Mike Needham
America is at a crossroads. Will we embrace American exceptionalism or will accept a slow, managed decline? The outcome of the 2010 elections signaled that our nation's founding principles still resonate with Americans of all stripes. The current struggle over whether and how to raise our nation's debt ceiling is another battle in the long war over what sort of country we leave our children and grandchildren.

The debate has all but consumed Washington and Americans all around the country. For decades, raising the debt ceiling was a foregone conclusion, perhaps just an opportunity for political posturing. That is the way President Obama and his allies in Congress wanted it to be this year, too.

Instead, it has turned into a mechanism to get our dilapidated fiscal house in order. If you’re looking for a sign of just how strong the Tea Party movement remains and how much the freshmen in Congress have changed the tone in Washington, this is it.

To understand the importance of this debate, we must understand where our country is headed. We can see it in Europe, especially in Greece, Spain, Ireland and Portugal. European countries have long been held as a shining example of the left’s tax and spend policies, and look where they are now. Unless we act, our children and grandchildren will experience similar decline and unrest. Once you are able to look beyond the gimmick-riddled compromises emanating from Washington, our epic struggle becomes clear. Will we favor the invisible hand of the market, American exceptionalism and freedom or the heavy hand of government, a managed decline and onerous burdens?

Of course, America’s problems did not start with President Obama, but they have certainly escalated during his tenure. All too often, politicians of all stripes see government as the answer to our problems. President Obama is the embodiment of that way of thinking.

This debate over our nation’s debt is a debate over our future – an opportunity to reject the government growth and largess of the past. As we approach August 2nd, we as a nation have to decide whether we want to follow in the footsteps of our friends across the pond or if we want to save our country and our freedoms for our children and grandchildren.

Mainstream pundits will tell you this is a battle that cannot be won. They’ll say conservatives have neither the leverage nor the ideas to triumph. They are wrong on both accounts. The real question is whether conservatives in Congress have the will to succeed.

President Obama’s entire negotiating position is based on the belief that Republicans will blink (and history shows that to be the case). When the government shutdown in 1995, Congressional Republicans caved and gave President Clinton what he wanted, and the government reopened. Years later we would learn that Mr. Clinton was just 24 hours away from caving himself, had written the language of a balanced budget and was prepared to act on it.

We cannot repeat this failure again. Imagine how different our country would look now if we had held the line then.

President Obama has already blinked in this battle. First he wanted a clean debt limit increase, now he is advocating a “big deal.” Then he said he would not touch entitlements, now he has agreed to do so (although we can’t expect any substantive reforms from him). Then he claimed that he would veto any short-term debt increase, and just last week he has signaled that he is prepared to do just that.

Why? Because the ideas that conservatives in Congress are presenting, debating and passing resonate with the American people.

A recent CNN poll shows that 66% of the American people support Cut, Cap, and Balance and 74% support a balanced budget amendment. The President has threatened to veto Cut, Cap and Balanced and tersely dismissed the need for a Balanced Budget Amendment. Both of these are ideas that could get our country back on track.

Instead of embracing these serious proposals, the Obama administration retrenches behind closed doors, leaking rumors, negotiating secret deals and warns of “Armageddon.”

But the President’s administration says that forcing the government to live within its means will make it unable to keep its promises to the American people. How did we get to the point where we promise people things we cannot afford?

Now is our generation’s opportunity to set things straight. For too long, we’ve seen Washington take the easy way out – spend more money and pass the buck to the next generation. Heritage Action seeks to drive down federal spending and borrowing while protecting America and not raising taxes. Our children and grandchildren cannot afford the status quo, which is why any deal that fails to meet those conditions is a non-starter.


Mike Needham

Mike Needham is the Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Action for America, a grassroots advocacy organization dedicated to advancing legislation that promotes freedom, opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.