Desperate to sell the American people on a yet-to-be-determined plan to raise the debt ceiling, increase taxes, and avoid necessary reforms to rein in government, liberals are turning to an unlikely ally to make their case—former President Ronald Reagan. Their utterly transparent tactic reveals a larger truth: Despite all the rhetoric, liberals have failed to convince America that their way is the best way to move Washington forward.
The offending invocation of Reagan’s legacy comes from the House Democrats in the form of a 54-second video featuring audio from a September 1987 radio address in which the former President called on Congress to raise the debt ceiling, warning that the United States “has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations.” The House Democrats fashioned those words into a bludgeon aimed at Republicans, attempting to lay the blame for Washington’s failure to reach a debt limit deal squarely at their feet.
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank parroted that message in a column this morning, calling Democrats “The new party of Reagan” and claiming that conservatives’ demands for restraining the growth of government is at odds with the policies enacted under Reagan’s tenure.
All of the clever rhetoric and recasting of history is designed to distract from the reality on the ground. The U.S. government has racked up $14 trillion in debt. For more than 800 days, the U.S. Senate has failed to pass a budget. President Obama continues his calls for “compromise” and “shared sacrifice,” all while insisting on tax increases to fund spending—a philosophy that was roundly rejected at the polls last November. That is not a manner of governance that President Reagan would have endorsed.
It’s also a line of argument that has no grounding in reality. Last night, the U.S. House passed the Cut, Cap, and Balance plan, which would impose a cap on federal spending and allows for an increase in the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion on the condition that the House and Senate approve a balanced budget amendment. To date, it is the only plan to raise the debt limit that has passed either chamber, and it is the only plan whose details can be seen in the light of day.
But amid the good news last night, another plan emerged from the shadows promising to answer the nation’s budget woes. Its authors are a group of U.S. Senators known as the Gang of Six, and their plan offers to 1) make unspecified spending cuts and unspecified tax increases to yield a $500 billion reduction in the federal deficit and 2) impose spending caps on discretionary spending but not on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and welfare programs that are the main cause of out-of-control spending.
The Heritage Foundation’s David Addington explains how the back-room strategy behind the Gang of Six plan paves the way for a debt limit hike and why the American people lose out:
Under the Gang of Six Plan, Congress will pass some easy stuff now, but punt the hard stuff to the future, promising that Congress will pass it some time within the next six months. There’s plenty in the Gang of Six Plan for President Obama — he gets his tax hikes and, in reality, he gets to borrow lots more money. But the American people don’t really get much of anything, except the usual empty promise of action in the future.
That’s not the only plan floating around Washington this week, though. There’s the McConnell Plan and the McConnell-Reid “just borrow more” plan, neither of which does the work that the American people have elected Congress to do—get spending under control right now without raising taxes, without raising spending, and without punting tough decisions on spending down the road for future Congresses and Presidents to cope with.
That path should be one in which Congress doesn’t raise taxes, preserves our ability to protect America, and gets spending and borrowing under control before raising the debt limit. Getting there will take strong leadership and an ability to clearly communicate a message to the American people—both of which are lacking among the left in the debt limit debate today. No wonder they’re looking to Reagan for help.