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The Debt-Ceiling Charade

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boehnerby Jacob G. Hornberger

Let’s face it: As I have been repeatedly predicting for the last several months, the Republicans are going to cave when it comes to the raising the debt ceiling. Republicans always cave when it comes to principle. Their caving stretches all the way back to the New Deal, when they realized that to please voters, they would have to cave and embrace the welfare-state way of life that now threatens our nation with bankruptcy.

The debt-ceiling “debate” is all about political posturing. It’s designed so that Republican congressmen can go home and say, “I was against raising the debt ceiling … before I voted in favor of raising the debt ceiling.”

Oh, sure, they’ll get some kind of agreement by President Obama and his big-spending cohorts to cut spending sometime in the future. But at the end of this charade, the ceiling will be lifted, enabling the government to continue adding to the mountain of debt which the American people are ultimately responsible for repaying.

What will happen after the debt ceiling is raised? The same thing that happened the last time the ceiling was raised and the times before that.

No, government officials won’t begin to slash spending in order to prepare for the time the ceiling is hit. They will continue spending and borrowing to their heart’s content, knowing that they’ve now got a new “ceiling’ that won’t come around for a year or two.

They also know that when the ceiling is hit the next time, the same thing will happen again. The mainstream press, which will have supported every big-spending program from now until then, will begin exclaiming, once again, “We have to raise the debt ceiling. It would be irresponsible to do otherwise.” There will be all sorts of handwringing and fake debates among Republicans and Democrats, after which they will raise the ceiling once again, adding once again to the federal mountain of debt that hangs on the backs of every American.

Meanwhile, European countries are showing us what lies at the end of this road. Many of their governments are broke or going broke. Why? Because for decades they’ve been spending more money than what they’ve been bringing in with taxes. Spending on what? On welfare! You know — free retirement, free health care, free education, free everything. And today, their welfare-state chickens are coming home to roost.

Because, you see, when they were spending more than what they were bringing in, they were borrowing the difference, year after year, until it finally got to a point where tax revenues weren’t sufficient to cover the debt and the spending. And there isn’t enough private wealth to tax. Busted!

While it’s true that the United States has a much bigger financial and economic base than European countries, don’t forget that we have an added factor here in the United States. We don’t have just a welfare state, we also have a warfare state — a giant overseas military empire whose voracious appetite rivals that of the welfare state.

Just like in Europe, nobody wants to give up his share of the largess. Not the military, not the military-industrial complex, not the foreign dictators, not the recipients of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm-subsidies, and education grants, and certainly not the beneficiaries of the drug war.

No one wants to give up his dole. And so the Titanic just keeps going faster and faster toward the iceberg.

As the welfare state collapses in Europe and as the welfare-warfare state collapses here in the United States, let’s just hope that Americans don’t move toward more dictatorship to deal with the oncoming crises. Let’s hope that they instead recognize that the root of the problem is statism and that the solution to the problem is libertarianism. After all, unlike the Republicans, everyone knows by now that when it comes to principle we libertarians don’t cave, not even for the sake of votes.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.


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