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

Reince Priebus Chairman, Republican National Committee
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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.

In Washington, you can talk about problems, or you can talk about solutions. You can talk about change, or you can demand change. Republicans are proposing long-term solutions that will demand long-term change.

They are putting forth fiscal reforms that seek ultimately to put an end to the era of infinite debt ceilings; an end to the era of putting our financial fate in the uncertain arms of China; an end to the era of spending today with dangerous disregard for tomorrow.

Beyond the numbers, this is a battle of principle versus politics. Republicans recognize the dangerous stakes of the status quo. They understand that the time for responsible leadership is now. It may not be a debate Democrats want to have, but it is a debate the American people deserve to have.

Rather than engage, Democrats have opted to obstruct even at the risk of paralyzing the economic future of this country. They are content to follow the president’s lead in mortgaging our financial future on the wings of blank checks, bad credit, and broken promises. They want no restrictions on rising spending, and subscribe to the false notion that we can spend our way into an economic recovery. They will stop at nothing to maintain an unsustainable status quo.

Americans are growing reasonably restless. Approval of President Obama’s handling of the economy has hit all-time lows. With each passing day, they are losing faith and confidence in our economic future. But is President Obama listening?

Rather than engage Republicans in that heralded but ultimately hollow “adult conversation,” the president has resorted to attacking his critics as he hits the fundraising circuit in preparation for his billion-dollar re-election campaign. His strategy is flawed in terms of both politics and principle.

In political terms it’s difficult to imagine the American people entrusting this president with a second term in order to correct the failed economic policies of his first. It’s tantamount to hiring the problem to find the solution. On principle, Americans remain adamantly opposed to granting this president a blank check to squander our nation’s economic security. For far too long, we have been spending money we don’t have. Today we say the three words that should have been said years ago: enough is enough.

Reince Priebus is the chairman of the Republican National Committee.