Albert Mohler

How did this happen? Congress approved the spending, as did the President. The spending, which necessitated the borrowing, was approved by the very people who will not debate whether to pay the bills they themselves created.

Federal law requires Congress to establish a limit to national borrowing, but the U. S. Constitution requires the government to pay its debts. The debt limit requirement is merely a matter of law. The pledge to pay the nation’s debt is a mandate of the Constitution. The debt ceiling is now a political abstraction, used by both parties to create a pseudo-event.

Conservatives should be particularly unwilling to participate in such a charade, and yet many do so, thinking they can use the pseudo-event to their advantage. It is a losing game, dishonest politics, and a failure of governance.

It is intended to direct the nation’s attention away from the real crisis and onto the pseudo-event. It avoids dealing with the real disaster that looms before us.

Once again, David Brooks nailed the real issue: “Public debt as a percentage of gross domestic product was around 38 percent in 1965. It is around 74 percent now. Debt could approach a ruinous 90 percent of G.D.P. in a decade and a cataclysmic 247 percent of G.D.P. 30 years from now, according to the Congressional Budget Office and JPMorgan.”

But, do politicians bear all the blame? Not hardly. The public has an insatiable appetite for pseudo-events and a horrified aversion to the truth. Why? We are approaching the point that voters will not deal with the issue because it will cost them their entitlements. They will be glad for their children and grandchildren to pay the catastrophic debt.

As Brooks explains:

“Ultimately, we should blame the American voters. The average Medicare couple pays $109,000 into the program and gets $343,000 in benefits out, according to the Urban Institute. This is $234,000 in free money. Many voters have decided they like spending a lot on themselves and pushing costs onto their children and grandchildren. They have decided they like borrowing up to $1 trillion a year for tax credits, disability payments, defense contracts and the rest. They have found that the original Keynesian rationale for these deficits provides a perfect cover for permanent deficit-living. They have made it clear that they will destroy any politician who tries to stop them from cost-shifting in this way.”

Given this political reality, fiscal conservatives are insane to believe that these pseudo-events play to their advantage. Each “solution” to a false crisis actually lets the American people and the political class claim a false victory — even as the real crisis grows far worse.

Conservatives should point out that the Constitution demands the nation pay its debts, and that Congress and the President must take responsibility for the spending — and the massive borrowing — their actions mandate. Conservatives should point to the real crisis, stand on principle, and refuse to distract themselves and the American people with false crises and pseudo-events.

In the end, pseudo-events only serve to make the problem worse, never better. We cannot deal with the real crisis, if we keep playing the game of the pseudo-event.


Albert Mohler

In addition to being one of Salem’s nationally syndicated radio talk show hosts, R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.