The political world was turned upside down yesterday when President Trump made a deal with Democrats on government funding, raising the debt limit, and Hurricane Harvey Aid. Trump broke ranks with his party leadership to side with Minority Leaders Pelosi and Schumer, leaving Republicans seething mad. But the parameters of the negotiation reveal a different story. One that shows how in shambles the leadership is in our country and one that does not bode well for younger Americans and those that support any semblance of fiscal responsibility.
The terms of the negotiation mainly surrounded how to deal with raising the debt limit – a law that caps the maximum amount of debt that can be issued by the federal government. Within that, there was never discussion about how much our debt is, what policies are causing us to repeatedly hit the debt limit, how much debt we are expected to add over the next year and decade, or how much debt is sustainable to maintain a prosperous American economy for the next generation. The negotiation was of a much more cynical nature - how long to extend the debt limit for the most opportune political posturing for each political party. Small ideas coming from big roles.
We are facing a looming national crisis with a $20 trillion national debt, rising projected deficits for the foreseeable future, and $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities. However, when the President and Congressional leaders met on Wednesday, the discussion was not of our looming fiscal crisis, but instead, whether the debt limit should be extended for 3 months, so that Democrats can presumably have more leverage around immigration policy, tax reform, and spending decisions this fall, or 18 months, so that Republican members only have to vote to raise the debt ceiling once, instead of multiple times – votes that Republicans loathe to take but are incapable of passing fiscally responsible policies that avoid needing to repeatedly raise the debt limit in the first place.
In other words, you had the nominally more fiscally responsible Republican party pushing for a significantly larger debt limit increase (with no fiscal reforms) than the Democrats – a flipped script from when Democrats were in charge. And when Republicans leaders did not get their way to exploit a natural disaster to duck the debt limit, this was cited by every pundit as a massive win for the Congressional Democrats – the same Democrats who used to vigorously fight for longer debt limit hikes when President Obama was in the White House.
This is a world where politics, posturing, and power reign supreme over doing the right thing to ensure a prosperous future for the next generations. This is a world where dealing with the debt is a nuisance for the majority party – whoever it may be at the time. This is a world where there is no party that represents fiscal responsibility, leaving millennials to pick up the tab for an expensive political game.
For the sake of future generations, our leaders in Washington must cease the narrow-minded “how far should we kick the can” posturing that prevailed in this negotiation. The next three months will hopefully provide the opportunity for both parties to think big and bold, working together to make permanent, lasting reform to sustain our nation’s finances – and economic opportunity for the next generation.
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Bryan joined Restore Accountability in 2017 and provides expertise and commentary on today's important issues. Previously, he spent seven years on Capitol Hill working as a policy advisor for Senator Tom Coburn and Senator James Lankford...FULL BIO