Hop aboard the Denialism Express, Democrats. It's a fact-free, reckless thrill ride -- although between the president, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and now outgoing Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, space is getting limited. Harkin, who will retire at the end of this term, used the (somewhat ironic) platform of a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting to inform the public that the US government is not broke and does not have a spending problem:
First of all, I want to disagree with those who say we have a spending problem. Everyone keeps saying we have a spending problem. And when they talk about that, it’s like there’s an assumption that somehow we as a nation are broke. We can't afford these things any longer. We’re too broke to invest in education and housing and things like that. Well look at it this way, we’re the richest nation in the history of the world. We are now the richest nation in the world. We have the highest per capita income of any major nation. That kind of begs the question, doesn’t it? If we’re so rich, why are we so broke? Is it a spending problem? No.”
Straight-up denying the country's plainly obvious, two-by-four-across-the-face spending problem is now an official Democrat Party talking point. Your pro-science, reality-based, "Party of Ideas," at work, America. Harkin is correct that we're the richest nation on earth, by any number of different standards. Our Gross Domestic Product -- colloquially known as "the economy" -- is by far the largest in the world. But transient dominance can come to a distressingly abrupt end, as numerous civilizations before us have discovered. Seemingly indomitable nations and empires have destroyed themselves from within in the past, and the United States is not exempt from the tides of history or the laws of mathematics. Reckless decisions and faulty policies have consequences. Great nations can and have spent and over-extendend themselves into decline and obsolescence. For the last five years, we have spent at least $1 trillion more than we've taken in. Every year. Yes, our GDP is tops in the world, but our gross national debt -- the money we owe -- has eclipsed it. If you apply widely-accepted accounting practices by calculating the unfunded promises we accrue each year, our debt is more than 500 percent of our economy.
In this millennium alone, we've gone from spending $1.7 trillion per year at the federal level (2000) to $2.7 trillion (2007) to $3.8 trillion (2013, projected). The president's latest budget would inflate federal spending to $5.8 trillion by the end of the decade. This explosion in outlays far outpaces inflation and population growth. By 2023, the CBO projects that tax revenues will double over 2012 and will sit above the historical average, as a percentage of GDP. In that same year, military spending will reach an eight decade ebb. And yet the annual budget deficit will again be in the neighborhood of $1 trillion, and the national debt will breach $26 trillion. If this does not indicate a severe spending problem that is dragging a very rich nation down the path to insolvency, what would?
Republicans, who are far from blameless on these matters, are at least willing to confront our fiscal reality as it exists. Democrats have buried their heads in the sand and have refused to even pass a single budget in four years. Though I have concerns about the effectiveness of a Balanced Budget Amendment (among other things, I worry that it could be used as a mechanism for even bigger tax increases), the GOP is smart to promote it as a matter of politics -- even though it will hit a dead-end in the Senate. The measure's common-sense principle is easily digestible for the American people: Our government must stop spending more money than it has, and needs to begin paying off the towering debt it's already accumulated. This idea enjoys overwhelming public support, and cocky Democrats are playing with fire by denying a problem that is intuitively obvious to the vast, vast majority of voters. Beyond Obama's terrible approval marks on the deficit, Americans sharply disagree with Pelosi/Hoyer/Harkin et al on the issue of spending:
During recent budget negotiations, Obama reportedly said he doesn’t believe the government has a spending problem. Most voters -- 83 percent -- disagree. That includes most Republicans (97 percent), independents (87 percent) and Democrats (69 percent). In addition, out of 13 issues tested, more voters are “extremely” concerned about government spending than any other issue. Moreover, nearly all voters are either extremely (32 percent) or very concerned (52 percent) about spending.
Republicans should (1) trumpet Democrats' dangerous fiscal denialism at every opportunity (2) aggressively advance the case that Democrats' ideological blinders and rapacious spending are endangering the stability and solvency of the United States, and (3) promote their reforms and proposals to address the problem, while hammering home the point that the president's party has obstructed passage of a federal budget every year since 2009.