Conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz are right to take stand on budget
The longer you study politics the more you realize that the wise men in Washington — East Coast publishers, think-tank CEOs and U.S. senators since antiquity — aren’t nearly as wise as they suppose. In their own minds, these institutional and party elders are the voices of reason and deliberation, benevolent fonts of insight able to divine the public interest with a click of the heels.
If only it were so.
These days, the wise men in Washington are urging Republicans to avoid a budget showdown. With one voice they harangue: Now is not the time for another budget bloodbath.
The House and Senate have two “must pass” items before year’s end. One is a continuing resolution to fund the government into next year, without which the federal government and all of its infinite instrumentalities would shut down. The second is another debt ceiling increase, without which the government would probably default at some point down the road.
Tired of the needless bickering, yearning for the good old days when backs were slapped and budgets were passed, the Washington Wise are urging congressional Republicans to stay calm, move along and pass a ontinuing resolution and debt-ceiling hike before the turkey and dressing get passed.
Unfortunately for the country, this is the line the wise men have been spouting for a very, very long time. It is precisely this thinking that has pushed our nation to the fiscal brink.
A handful of rabble rousing conservatives — Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio — aren’t buying what the wise guys are selling. They openly chafe at another status-quo continuing resolution; they shudder at the idea of another debt ceiling increase. Ted Cruz has the most aggressive plan of all: no continuing resolution to keep the government open unless the resolutions also defunds Obamacare.
At first blush, Cruz’s plan does seem a little like tilting at heavily subsidized windmills. If and when a budget with an Obamacare repeal clears the GOP-led House, it has no chance of passing the Harry Reid-led Senate.
And even if did manage to successfully navigate the Senate, President Barack Obama would never sign a bill repealing the signature law bearing his name.
But that doesn’t mean the Cruz plan is without merit. Politics is about leverage, and fighting with Obama and Democrats over Obamacare may well set up more sequestration-style spending cuts or some other secondary benefit. Best of all, it keeps the Obamacare fight alive, preserving a flicker of hope that one day it might indeed be repealed. But don’t tell that to the wise men of Washington. They want the white flag.
“Ted Cruz is a smart man,” Wise Woman Peggy Noonan reproved last month. “Why then, for heaven’s sakes, is Cruz signing on in support of a tea party-led effort to block funding of the Affordable Care Act that threatens a shutdown of the government? This makes no sense, either for Texas or for the Republican Party.”
David Brooks, the allegedly conservative columnist for The New York Times, struck harsher tones.
“What’s going on ... is what you might call the rise of Ted Cruz-ism. And Ted Cruz ... is basically not a legislator in the normal sense.” He and others like him are not in Congress to pass legislation or create coalitions, Brooks said. “They’re not legislators. They want to stop things.”
Ted Cruz is, I concede, a handful. Politics is some days about coalitions and deal-making. On that point, the wise men are right. In that part of the job, Cruz has a lot of work to do.
But there are moments and issues when the fight must be waged, and the fight over the nation’s spending morass is one.
The wise men disagree, saying now is the time for inaction and capitulation. They said the same thing in November 2004 when the debt ceiling was raised to $8 trillion. In February 2010 and August 2011, when the nation’s debt was boosted to $14 trillion, then $16 trillion, it also wasn’t time to fight.
See the trend?
If the wise men don’t like Cruz’s plan, fine, but show an alternative. Mindlessly increasing the debt without a hardline strategy is a recipe for more of the same – more debt, and a diminished American tomorrow. That may be convenient for the sensibilities of our political elite, but make no mistake — that is not wise.
Josh Penry is a former minority leader of the Colorado Senate. He is a graduate of Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College.