Yesterday, as the New Hampshire returns rolled in, I tweeted wearily, “I’d hoped for something different.” The incomparable Stephen Kruiser tweeted back, “You’re young. Get used to saying that if you plan on staying in the GOP.”
That wisdom returned to me this morning when I read this from CNSNews.com:
When the Republican-controlled House approved its first CR on March 4, 2011, the national debt was 14,182,627,184,881.03, according to the U.S. Treasury. As of the close of business on Jan. 9, 2012, the national debt was 15,236,506,139,986.86.
That means the debt increased by $1.05 trillion over the past ten months.
That equals approximately $8,964 for each of the 117,572,000 American households estimated by the Census Bureau.
At the current rate, the Republican-controlled House is agreeing to allow the U.S. Treasury to borrow approximately an additional $896 per month in the name of each American household.
Already, I can hear the excuses, starting with, “We’re just one-half of one-third of the government; what did you expect us to do?” Yes, but take away excuses and all that’s left are results. Complacency is not the way to change the status quo, as John Hawkins reminds us:
If you want to see a great example of how weak kneed much of the conservative movement has become, look back to the Bush years when the GOP controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House. What did the GOP do to move the country to the Right? Nothing of consequence besides the Bush tax cuts, which weren’t even permanent. In fact, you could make a good argument that the most significant piece of legislation during the Bush years was Medicare Part D, which moved the country to the LEFT, not the right. During the Bush years, there was even a push for comprehensive immigration reform, which was a politically suicidal attempt to pass legislation that was anathema to conservatives, would have hurt America, and would have handed several million additional votes to the Democratic Party. That is how cowed and intimidated many conservatives have become.
The refusal of conservatives in power to show the courage it takes to move the ball forward for conservatism puts the rest of the movement in an impossible position. We’re like a football team with a great defense and a mediocre offense that’s down by 21 points at the start of the fourth quarter. How do we catch up? We end up throwing Hail Marys in hopes that we’ll get lucky. We get overly excited about incendiary rhetoric, “pure” but unelectable candidates, or huge, almost impossible-to-pass bills. We propose Balanced Budget Amendments, the Fair Tax, The Ryan Plan — and it’s not that these are bad ideas. To the contrary, they’re great ideas that would be phenomenal for the country if they passed. But, there’s the rub. The American people are instinctively skeptical of big changes, every Democrat will oppose these bills, and we’d probably need 65 Republicans in the Senate to pass anything of consequence because they’re so meek. So, in the end, we propose these massive changes, we talk about them endlessly, and yet very few small steps to the right actually happen in practice. This is the political logjam conservatives have lived with from the late-nineties onward.
Perhaps Republicans in the House think they are thinking for the long-term. They are, no doubt, thinking about their own reelections, fearing the smears Democrats are so skillful at spreading. In every CR fight, they’ve shuddered at the thought of a government shutdown because they assumed they’d be blamed. Perhaps they were right — but, in the end, perhaps they might also have accomplished something had they allowed that to happen. If they really feared a shutdown for non-political purposes — that is, if they really thought a shutdown would be too harmful to government workers and others who couldn’t afford to sit in darkness for a week or two — then they should have passed legislation like Rep. James Lankford’s to forestall it — and to ensure that any time Congress came up against a shutdown, they’d be forced to make spending cuts.
To be sure, the Democratic Senate is largely to blame for the spotty way in which Congress has managed the nation’s fiscal affairs. The Senate has not passed a budget in 987 days. That was and is and will be inexcusable for as long as they refuse to put a plan to paper. But I’ve come to expect that from this crop of Ds. From the new Republican majority in the House, I’d hoped for something different.
Update: This post originally said the Senate had not passed a budget in more than 1,000 days, when, in fact, the correct count is 987 days. The post has been corrected above.