Republican Congressional Battle Plan Needs Strategic Rework

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

1/17/2013 12:01:00 AM - Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Last week, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed cited the need to use hard and soft politics in governing the city. "We are making hard decisions again and again that allow us to show compassion," the Democrat told a luncheon held by the Atlanta Press Club. "Because you can't help other people if you're broke yourself."

The Republican congressional leadership might consider the use of hard and soft politics.

Currently, they are tagged as playing hard politics (making tough decisions that are not pleasant), while President Obama is practicing soft politics. He wants to overspend today, to be compassionate.

We all want to be compassionate. The question is, which path is sustainable? Reed is right; you can't help others if you are broke.

The U.S. government needs to get its fiscal house in order. This is the core of the ongoing argument between congressional Republicans and Obama and the Democratic Party.

Obama and the Democratic Party are winning the media war over the government budget by using rhetoric to obscure facts. They appear cheerful and compassionate, while painting the Republicans as mean-spirited grumblers. For example, last Monday, Obama told reporters at the White House, "Over the past two years, I've signed into law about $1.4 trillion in spending cuts."

This might lead one to believe that government spending has gone down. Let's look at the numbers. The year before Obama took office, the federal government spent $3 trillion. During the first year of his administration, it spent $3.5 trillion. Last year, it spent $3.6 trillion. This year, it is on pace to spend $3.8 trillion.

Obama's 2013 budget request contains $3.8 trillion in spending.

That request represents a 28 percent increase in spending from what it was in 2008.

Fact one: We are spending more than we did last year and a great deal more than we did during the year before Obama took office.

Fact two: We are spending more than we take in every year, leading to a higher and higher debt. The total federal debt when Obama took office (the total amount of cumulative deficits and surpluses) was $10.6 trillion. Divided by the U.S. population, that's $35,000 of debt for every man, woman and child. At the end of last year, our debt had increased to $14.8 trillion, equating to $52,000 per man, woman and child. Obama's proposed budget for 2013 would lead to federal debt of $55,000 for every man, woman and child in the United States.

While Obama talks about investing in our future, he is creating a financial burden in the present, to be paid off in the future at some unknown time. Republicans should continually talk about the debt burden, or financial fetters, placed on Americans by Obama, about how they want to free the nation's children from this financial burden and how we must have stability to help others.

How do we tell our children that, over the past four years, their share of the government debt has gone up $17,000 -- an increase of more than 50 percent?

We are spending more, and we owe more. This is not a sustainable path to financial freedom. To get to financial freedom, to owe less, we would have to spend less. If Obama cared about the future of our children, he would work with Republicans to save our children from having to pay back financial burdens he created.

The challenge the Republicans currently have is people believe that they do not care, are not compassionate, and are too tied to facts and not invested in the real world. Republicans have to be able to talk about how they care about others, to connect emotionally and sincerely. People only follow you if they believe that you care about them. This is the core of the Republican challenge.

We have to broaden the debate to go beyond mere sound bytes and rhetoric, debt ceiling and fiscal cliff. Republicans need to communicate that the argument is not about the debt ceiling, but about a path to financial freedom. It's about caring enough for our children to pass to them a legacy of financial freedom, to be able to be strong enough to help others. We can't raise taxes enough to get to a balanced budget -- we must cut spending. They need to work on communicating the truth while being cheerful, persistent and compassionate. They need to practice both hard and soft politics.