I don’t often commend Republicans, so let me do so here. Throw in all of the qualifications — not all of them, they could still flake, and so on — and yet a commendation is still in order.
There are times when countries run out of money/credit absolutely. The cash is simply not there anymore, and hello, Greece. There are other times when it becomes obvious that they are going to run out of money/credit down the road sometime . . . obvious to anyone who is willing to do the math. In the latter instance, it always requires political courage to act now on the basis of math that concerns the future.
Our debt ceiling crisis is in one sense artificial. Everybody could just vote to raise it, and there would be, in Hezekiah’s words, peace and security for another six months (Is. 39:8). In the meantime, our credit card company is willing for us to raise the amount of what we can borrow. We are good customers for them, as good at spending as only a teeming tribe of drunken chimpanzees can be.
Now it is to the Republicans’ credit that they have in principle accepted Tea Party pressure, and have been willing to make a future crisis into a present one. That is what this is all about — real default later or artificial default now.
There are different plans and options swirling around, but we are looking at genuine spending cuts, no tax hikes, and the possibility of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution being voted on in both chambers. The spending cuts are real — unlike the typical cuts in the rates of increase. In times past, spending cuts have been what they have called spending increases that increase more slowly. A man gaining five pounds a months manages to get it back to three pounds a month, and then proudly tells all his friends about this fantastic weight loss program.
With regard to tax hikes, the Republicans have held the line there, and well done. President Obama says that he favors a “balanced approach,” which he thinks is a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. But when the guy talking about his weight loss program is bedridden because the only way out of his room is if the fire department does it for him, and he also tells you that his “balanced” solution for ending this crisis is for him to consider a diet next month, and for you to bring him another plate of sausages now, the word that comes to mind is not “balanced.”
And as for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution? Ah, t’would be glory. To borrow a line from somebody (I forget who), once the debate started, we would have the special treat of watching all the big spenders of Congress standing in front of microphones, cameras rolling, and all of them sweating like Mike Tyson at a spelling bee. After that, the Lord could take me home anytime. I will have lived a full life.