Cut, cap and balance

This week a group of serious, committed advocacy organizations banded together to send a clear message to Washington and urged members of Congress to sign their pledge, titled “Cut, Cap and Balance.”

Minus the usual double-speak and mind-numbing verbal gymnastics Americans have come to expect and associate with politicians discussing budgets, 11 Republican senators, and even more Republicans in the House, pledged to refrain from supporting a debt-ceiling hike without a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, accompanied by critical deep spending cuts. The “Cut, Cap and Balance” pledge advocated by a long list of fiscally conservative groups is a strong measure indeed. Until you remember that raising the debt ceiling and driving the national debt past the $14.3 trillion level for the next generation to suffer the consequences is an unacceptable legacy. In light of the current $46,000 (and change) share of federal debt with which each newborn is greeted, the proposal feels like the only responsible, sane solution on the table. It would force Washington to do the right thing now that it’s clear Washington won’t do the right thing without being forced. 


So what are the right things to do, according to the pledge? 

Cut — Substantial cuts in spending that will reduce the deficit next year and thereafter.

Cap — Enforceable spending caps that will put federal spending on a path to a balanced budget.

Balance — Passage of a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution — but only if it includes both a spending limitation and a supermajority for raising taxes, in addition to balancing revenues and expenses.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warns the debt-ceiling hike is not optional. A growing number of Americans of various political persuasions are telling Washington that spending away the greatness of the United States and throwing away our future is not an option. Cutting spending, capping debt and balancing budgets is not optional. It’s difficult to imagine a GOP primary and a general election without spending and debt as a top-tier issue. The Cap, Cut, and Balance pledge certainly goes a long way toward making federal debt and spending a personal, parochial issue for Americans, competing with the fear, ignorance and government dependency Obama and congressional Democrats propagate. 

With the general public, the worm has turned and Americans are now more fearful of the looming European-style debt crisis and dismal future the left is creating than they are of the pain of large spending cuts. A Bloomberg poll shows 76 percent of Americans think the economy is getting worse or is stagnant, and only three in 10 would reelect Obama. An Associated Press poll shows four out of five think the economy is in bad shape and 59 percent disapprove of how Obama is handling the economy and unemployment. And a new poll by Public Notice shows 62 percent of Americans, including 40 percent of Democrats, are worried Congress will not cut enough spending, which means people are watching what Congress does rather closely. Fifty-one percent of Democrats say they would be more inclined to vote for a member of Congress who raised the debt ceiling only with significant spending cuts. Similarly, 54 percent of self-identified Tea Party supporters, 54 percent of Independents and 58 percent of Republicans share the sentiment. Women more than men believe the debt ceiling should not be raised, along with 52 percent of Hispanic/Latino voters. 

So there appears to be nowhere for Obama and congressional Democrats to hide on the issue of massive spending cuts and strict fiscal discipline when broaching the issue of raising the debt ceiling. So what does a Democrat do with so little wiggle room? 

Look for Democrats to start acting more like Republicans and embracing the Tea Party, rather than embracing the top of their own ticket with Obama’s bottom-of-the-barrel poll numbers.

Senate Democrats are proposing a payroll tax deduction under the header of “stimulus” and “job creation.” But since a rose by any other name still smells as sweet, it’s a tax cut — and from the party that argues ad nauseam that tax cuts do not stimulate the economy! So let’s all please remember this moment. When the chips were down and measures to spur economic growth became vital to our survival, Democrats proposed tax cuts. 

Perhaps a few brave Democrats will do the right thing and embrace Cut, Cap and Balance — even if they want to call it something else entirely.

Jacobus, president of Capitol Strategies PR, has managed congressional campaigns, worked on Capitol Hill and is an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. She appears on CNN, MSNBC and FOX News as a GOP strategist.