannot afford the people we have.