Tea Party Patriots to GOP: Buck up, don’t buckle

America’s debt ceiling was quietly raised 10 times over the past 10 years. Only now has it become a national debate. The elephant in this room is not the GOP. It is the millions of Tea Party activists who have shifted the national debate to government overspending — a debate that was long overdue. 

But a debate is just a debate. Words are just words. We saw how worthless words can be earlier this year.

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The GOP said all the right words leading up to the 2010 midterm elections, but once the new leadership was sworn in this year, their promised spending cuts dropped from $100 billion to $31 billion and eventually to nothing. 

Now it is time to back up those words with backbone.

We believe in Ronald Reagan’s adage, “Trust but verify” — but with a new twist: “You go first.”

If the president wants the debt ceiling raised and the GOP wants spending cuts, you must say: “You go first. Spending cuts first, then we’ll talk.”

The same goes for the GOP leadership. Show the millions of Tea Party Patriots you are serious about putting an end to overspending, then We the People will consider trusting you.

It has been more than six months since this Congress was sworn in. That’s half a year that could have been used to stop this government overspending. Half a year that could have been spent living within our means. Politicians from both sides have found the time to debate this issue around the clock, across all media and even on the golf course. But they have still not found a single moment to find a wasteful government program to cut? 

What did our leaders find time to do these past six months?

The American people know there’s waste in the government. They see it every day from their local post office to the observance of Nancy Pelosi’s taxpayer funded jet. Just recently, we found out the National Institutes of Health is spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on studies of toenails. 

The Washington Post reported in February that Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) , the one in charge of the funds, has a community college student commons center, a fire training center, a water park, a boulevard, a drive and a parkway named after him in his district in gratitude for $40 million he had brought to the area.  Were those all legitimate government spending or a way to keep his 30-year career in Congress secured?

The president and his administration can’t look through their departments and find anywhere to cut. Congress can’t put a moratorium on nonessential programs until a review of the entire budget is completed? Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) seems to be the only one capable of coming up with real cuts.

Again, what have these “leaders” been doing? 

Our president found time to characterize his opponents as wanting to put “a gun against the heads of the American people to extract tax breaks for corporate jet owners.” This is a strange thing to hear in this new era of civility. Then Obama threatened to push Grandma off a cliff unless he got a deal to raise the debt ceiling so he can overspend even more, saying, “I cannot guarantee that those [Social Security] checks go out on Aug. 3.”

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) found time to commend the president for making the case to raise the debt ceiling, saying on July 11: “I would agree with the president that the national debt limit must be raised. I’m glad he made the case for it today.”

It is clear they are not serious about cutting wasteful spending or they would have found a way to do it. When a family is on the brink of bankruptcy and can’t make ends meet, what do they do? They cut back on their spending. It’s very simple.

No, we’re not sophisticated Washington power players. We’re just Tea Party Patriots. But it seems to us that, in a debate over raising the debt ceiling, perhaps the best opening position is not to commend the person across the table for wanting to raise it.

Try our “you go first” method. If the president wants the debt ceiling raised, tell him “you go first” on cuts. If the GOP wants the Tea Party Patriots to believe they have backbone, show it to us first. 

If you can’t find your backbone, you can borrow some of ours. We the People have plenty.

Meckler and Martin are the co-founders and national coordinators of America’s largest Tea Party group, the Tea Party Patriots.