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Debt-Ceiling Deal: Overlooking the Real Problem

By: Michael Clayton

Last week, Congress passed a bill to effectively raise the debt ceiling and reopen the small part of government that has been closed. H.R. 2775, the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, is being touted as a saving grace by those who believed the “government shutdown” was doing irreparable harm to the American people, but once again legislators in Washington have failed to meet our pressing need to reduce government spending. The federal government is now approaching $17 trillion in debt, yet the D.C. establishment avoids talking about the threat this poses to our liberty and prosperity. As now- former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said in 2011, “the single, biggest threat to our national security is our debt…” Yet politicians on both sides, who supposedly “support” our military, cannot seem to grasp this that our nation is broke.

As typically is the case in Washington, H.R. 2775 does little now to combat the nation’s immediate spending issues. Instead, it prolongs the battle by continuing to fund government operations at an unreasonable level until January 15, 2014 and allowing the government to borrow money until February 7, 2014. What this means is we will be having this same bitter budget discussion here in a few months. Meanwhile, the deal calls for a bicameral budget conference committee that, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, “will set our country on a long-term path to fiscal responsibility.” Of course, many are concerned that this conference will be about as successful as anything else the Congress attempts to come to an agreement on. It will be required to deliver recommended budget changes by December 15th of this year.

While Harry Reid is determined this conference will come up with a long-term solution, the short-term spending issues that are being exacerbated by H.R. 2775 are coming to light. In this C.R., Congress has agreed on some unnecessary measures that continue to show their inability to cut needless spending. For example, the addition of what is being called the “Kentucky Kickback” will authorize $2.918 billion to a project aimed at dam construction in the state of Kentucky. The original estimated cost for this project was $775 million. The C.R. also authorized $450 million to go to the flood stricken state of Colorado to repair roads and bridges from recent flooding. While this effort is less controversial than that “Kentucky Kickback,” it is well above the $100 million limit the Department of Transportation is lawfully allowed to give according to the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013. Other inclusions in the C.R. give the widow of late Sen. Frank Lautenberg $174,000, equal to one year of his pay. While seemingly necessary considering the circumstances, Mr. Lautenberg was noted as the 7th richest member of Congress by Roll Call in 2012, with an estimated net worth of $55.07 million. Also, remember Kony 2012? The C.R. ensures that funding will continue to go towards fighting the "Lord's Resistance Army" in Uganda.

In the meantime, Republicans working to gain concessions on the President’s infamous healthcare law gained no ground. Unless you consider a small provision that would require those receiving ObamaCare subsidies to be subject to income verification a concession. Politico reports that, “Under the verification measure, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius must submit a report to Congress by Jan. 1…explaining how the health insurance exchanges are verifying income.”  But ObamaCare law requires the administration to conduct this income verification. So instead of a delay in implementation of Obamacare, no provision to the Congressional exemptions from ObamaCare, or even an end to the medical devices tax required by ObamaCare, all Republicans got from the deal is a promise the Obama administration will obey the law. In short, the Republicans who were “standing strong” caved in, and now we are stuck with the socialized healthcare system.

All in all, the debt-ceiling deal will ensure we make no immediate progress in cutting egregious spending throughout the federal government. Both sides of the aisle seem to think we can continue to use the Federal Reserve to pump money into our system to pay for unlimited entitlement and military programs. The debt is exponentially growing every second, and nothing can be overlooked in the debate to cut needless and wasteful spending. The future of our country depends on it.


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