Not surprisingly, former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is out with a commentary today praising the McCarthy-Biden debt ceiling deal and urging congressional Republicans to back it. It seems to me that if you’ve been in Washington, D.C. — or even in Boise, Idaho — for too long you start to think in small terms, defined and bordered by political expediency, relegating conservative principles to the back burner and decrying them as nonstarters. You forget that doing policy so poorly, as this deal does, hurts ordinary people in their pocketbooks and threatens their financial stability into the future.
That’s what Gingrich is doing. He’s a conservative who became a pragmatist and thus has become a defender of the status quo, willing to steer the ship of state into the rocks and gleefully inform us that we slipped past the iceberg. To spare you from reading his commentary, he says that the debt ceiling deal “is a step toward creating a smaller government, lower taxes, less regulation, economic growth, prosperity, and more take home pay. All of this will also strengthen Social Security and Medicare.
“By passing the original debt ceiling bill, House Republicans set the stage for a profound shift in the center of gravity in Washington. Suddenly, for the first time in decades, the House Republicans were negotiating with the Democrat president. The Republicans in the Senate, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, were supporting McCarthy,” Gingrich wrote.
If you weren’t certain about the meekness of the deal, the fact that McConnell is one of the proposal’s cheerleaders should put away all doubts. It would be disingenuous to say that there aren’t mildly laudable (if I’m being generous) components of the 99-page bill, such as a reduction in the increase in IRS auditors, environmental regulatory reforms, and the restart of student loan repayments.
But these are all incidental — rounding errors in the crisis that still awaits the U.S. government. Gingrich glosses over the bigger picture problems by saying this is a step in the right direction, a starting point for bigger and more meaningful reforms, perhaps when we reach the debt ceiling again after the next presidential election. No one truly believes that we’ll get a “smaller government” out of this. Worse, you’ll continue to see your savings evaporate to pay for the continued D.C. fiscal insanity.
True to form, Republicans who vote for the package would be settling for an increase in government spending year-over-year, and the underlying issues that get us closer to insolvency will remain completely unaddressed. The problems will be worse, and the solutions even harder to come by. Indeed, Gingrich defends the very programs that Republicans should be aligned against: FDR’s failed New Deal Social Security and Johnson’s equally deplorable Great Society Medicare program. Medicaid, which is vexing state government budgets (it’s Idaho’s biggest state program), doesn’t even get a mention in his column.
These programs are Ponzi schemes that deprive Americans of their earnings from every paycheck under the false promise that they’ll be waiting for them sometime in the future.
Certainly, it would have been hard to include a provision in the deal that sunsets Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in five years, but that would have given congressional “leaders,” the president, and the American public time to reexamine government spending and priorities and to come up with meaningful alternatives. Good leaders have to do hard things. Instead, they just kicked the can down the road, as usual. Democrats won’t offer such a proposal because they like those programs, and they consider it a blessing for people to be dependent on government programs. Republicans won’t talk about it because they’re worried about the political implications — or because they’re really not so different from Democrats.
I hope I’m wrong and Gingrich is right, but experience tells me otherwise. Come 2025, we’ll be back where we started, with an even larger national debt, a more intractable government leviathan, and America’s future will be in even greater jeopardy.
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