The audacity of irresponsibility: Confronting the fallout of a failing economy

According to Gallup, Americans’ confidence in the economy reached a new low for 2011 last week. A mere 34 percent of Americans said in a recent CBS/Times poll that they approve of the way President Obama is handling the economy; the lowest point since he took office.

It seems even economists are unmoved by President Obama’s anemic economic stewardship. Nearly 80 percent are “less optimistic” about the economy than they were a few months ago, according to a USA Today poll.

These are times of great fiscal consequence; times that call upon leaders to act with purpose in a reasonable, responsible, reform-minded manner. Americans of all political persuasions are coming to the inescapable conclusion that we simply cannot go on like this. What seems so fundamental in the minds of voters continues to elude many in Washington, namely: money runs out; debts become due; negative credit has negative consequences.

Indeed, they understand — out of necessity — something this president seemingly does not: you cannot spend today and budget tomorrow. Americans all across this country have been having “adult conversations” in recent months; difficult adult conversations. They sit around the dinner table and wonder: how can we afford gas at $4.00 a gallon? How can we sell our house when we owe more than it is worth? How can we survive and save for the future while living from one unemployment check to the next? These are the realities confronting real Americans. And if they fail to address them, there are consequences.

We’ve learned the hard way that the same applies in Washington. There are consequences to the culture of economic complacency that has pervaded throughout the federal government for far too long. This president in particular remains intent on running up the national credit card and spending money that, quite simply, we don’t have. The facts are this simple:

  • Every day, Washington borrows roughly $4.5 billion just to pay its bills. Forty-three cents of every dollar we spend is borrowed;
  • Medicare will be bankrupt in nine years;
  • In 2040, our national debt will be TWICE the size of our economy.

These are not Republican facts. These are not Democratic facts. These are just facts.

Economic growth is declining while inflation is rising. And, in the arena of the ever-expanding and exceedingly competitive 21st-century global economy, America officially has “negative” credit. Consider for a moment what negative credit means to a struggling family: higher rates, less disposable income and a less optimistic economic future. The same applies to a struggling nation. America – the greatest nation the world has ever known – is on an unsustainable path to bankruptcy.

I have traveled the country extensively in recent months; not so much to talk, but to listen. And the voters I speak with are acutely aware of the fiscal cliff this country is approaching. That is why they voted in record numbers to elect a Republican House majority with a mandate to put its foot firmly on the brake and rein in Washington’s reckless, wasteful, and out-of-control spending.