Tea Partiers are the adults in debt ceiling debate

Matt Kibbe President, FreedomWorks
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In his speech to the nation Monday, President Obama called for compromise on the debt ceiling debate, bemoaning that “compromise has become a dirty word” and waxing nostalgic that “America, after all, has always been a grand experiment in compromise.” He specifically attacked Republicans in the House of Representatives, who he said “refuse to consider this kind of balanced approach.” What the president, other establishment leaders and the media fail to understand, however, is that the Cut, Cap and Balance approach of House Republicans is the compromise.

A small handful of Tea Partiers and a few members of Congress have argued against raising the debt ceiling, period. Most realize, however, that the black hole of President Obama’s $1.5 trillion deficit is simply too deep to plausibly eliminate overnight and we will, regrettably, need to raise the debt ceiling to accommodate it.

The necessity of raising the debt ceiling creates a dilemma for pragmatic Tea Party freshmen who were elected to get spending under control. Tea Party voters would rather see fiscal discipline enacted without having to raise the nation’s credit limit, as anyone would. Most, however, understand that we can’t dig ourselves out of the ditch overnight and are willing to support an increase in the debt limit if — and only if — spending is cut and capped, and Congress seriously considers a balanced-budget amendment.

Obama and other Democratic leaders refuse to understand that this is a compromise. And it’s one a plurality of voters support, according to a recent CNN poll that found 45 percent of likely voters supported raising the debt ceiling only if accompanied by fiscal responsibility measures.

Despite being branded by the media as selfish, demanding or childish, the Tea Party has positioned itself as the responsible adult in the room. Cut, Cap and Balance solves the immediate debt ceiling problem and gets the budget under control in the short and long term. It’s not only a reasonable compromise; it’s a smart solution. Raising the debt ceiling is a temporary fix, whether it’s raised through the end of the year, through the 2012 election or further, because it only treats a symptom of the real problem: the debt itself. Without a serious, comprehensive approach to budget reform, we face a long-term sovereign debt crisis similar to the one Greece is experiencing.

We’ve simply run out of money, and it’s now time to make hard choices and set priorities. The United States spends roughly $300 billion a month, 43 percent of which is borrowed. That’s not a sustainable spending pattern and isn’t a practice we should endorse by raising the debt ceiling without cutting spending. We need to cut spending and grow the economy.

That’s why tax increases are and should be off the table. As long as there are programs like AmeriCorps and subsidies such as those that prop up ethanol, we can afford cuts without raising taxes. Addressing the debt without raising taxes sends an important message to American businesses, which are hording cash but not hiring in large part because of uncertainty over the future of taxes and regulations, according to a recent report in The Washington Post.

The real refusal to compromise is coming from Democrats, who insist on a debt ceiling increase that will last through the 2012 election, in the hopes that voters will forget about their spending binge until after they’re re-elected. All that accomplishes is kicking the can down the road while debt continues to pile up on our children and grandchildren. As Obama himself said in 2006 when he voted against increasing the debt ceiling, “America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”

Matt Kibbe is president and CEO of FreedomWorks, a nationwide grassroots organization fighting for lower taxes, less government and freedom and the co-author of Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto.