- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 3, 2012

President Obama sent a request last week to raise the debt ceiling by $1.2 trillion. That would push the limit on federal borrowing to an eye-popping $16.4 trillion, a move regarded as business as usual in Washington.

This was all set up last summer by the deal that created a deficit supercommittee to come up with an equivalent $1.2 trillion in offsetting budget cuts. Because Republicans and Democrats couldn’t agree on any specific budget reductions, there will be a “sequestration” of an equivalent amount - but actual spending won’t go down.

These “cuts” are only cuts by Washington math. Even with the sequester, the federal budget is expected to grow by $2 trillion by 2021. The difference is that the rate at which the federal government will grow will slow ever so slightly. No real effort has been made to take us off the same path as Greece and Europe’s other basket-case economies.

Even the insane amount of money the Internal Revenue Service extracts from Americans each year isn’t close to covering Uncle Sam’s spending addiction. The gap between spending and revenues is covered by borrowing, and the U.S. government currently asks countries including China for a loan of 36 cents for each $1 we spend. The bureaucracy costs $3.6 trillion, but the IRS and other revenue sources collected just $2.3 trillion. The remaining $1.3 trillion will have to be paid by future generations.

In theory, Congress could decline Mr. Obama’s request by passing a “resolution of disapproval.” This would be a mostly symbolic exercise because the president can veto the resolution, allowing the increase to go forward. It’s unlikely that even the House could come up with the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto.

This isn’t what Americans want, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll released Thursday. The survey of 1,000 likely voters found a growing number want government to shrink. More than three-quarters of all those surveyed want the deficit cut, and 71 percent want government to cut spending. Even among the left-leaning voters who somehow think government isn’t doing enough, 52 percent want government to cut spending.

They’re not talking about the phony definition of “cut” that involves an ever-increasing budgetary base line. They mean actual spending in 2012 ought to be significantly lower than in 2011.

Americans, it would seem, have seen the results, or lack thereof, from Mr. Obama’s Keynesian stimulus spending spree. They don’t want programs that yield mountains of debt with little growth and no jobs. The larger the government sector, the greater is the burden on the productive sector. If the economy is to expand, Congress needs to start paying attention to what voters want. It needs to start thinking about serious ways to shrink the size of government.

We still have time to correct course before suffering an economic collapse like Greece. That means instead of increasing the debt ceiling, it’s time to close down nonessential government functions.

Nita Ghei is a contributing Opinion writer for The Washington Times.