To resolve the debt ceiling, President Biden ought to have a look at his personal Senate voting file
The US Capitol is seen in Washington, DC on September 27, 2021 as Congress returns today to a full schedule of upcoming legislation.
Win McNamee | Getty Images
Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., is chairman of the US House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means, which has primary responsibility for drafting new tax legislation.
From the way cable news talkers are describing the debt ceiling negotiations, you’d think America is headed for an extinction-level event.
Left-wing pundits argue that anything but a “clean hike” in the debt ceiling — an unconditional extension of America’s credit card limit — will bring about an economic apocalypse. Even more misleading is that Congressional Democrats are attempting to quash the notion of bipartisan negotiations by launching bogus threats against Medicare and Social Security.
As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee with responsibility for the debt ceiling, Social Security and Medicare, no debt ceiling bill going through my committee will include cuts to these vital programs. Period.
Meanwhile, it is President Joe Biden and the Democrats in Congress whose ongoing inflationary crisis, fueled by reckless spending, has already pushed Social Security further into bankruptcy and threatens Medicare with potential cuts of more than $500 billion under current law over the next decade . If they were serious about protecting these programs, the first thing they would do would be to take a long look in the mirror.
Debt ceiling negotiations are something Democrats — and even then-Senator Biden — have agreed to multiple times throughout our nation’s history. Measures to reduce the deficit have often involved negotiations on debt limits. In fact, the last 11 spending-reduction reforms passed by Congress have been bipartisan and tied to legislation raising the debt ceiling. As a senator, Biden voted for such reforms in 1985, 1987, 1993, and 1997, and helped negotiate spending limits in 2009 and 2011, when he was vice president.
Opponents of such negotiations like to point to the downgrading of the US credit rating by the rating agency Standard & Poor (S&P) in 2011 as the reason why the negotiations are dangerous. However, the rating downgrade came because S&P said “political daredevilry” prevented Congress and the White House from coming up with a credible plan to solve the nation’s long-term debt problem. In other words, it was not a discussion of fiscal responsibility but a lack of fiscal responsibility that led to a credit downgrade.
Congress has another opportunity to protect taxpayers — but raising the debt ceiling to avoid a default must be matched by spending cuts in Washington to tame today’s inflationary crisis and bolster America’s long-term economic and fiscal health. Simply increasing our credit limit without exploring ways to reduce inflationary deficit spending means we’re just plotting America’s next debt crisis.
Americans are effectively paying twice for Washington’s consumerism. Not only are they paying higher prices, but the Federal Reserve is likely to continue raising interest rates at the fastest pace in 40 years to combat rising consumer prices. That means interest payments on the debt are up 29% this year. America spends more on our debt than we spend on housing and veterans benefits.
By 2033, annual interest payments alone will cost $1.4 trillion—more than we spend on our entire national defense or Medicaid benefits. If we continue on our current trajectory, interest payments on the debt will crowd out critical national security and public health priorities. That moment is coming sooner rather than later precisely because President Biden has embarked on a $10 trillion spending spree since taking office. He has increased spending more than any other president at this point in his administration.
Democrats are distracting from their wasteful spending by pointing to the 2017 tax cut and jobs bill – which led to the lowest employment in 50 years and higher wages for the low paid – as a straw man for the country’s mounting debt. The facts point in exactly the opposite direction. Under the legislation, federal revenue last year hit the highest level in American history: $4.9 trillion. That was $1 trillion more than the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecast for 2022 when the law passed and $1.6 trillion more than revenue when the Republican tax cuts went into effect.
Today’s tax revenue is the highest percentage of the economy since 1945, when America last fought a world war. Even if more money flows into Washington than at any time in history, the government is projected to run a trillion-dollar deficit as far as the eye can see. Washington has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.
There is only one viable solution: reform spending in Washington and protect the promise we made to current and future retirees.
The moment for action is now, and Democrats’ failure to engage in meaningful dialogue about our unsustainable spending is jeopardizing the federal programs on which millions of America’s seniors now rely and the benefits that await them in the future. For Washington Democrats to get involved in politics as usual is manifesting the very crisis they supposedly want to avoid. House Republicans stand ready to negotiate in good faith. President Biden would do well to remember his past and do what he did before: find a bipartisan, sane way to raise the debt ceiling and address Washington’s spending habits.