A group of U.S. Senators called the Gang of Six has cobbled together the third Senate-originated half-baked idea this week that would lead to hiking the debt limit. All three Senate approaches — the McConnell Plan, the McConnell-Reid “Just Borrow More” Plan, and now the Gang of Six “Maybe Later in the Year” Plan — have one thing in common: procedural gimmicks that promise Congress will do in the future what it won’t do now to control spending. The time has passed for procedural gimmickry — Congress should cut spending and cut it now.
The Gang of Six circulated a plan that has Congress enact a law now whose principal elements (1) make unspecified spending cuts and unspecified tax increases to yield a $500 billion reduction in the federal deficit, and (2) impose spending caps on discretionary spending, but not on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and welfare programs that are the main cause of out-of-control spending.
Then the Gang of Six promises — an unenforceable promise — that some time in the next six months Congress will enact a second law with all kinds of Christmas presents for everybody. As an imaginary present for Republicans, for example, the Gang of Six promises to eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax, drop the top individual tax rate to 29 percent, and drop the corporate tax rate to 29 percent. And, as an imaginary present for the Democrats, the second law would have what appears to be a $3.4 trillion tax hike over the next 10 years, so the size of government can just keep on growing. Of course, enactment of the second law is just a promise, or, in the case of the huge tax hike, a threat.
Although the “Gang of Six” claims that their plan is separate from the debt limit increase, everyone in Washington including President Obama thinks its precise purpose is to pave the way for a debt limit hike. Under the Gang of Six Plan, Congress will pass some easy stuff now, but punt the hard stuff to the future, promising that Congress will pass it some time within the next six months. There’s plenty in the Gang of Six Plan for President Obama — he gets his tax hikes and, in reality, he gets to borrow lots more money. But the American people don’t really get much of anything, except the usual empty promise of action in the future.
Congress should not raise the debt limit without getting spending under control. Debt limit legislation should put America on the path to driving down federal spending and borrowing, while preserving our ability to protect America, and without raising taxes. Conservatives should stop the Gang of Six Plan. To control federal overspending and overborrowing, America doesn’t need more empty promises of future action — America needs action now.