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The “Hell No” Left

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Last week, Politico profiled freshman Congressman Tom Cotton (R-AR) to give their readers a sneak peak at “the ‘hell no’ caucus.” According to the reporters, the Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who holds a pair of Harvard degrees is “neither a hick, nor a blowhard.” However, they said, “To much of the country, Cotton is nothing more than a straight, Southern, white, male, ‘radical’ conservative — a befuddling relic of a fading slice of politics.”


Yes, that actually appeared in print; and, it is a caricature the elite media in Washington and New York City are all too willing to blindly adopt. Cotton and others are placed in the “hell no” caucus not because of their lack of ideas, but because they are unwilling to play Washington’s cynical, self-enriching, taxpayer-financed game.

Though not exclusive to Washington, one of the most prevalent games is overpromising with the understanding you will under-deliver.

Just look at President Obama’s nominee to become our nation’s next Treasury Secretary. In 2011, Jack Lew told America the Obama administration’s “budget will get us, over the next several years, to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say we're not adding to the debt anymore; we're spending money that we have each year."

Later that year, President Obama fought for and won a $2.1 trillion increase in our nation’s credit limit. 518 days later, outgoing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told Congress – and the taxpayers – that America once again hit its statutory credit limit.

Properly understood, our nation’s debt ceiling serves as an alarm. Until recently, lawmakers have hit a bipartisan snooze button with the empty promise to address our rapidly accumulating debt. As then-Senator Obama explained in 2006, this represented a “failure of leadership.” Washington, he added, could not continue “shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren.”


Now that congressional Republicans finally agree, President Obama’s response is “hell no.”

On New Year’s Day, he promised, “I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they’ve already racked up through the laws that they passed.” Yet by his own assertion seven years earlier, hitting the nation’s debt limit is "a sign that the U.S. government can't pay its own bills."

Under President Obama’s leadership, our nation is on an unsustainable course. A debate over our nation’s debt ceiling is the opportunity for a course correction. Yet on Twitter, one left-wing pundit explained President Obama’s opposition to attaching spending cuts and entitlement reforms to the debt ceiling is all about “setting a precedent that extortion would not be tolerated.”

The political left in America has absolutely no interest in real entitlement reform. They have no interest in reducing spending. And they see any effort to do so as extortion. Perhaps if they spent half as much time coming up with real solutions as they do touting the benefits of a $1 trillion platinum coin, they could look the American people in the eye and say, “we're not adding to the debt anymore.” But hell no!

Jack Lew’s accession to Treasury Secretary will certainly continue that posture.

"Jack Lew said 'No' 999,000 times out of a million," Speaker John Boehner told author Bob Woodward. "At one point I told the president, keep him out of here. I don't need somebody who just knows how to say ‘No.’"


To be clear, Washington is full of bad ideas, and saying no is no vice. Senators such as Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) and Representatives such as Tom Graves (R-GA), Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) frequently say no to the Washington status quo that results in more government and less freedom. The distinction is these conservatives bring ideas to the table – ideas that could save this country.

Instead of avoiding the debate, perhaps the left should remember what their hero said during his inaugural address four years ago:

“And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.”

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