With all of the talk about the impending “fiscal cliff”, it’s a good time to step back from the trees and take a good look at the forest and how we got here to begin with.
For the last sixty years or so, Congress has been on an ever growing spending binge, guided by a political philosophy that government should play an ever growing role in our everyday lives – a role which requires more of our substance. In fact, it increasingly requires more than we can spare in any given year and maintain a healthy economy. So we borrow the rest, year after year.
This year’s federal deficit is 1.2 trillion, last year’s was 1.2 trillion and next year’s is projected to be over one trillion as well. Our national debt, the sum total of our annual deficits, is well over 16 trillion. And all of that is on top of the tens of trillions of dollars in “off-the-books” future obligations to entitlement programs.
When you are in a hole, stop digging, or so the advice goes. But what do you do when voters keep electing politicians who won’t put down the shovel, but hold to the insane notion that we can somehow dig our way out?
Military strategy dictates that if you decide “where” a fight will take place, then you will be able to choose the ground that is most favorable to you. The same holds true in politics.
As debate in Washington rages over the deficit, the debt and the debt limit, Republicans in Congress need to keep in mind that the table for the 2012 election is being set – and a fight over big, expensive government offers the GOP the perfect opportunity to choose their own ground.
The 2010 midterm elections offer some instruction on this point. According to a Gallup poll, that election set a modern day record for the highest percentage of people who claimed that they were “more enthusiastic” about voting just prior to election day, (53%). Further, it represented the largest “enthusiasm” gap between self-identified Republicans vs. Democrats – with 63% of Republicans saying they were more enthusiastic, vs. 44% of Democrats.
This begs the question, what were they excited about (or not)? Of course the answer is government – the new Obama brand of bigger, more intrusive and expensive government, to be specific. Republicans couldn’t wait to kick it in the teeth, and far fewer Democrats were interested in defending the policies of the man they so enthusiastically put in office just two years earlier.
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