- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 28, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Hold on to your wallets and put your savings in a safe place, because Congress returns next week from its monthlong August recess.

The most unpopular institution in America, whose job approval polls have sunk into the low teens, left behind a fiscal mess that includes a mountain of wasteful spending, nearly $17 trillion of debt and, once again, the threat of a government shutdown.

Throw in an administration that is incapable of passing a sensible year-to-year budget-cutting plan and putting our nation on the road to economic recovery, and you have the spendthrift time bomb that awaits lawmakers when they come back after Labor Day.

There’s lots of blame to go around, but most of it rests with President Obama’s big-spending policies that dished out hundreds of billions of dollars in the hope of jump-starting the economy and creating lasting jobs. It didn’t.

Soon after he became president, Mr. Obama promised “to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office.” Instead, he gave us an unending line of unprecedented deficits: $1.4 trillion in 2009, $1.3 trillion in 2010, $1.3 trillion in 2011 and more than $1 trillion in 2012.

We’re on track this year to add nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars to that debt, forcing the Treasury to borrow ever-increasing sums of money, and further bleeding our economy of the investment capital it needs to restore and revitalize itself. When Mr. Obama’s term ends in January 2017, he will have presided over the largest expansion of government debt in our nation’s history.

The economy isn’t stronger — it’s weaker, growing at an estimated 1 percent in this third quarter, well below previous recoveries. Weaker economic growth rates mean less tax revenue and that, too, results in higher deficits and surging debt.

The federal government’s insatiable appetite for more and more of the nation’s income is a planet-sized anchor around our economy’s neck. We are seeing the results in our daily lives: fewer well-paying, full-time jobs and a bearish stock market that has been tanking, eroding worker retirement savings week by week.

This is the grim situation Mr. Obama faces when Congress reopens for business next Tuesday. It’s only answer: raise the debt limit and borrow more money.

In a letter to congressional leaders Monday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said he will have only $50 billion in his accounts by mid-October when the government’s monthly borrowing will hit the $16.7 trillion statutory debt ceiling.

The Constitution gives Congress control of the federal government’s purse strings, but Mr. Lew wants Congress to raise the debt limit without any strings attached.

The Democrats who run the Senate are perfectly happy to raise Mr. Obama’s credit card authority as high as he wants.

Republicans, however, want significantly deeper budget cuts in exchange for more borrowing. Conservatives in the GOP-controlled House are demanding that any increase in the debt limit be offset — dollar for dollar — by spending cuts or other savings.

“The debt limit remains a reminder that, under President Obama, Washington has failed to deal seriously with America’s debt and deficit,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner.

Indeed, Mr. Obama has been fighting serious budget cuts throughout his presidency, while spending has soared at an alarming rate.

Annual spending was less than $2 trillion in 2000. It has grown to nearly $3.5 trillion in 2013, and is projected to be well over $4 trillion by the time he leaves office in January 2017.

“This year’s projected spending will be more than in any year of the George W. Bush administration. And more than 30 percent higher (accounting for inflation) than the last year of President Clinton’s term,” writes Washington Post reporter David A. Fahrenthold.

The number of federal workers has mushroomed, too, he says. The administration puts the figure at 4.1 million and maintains it has fallen under Mr. Obama. The numbers “do not count a vast number” of private contractors who do government work full-time. The trade association for these contractors puts their number at 1.7 million.

“Obama turned a temporary expansion of government, through TARP and the auto bailouts, into a permanent expansion of government,” writes Stanford University economist Keith Hennessey.

“Before Obama, federal spending averaged 20 percent of GDP for decades. Now he is presiding over a much bigger government, at 24 percent of GDP,” Mr. Hennessey says.

Higher spending, along with weak economic growth, is feeding our mounting debt, and untold future generations will have to foot the bill. As things stand now, each American’s share of that debt comes to $32,000. If government spending continues on its upward trajectory, that figure climbs to $103,827 in 2032, then to $206,771 in 2044, and a mind-boggling $279,738 by 2050, according to U.S. Census Bureau and Congressional Budget Office figures.

That’s the disastrous course on which Mr. Obama has put our country and our future livelihood, and this is what will be at stake in next month’s debt-ceiling fight in Congress. Mr. Obama and the Democrats will play the fear card and try to make this all about stopping Social Security checks. Don’t be fooled or frightened by their rhetoric.

This is a fight worth having for the future of our country. The stakes could not be higher.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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