Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON - Hold on to your wallets and put your savings in a safe place, because Congress returns next week from its month-long August recess.

The most unpopular institution in America, whose job approval polls have sunk into the low teens, left behind a fiscal mess that includes a mountain of wasteful spending, a nearly $17 trillion debt, and once again the threat of a government shut down.

Throw in an administration that is incapable of passing a sensible year-to-year budget-cutting plan and putting our nation on the road to economic recovery, and you have the spendthrift time bomb that awaits lawmakers when they come back after the Labor Day weekend.

There's lots of blame to go around, but most of it rests with President Obama's big spending policies that dished out hundreds of billions of dollars in the hope of jump-starting the economy and creating lasting jobs. It didn't.

Soon after he became president, Obama promised "to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office."

Instead, he gave us an unending line of unprecedented deficits:

$1.4 trillion in 2009; $1.3 trillion in 2010; $1.3 trillion in 2011; and over $1 trillion in 2012.

We're on track this year to add nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars to that debt, forcing the Treasury to borrow ever increasing sums of money, and further bleeding our economy of the investment capital it needs to restore and revitalize itself. When Obama's term ends in 2017, he will have presided over the largest expansion of government debt in our nation's history.

For the past four and a half years, his answer to all of this has been to raise taxes and spend ever more money on pet programs:

More public works projects, more federal aid to education and social welfare programs, billions for alternative energy schemes (many to line the pockets of his supporters), and a national health care system whose price tag is in the trillions.

But the economy isn't stronger, it's weaker, growing at an estimated 1 percent in this third quarter -- well below previous recoveries. Weaker economic growth rates mean weak tax revenues and that, too, results in higher deficits and surging debt.

The federal government's insatiable appetite for more and more of the nation's income is a planet-sized anchor around our economy's neck. We are seeing the results in our daily lives. Fewer good-paying, full time jobs, and a bearish stock market that's been tanking, eroding worker retirement savings week by week.

This is the grim situation Obama faces when Congress reopens for business next Tuesday. It's only answer: raise the debt limit and borrow more money.

In a letter to congressional leaders Monday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said he will have only $50 billion in his accounts by mid- October when the government's monthly borrowing will hit the $16.7 trillion statutory debt ceiling.

The Constitution gives Congress control of the federal government's pursestrings, but Lew wants Congress to raise the debt limit without any strings attached.

The Democrats who run the Senate are perfectly happy to raise Obama's credit card authority as high as he wants.

Republicans, however, want significantly deeper budget cuts in exchange for more borrowing. Conservatives in the GOP-controlled House are demanding that any increase in the debt limit be offset, dollar for dollar, by spending cuts or other savings.

"The debt limit remains a reminder that, under President Obama, Washington has failed to deal seriously with America's debt and deficit," said Speaker John Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel.

Indeed, Obama's been fighting serious budget cuts over the course of his presidency, while spending has soared at an alarming rate.

Annual spending was less than $2 trillion in 2000. It has grown to nearly $3.5 trillion in 2013, and is projected to be well over $4 trillion by the time he leaves office in January 2017.

"This year's projected spending will be more than in any year of the George W. Bush administration. And more than 30 percent higher (accounting for inflation) than the last year of President Clinton's term," writes Washington Post reporter David A. Fahrenthold.

The number of federal workers has mushroomed, too, he says. The administration puts the figure at 4.1 million and maintains it has fallen under Obama. But the numbers "do not count a vast number" of private contractors who do government work full-time. The trade association for these contractors puts their number at 1.7 million.

"Obama turned a temporary expansion of government, through TARP and the auto bailouts, into a permanent expansion of government,"

writes Stanford University economist Keith Hennessey.

"Before Obama, federal spending averaged 20 percent of GDP for decades. Now he is presiding over a much bigger government, at 24 percent of GDP," Hennessey says.

Higher spending (along with weak economic growth) is feeding our mounting debt, and untold future generations will have to foot the bill.

As things stand now, each American's share of that debt comes to $32,000. If the government's spending levels continue on their upward trajectory, that figure climbs to $103,827 in 2032, then to $206,771 in 2044, and a mind-boggling $279,738 by 2050, according to U.S.

Census and Congressional Budget Office figures.

That's the disastrous course on which Obama has put our country and our future livelihood, and this is what will be at stake in next month's debt ceiling fight in Congress.

Obama and the Democrats will play the fear card and try to make this all about stopping Social Security checks. But don't be fooled or frightened by their rhetoric.

This is a fight worth having for the future of our country. The stakes could not be higher.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.