By Mike Lillis
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) this weekend slammed the Democrats for fighting the recession with additional spending, arguing the nation's enormous debt represents a "fiscal calamity" threatening the livelihoods of generations to come.
"Our children are going to have to pay that off, and that means their style of life, their standard of living is going to go down because they're going to have to bear such a burden in order to pay off the debts, which we're running up on them today," Gregg told Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren on Friday.
"The bills are being passed on to our kids tomorrow, and it's a calamity."
It's hardly the first time Gregg has called for fiscal restraint. The New Hampshire lawmaker, who's the senior Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, has recently blasted a $26 billion Democratic bill providing states with extra Medicaid and education funding. Although the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said the costs were paid for, Gregg argued those offsets come later, forcing $22 billion in deficit spending in the near term.
"Those are numbers that compound, unfortunately, and they compound fairly quickly," he said.
Gregg was also critical of another Democratic proposal designed to funnel more loans to small businesses. The House passed the bill earlier in the year, with the Senate expected to take it up when lawmakers return from August recess. Though Democrats have proposed to pay the costs by closing a tax loophole on businesses operating overseas, Gregg says the bill would add tens of billions of dollars to the deficit before 2012.
"We're doing all this in the name of trying to get the economy going," he said. "But in the end, I think it's undermining the economy because people are looking at this and saying, 'Well, how are you going to pay for it all?'"
Faced with the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Washington policymakers have taken a series of expensive steps to spur a rebound. Under the Bush administration, Congress passed a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street. Just a few months later, the Obama administration pushed through an additional $787 billion in business tax cuts and aid to states.
More recently, Democrats have extended the nation's safety-net programs, including insurance benefits for unemployed workers and Medicaid funding for struggling states.
Few of those measures were offset with spending cuts or hiked revenues elsewhere in the budget.
Supporters of that stimulus strategy say the short-term borrowing pales relative to the economic freefall that would result if Congress sat on its hands. But Gregg disagrees.
"When the Congress is on vacation, you're actually a little safer than when we're in session," he said Friday. "We're just spending too much. We've got to slow the spending down if we're going to get this government under control."
Gregg has at least one admirer. Van Susteren likened the New Hampshire Republican to a modern-day Cassandra. "When all is said and done," she said, "don't blame Senator Gregg because [he's] been saying this for quite some time."