States across the country are facing massive budget deficits brought on by years of the same kind of rampant spending we’ve seen from Washington. Unlike the federal government, state governments can no longer avoid solving the problem. Balanced budget requirements and an inability to take on debt year after year are forcing immediate action as bankruptcy, debt defaults and bond downgrades loom.
The catastrophic real-world consequences we see in the states merely offer a small-scale preview of what will happen nationally if we do nothing to get our nation’s debt under control. Fortunately, fiscal conservatism seems to be taking hold in many unexpected places, though probably not by choice. Necessity is forcing Democrats to act like Republicans, and Republicans to stick to their guns.
Last year New Jersey, a dark blue state deep in the red, turned to a brash conservative anti-politician. Gov. Chris Christie’s tough, no-nonsense style has cowed an aggressively liberal legislature, and forced it to go along with painful but necessary changes to the budget. New Jersey has been pulled back from the brink of fiscal disaster and the state’s situation is stabilizing.
Two of the nation’s worst fiscal basket-cases took a different route to arrive at the same set of solutions. California was one of the only states to switch from a Republican governor to a Democrat and New York stayed in Democratic hands despite the Republican wave. Democrats they may be, but newly elected governors Andrew Cuomo and Jerry Brown have been forced by necessity to govern as fiscal conservatives.
Jerry Brown’s inaugural speech at times sounded like a flashback to Ronald Reagan. It featured quotes like “government wastes money, and I’ll be doing a lot about that” and “the budget I propose will be painful, but it will be an honest budget.” He even pledged that California would see no new taxes unless they were approved by the voters through the referendum process.
Gov. Cuomo’s inaugural address was even more blunt and conservative in tone. Rather than complain about deficits being a result of taxes being too low, he lamented that “[New York] has the worst business tax climate in the nation, period” and “the State of New York spends too much money. It’s that simple”
We’ve seen the same phenomenon in Europe. England elected a Conservative government after twelve years of a Labour government that left the nation’s finances in shambles. Conservatives made drastic cuts across the board not because they are “heartless Tories,” but because they had to. When Germany faced crises during the last decade, even their Social Democratic leadership instituted harsh conservative labor reforms in the form of the Hartz IV program, and today under conservative leadership, Germany has the strongest economy of any wealthy nation.
The point is, when the debt comes due, the creditor doesn’t care which party is in power. The facts are utterly indifferent to the hopes of leftist-utopians who think ever-larger government programs can be paid for with humanitarian zeal. Fiscal conservatism isn’t an option—it’s a necessity.
Jerry Brown and Andrew Cuomo have admitted as much. It won’t be long until Democrats in the White House and Congress have to do the same.
Zach Howell is the Chairman of the College Republican National Committee. The CRNC is the nationally elected governing body for over 200,000 College Republicans and over 1,500 campus chapters. Zach sits in the same chair that Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, and Morton Blackwell once sat in. He holds a BS in Political Science from the University of Utah.