With the debt-to-GDP ratio projected to breech 100 percent this year, the highest since World War II, this historically routine vote on raising the debt ceiling has become a referendum on reckless, unfunded welfare/entitlement spending.
Republicans hold the winning hand -- both politically and as a matter of policy. A recent CNN poll finds 66 percent of Americans support raising the debt ceiling only if done with "substantial spending cuts and caps on future spending," as well as a balanced budget amendment to keep spending at a fixed percentage of GDP. A whopping 74 percent want a balanced budget amendment -- period.
Democrats hold a bad hand. What to do? Claim that President Ronald Reagan considered the full faith and credit of America so important, default so unimaginable, even he would have accepted higher taxes.
MSNBC's Chris Matthews quoted part of a 1987 Reagan address: "Congress consistently brings the government to the edge of default. ... This brinkmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veterans benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket, instability would occur in financial markets, and the federal deficit would soar. The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations."
Reagan's address did not end there. Here's the part the Matthews skipped over: "For those who say more taxes will solve our deficit problem, they are wrong. Every time Congress increases taxes, the deficit does not decrease, spending increases. It's time for a clear and consistent policy to reduce the federal budget deficit. ... You don't need more taxes to balance the budget. Congress needs the discipline to stop spending more, and that can be done with the passage of a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. ... But I ... will not permit Congress to dismantle our national defense, to jeopardize arms reduction or to increase your taxes. I am determined that will not happen."
Relax, lefties. Things could be worse. Suppose the tea party did not exist. Imagine the economy-damaging spending binge had the Dems retained their congressional majorities. The economy would be sputtering even more. Some disillusioned liberals would even start quoting Reagan: "If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."
So, go ahead, President Obama. "Cave." Drop the tax-hike demand. Grumble that the party of "millionaires and billionaires" pressured you "by holding the nation hostage." Call the Republicans heartless and greedy. Then, like Bill Clinton, take credit for the resultant improving economy. Cruise to re-election. Works like a charm.