The Tea Party’s principled stand

Gary Aldrich Contributor
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After the midterm elections last fall, speculation mounted about the actual effect the newly elected Tea Party candidates would have in Washington. Would they remain loyal to the principles of fiscal discipline they preached on the campaign trail or would the election be a hollow victory lacking in substantive change? We received the first clue to the answer to that question this week when many of the Tea Party favorites expressed their opposition to voting for the continuing resolution.

Despite the bill passing 271-158 in the House, 54 Republicans voted against it, the biggest GOP defection from a budget bill this year.

In addition, Senator Marco Rubio announced his intention to vote against the CR, claiming that he didn’t come to Washington to vote on short-term budgets every two or three weeks. He’s in good company, joining his colleagues Senator Jim DeMint, Senator Rand Paul, and Senator Mike Lee.

Their stance is important because with the deficit topping $1.645 trillion in 2011, the U.S. is on the verge of a fiscal collapse.

Democrats’ attempts to denounce spending cuts as draconian and detrimental to the economy are divorced from reality. Despite fluctuating tax rates over the past 50 years, tax revenue as a percentage of GDP has remained in the 17 to 19 percent range. This confirms the theory of the Laffer curve: higher tax rates do not increase government revenue.

Considering that Obama’s spending-to-GDP ratio equaled 24.7 and 23.8 percent for 2009 and 2010 respectively, there is no chance we can balance the budget without significant cuts. The numbers simply don’t add up.

And these spending levels don’t factor in the skyrocketing costs of entitlement programs. With more and more Baby Boomers reaching retirement age, Medicare and Social Security payments are reaching unmanageable levels — on a trajectory that will soar well past the 60 percent of the budget they now consume.

In fact, between the national debt and entitlement programs, total U.S. unfunded obligations equate to over $65 trillion — an amount that surpasses the economic output of the world.

Think of that: the entire world.

There are two important reasons why the short-term budget cuts are inadequate — one is principled and one is strategic.

First, conservatives need to live up to the promise they made in the “Pledge to America” and cut at least $61 billion — an amount that is prorated to equate to $100 billion over the fiscal year. This would go a long way towards showing the American people that they are serious about tackling the tough fiscal challenges our nation faces.

It also puts to shame the Democrats’ measly $4.7 billion spending cut proposal — an amount that Senator Rubio accurately stated “equals what our government borrows approximately every 30 hours alone.”

Second, continuing to pass short-term CRs plays into the Democrats’ hands. If the Senate passes the current CR, it will fund the government through April 8. This means that Congress will have to take up a new CR the same week that Congressman Paul Ryan unveils his budget for fiscal year 2012.

Not only would this eliminate some of the Republicans’ bargaining chips by not spreading out the two bills — it would allow Harry Reid to mislead the American people, who may have a difficult time differentiating between the bills. In essence, the Democrats would gain the strategic upper hand and make it harder for conservatives to win needed long-term spending cuts.

This is terrible news for limited-government advocates. Right now, we need to focus on budget cuts that will move us towards a balanced budget. Cuts like bringing non-defense discretionary spending back to 2006 levels and enacting entitlement reform — an issue Obama was eerily silent on in his own 2012 budget.

This is quite a daunting task and conservatives need every advantage they can get.

It’s disappointing that the establishment is missing in action. But at least the American people have some members of Congress who are willing to fight for our future. And who knows — with their continued efforts and a lot of luck, we might actually be able to win the future.

Gary Aldrich is the president of Liberty Central.