The D.C. Game of Chicken

Pamela Seley is a contributor to The Brenner Brief. Her weekly columns post on Wednesdays.

Pamela Seley is a contributor to The Brenner Brief. Her weekly columns post on Wednesdays.

“Washington already drove us off the fiscal cliff, and while no one was looking,” writes Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in a recent op-ed piece for Politico.

I agree with Jindal on two points. First, we have already been sent off the fiscal cliff, which, in my opinion, started with the housing crisis. Second, this is not the end of the fiscal cliff because it is guaranteed there will be more fiscal trouble ahead.

As appropriately pointed out by Jindal, whether it is fiscal cliff, mountain, black hole, or whatever new name the left wants to call it, we have been headed in this direction for years. Some say starting with Bush. I say the beginning was when the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed when President Clinton signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.Let’s not forget it is Obama who has managed to increase the nation’s debt more in one term than Bush did in two terms, or any other President in history.

What I admire about Jindal is that while he is simultaneously scolding the GOP to “stop being the stupid party,” at least he offers up specific solutions to the debt crisis. That’s more than House Speaker Boehner, who purged fiscal conservatives from House members who oppose appeasing Obama. Boehner has said they will deal with the debt crisis, and I suppose getting rid of those Republicans who don’t want to roll over is one way of dealing with it.

Boehner has also said he will not increase tax rates on any Americans, and that the deficit can be reduced by closing loopholes and making changes to the tax code. As we near the end of the year, there are some Republicans willing to trade raising taxes for fear of falling off the fiscal cliff. Obviously, there is division within the GOP on what should be done.

It stands to reason that there would be left-of-center, political pundits, such as David Gergen, who believe we have yet to go over the fiscal cliff. On the one hand, he is blaming Republicans for their “arrogance” over the last two years for not coming to an agreement, and he is now blaming the Democrats for threatening to go over the fiscal cliff if they don’t get their way.

In Gergen’s opinion, it’s extremely dangerous to go over the fiscal cliff. First coined by Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve Chairman, “fiscal cliff” is a metaphor that was intended to describe the effect on the economy at the end of the year if the Bush tax cuts and planned spending cuts were to end. What Gergen and others should find dangerous instead is the rapidly growing debt and government.

If Congress doesn’t come to an agreement and agree to raise the debt ceiling, come February the Treasury will run out of options and end up in default. Obama has the power to raise the debt ceiling at his will under the 14th Amendment. Many are calling for Obama to just do it, which he probably will if there is no agreement, given the last debt ceiling crisis and U.S. credit downgrade for which Republicans have been blamed by the Democrats. If Obama raises the debt ceiling he will have gotten his way while simultaneously having solved the debt crisis.

Jindal writes that the GOP should be the party that stands for limited government. To stop the growth of government is to stop Washington from taking from the American people. The idea may be repugnant to those in Washington, but allowing the debt to grow along with government will be, to use a progressive word, “unsustainable” in the long term. If we do, soon we may become like Greece with 25 percent or higher unemployment and only two economic classes: the elite and the poor.

What is a larger issue and at stake is the GOP figuring out how to unite their viewpoints as a party. As it is now, the GOP appears to be more divided than before this last election. Progressives never want to let a good crisis go to waste, and the division among the Republicans has not gone unnoticed by the left. The real crisis is not the fiscal cliff, but the growth of government.

I agree with Thomas Sowell that not only does Obama want to grow a larger government, but he is playing chicken with the Republicans to do it.



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