Jackie Gingrich Cushman

I'm not sure how it started, but at some point over the past year, when my children begin to relate some hardship in their lives -- tough tests, tough teacher or coach -- I began responding that they should think of the obstacle as "character development" rather than as an insurmountable challenge.

"Character development."

I must have been using this phrase more than I realized, and of course it has come back to haunt me.

Last week, my daughter used it when I was telling her all that was happening in my life: my mother in the hospital (she is getting out today), my father running for president, loads and loads of dirty clothes, and two children on summer vacation.

"Think of it as character development, Mom."

When we go through challenging periods -- especially really hard, long, drawn-out challenges -- these periods of our lives end up forging our characters, just as iron is forged into steel under great heat and pressure. The process is often painful, but it can produce great results if the core stands firm.

As a nation, we are in the middle a challenging period, a period that will determine the character of our country. We are engaged in a philosophical political war about who controls the power in our country. This can be seen in the current fight about who controls our country's purse strings and how they should be controlled.

"This is a power struggle between the 80 percent of the American people who believe in a citizen-centered government and the 20 percent who believe in a Washington-centered government, and that power struggle is as deep and as real as anything since the Civil War," said presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (my father), Tuesday night on Sean Hannity's television show on Fox News.

The current battle in this war is about whether the government debt ceiling should be increased and, if so, how.

Who has the power?

The U.S. Constitution states, "All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills. Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law."

"The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts .. To borrow Money on the credit of the United States," notes the Constitution.

The power in this battle resides in Congress, specifically in the House of Representatives as the originator of all appropriation bills. The people elect the House of Representatives every two years -- therefore the power resides in the people.

The president can claim the power, but the people, we the people, have the power. We the people have to use our power, however. Our elected officials will respond to us if we, the people, hold them accountable.

Gingrich is the only presidential candidate who has balanced the federal budget. How did this happen? According to Gingrich, by standing firm. "Government closed for five days in November 1995 ... the government closed 21 days from December to January 1996," said Gingrich on "Hannity." "Those 26 days convinced (President) Bill Clinton that we (were) deadly serious, we weren't playing a game."

"Now is the time to be calm, courageous, creative and clear," advised Gingrich about the current debt ceiling battle. "Obama is under as much pressure. ... This is a hard business. ... You have to have the courage to stand there and take the heat."

Will we the people have the courage to take the heat and demand accountability from our representatives? Until people prove to Washington that we have the power, Washington power brokers will continue to believe that the power resides with them. This will be a phase of great national character development.


Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.