I ran into a couple of GOP senators the other day. They were talking about the fall of the Roman Empire (who knew senators might actually discuss history?). One senator made the point that Rome’s fall corresponded with a loss of values, which of course has some merit. But that’s missing the bigger picture. I responded that perhaps their decline had something to do with being overextended militarily, knowing that they would likely reject this point since it might imply that the United States, also, might be faced with the same future.History certainly has lessons, but it’s amazing that after 2,000 years we still draw different conclusions. I couldn’t resist to jab them a little: “You know our own decline will ultimately come when we can’t manage our debt.”This one I think some senators do get, at least on some level. But they can’t push past their own parochialism or pet issues and causes to see that everything must be on the table in order to prevent our economy from being crushed under our massive debt burden.I left them this last salvo to ponder: “If the GOP insists on exceeding the budget caps by over $100 billion in new military spending, it is hard to argue that the Republican Party really cares about the debt.” They didn’t look eager to continue the conversation – their only response was to amiably smile and let my volley dangle unanswered.Minutes later, I ran into a Democrat senator in leadership. I continued my previous conversation about debt with him. “I hope your caucus will unite in opposing the GOP push to bust the budget caps on military spending.” He slyly grinned and responded, “We’re kind of in the opposite place as you are. We are fine with busting the caps on military spending as long as we get our share of domestic spending.”And there you have it: the dirty little secret in Washington.Republicans say they want to cut domestic spending, but they won’t because they’ve made a deal with the Democrats – if Democrats vote to raise military spending, Republicans will vote to raise domestic spending. The dirty little secret is that all spending goes up, all the time, and both parties are to blame.Both sides want to spend money, but for different pet causes. The compromise: Both will agree to increase rather than decrease spending. We will once again move in the wrong direction on spending and debt because of a corrupt bargain among swamp-dwelling politicians.It’s shameful, and people should be outraged. It appears that nobody, or virtually nobody, in Congress really cares about the debt or our children’s future. Sure, Democrats claim to care when it is a convenient excuse to oppose tax cuts, but they are noticeably quiet about the debt when it comes to spending bills. When I forced a vote recently on obeying the “pay as you go” rule, no Democrats, and only seven Republicans, joined me. Less than 10 percent of the Senate appears to actually care about the debt.As the debt inexorably grows, we face a future where interest on the national debt threatens to crowd out legitimate government expenditures. Maintaining a debt that equals our gross national product is dangerous and ultimately will threaten to bring about America’s decline. I, for one, hope for the day of compromise, both parties realizing that all spending must slow and come into balance with revenue. Given prevailing attitudes in Congress, I fear spending restraint will not occur until our decline manifests, a time that may be too late to save us from ourselves. We are $20 trillion in debt and counting. Our nation’s politicians are addicted to spending, and they need to be put in treatment. Will the voters force them to stop? When will the intervention come to save our economy and our country? At every opportunity in the coming year, I will fight for caps on spending, for following our budget, and for fiscal sanity to take hold in Congress.
Washington Examiner Op-Ed: “‘The Debt and the Decline of Empire”