Debt Crisis

“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender.”  Proverbs 22:7

“America is already bankrupt.  Our payments on our obligations—our unfunded liabilities—exceed our income as far as the eye can see.  No amount of obtainable growth or tax revenue will be enough.”  U. S. Senator Tom A. Coburn, M.D.

Taking Aim at the Debt Crisis Review

Review By W. James Antle III – The Washington Times, May 21, 2012, p. 30

Most politicians prefer platitudes and happy talk. Think “The fun­damentals of the economy are strong,” “Prosper­ity is around the corner” and President Obama’s ill-fated “re­covery summer.” Sen. Tom Coburn, a Republican from Ok­lahoma, is different.

“America is already bank­rupt,” he declares bluntly early on in his new book. “Our pay­ments on our obligations — our unfunded liabilities — exceed our income as far as the eye can see,” Mr. Coburn continues. “No amount of obtainable growth or tax revenue will be enough.”

In “The Debt Bomb: A Bold Plan to Stop Washington From Bankrupting America,” Mr. Coburn agrees with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels that red ink is the country’s new red menace He argues that without a compre­hensive agenda to reduce fed­eral spending, the burgeoning debt crisis will hollow the country from within and tank the economy.

To go with his dire diagnosis of the problem, Mr. Coburn pres­ents some solutions. But first he explains his view of how we got here. One problem is ig­noring the Constitution: “The problems we face today are the conse­quences of policies en­acted in the 1930s that put Congress in the busi­ness of doing things out­side of its enumerated powers,” he declares.

What of Mr. Obama’s view of how the national debt got out of control? In a speech last year, the president asserted that everything was just fine  with budget surpluses until “the money was spent on trillions of dol­lars in new tax cuts, while two wars and an expensive prescription drug program were sim­ply added to our nation’s credit card.”

Mr. Obama didn’t ex­actly clamor for the re­versal of any of those policies, except the por­tion of the tax cuts going to the highest-income earners.

But the implication was clear that it was all George W Bush’s fault Mr Coburn acknowledges that the “compassionate conser­vative” administration was “[i]n many respects … a fiscal disas­ter.”

“He refused to rein in exces­sive spending and failed to veto Republican appropriations bills loaded with earmarks,” Mr. Coburn says of the previous pres­ident. “He also made no serious effort to pay for the wars m Iraq and Afghan-istan by cutting spending”

But the senator contends the war spendmg is dwarfed by the long-term unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare and that letting the tax cuts lapse would further damage a fragile economy. Mr. Coburn blasts the Obama administration stimulus as “too big to succeed.” He lambastes the politi­cal class and laments what one chapter title describes as the “dying Constitution.” He recalls his own brushes with bridges to nowhere and entitled appropriators. But the meat of the book is Mr. Coburn’s suggestions for “defus­ing the debt bomb.” He calls for an end to du­plicative federal spend­ing, noting the existence of 80 economic develop­ment   programs,   82 teacher training initia­tives and more than 100 surface transportation programs.

Mr. Coburn argues for entitlement reforms that recognize that the programs face “unsus­tainable demographics and unsustainable bene­fits.”

He outlines several proposals to curb Medicare spending through consumer-driven com­petition, including both House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan and his own collaboration with Sen. Joe Lieberman.

He calls for a combination of means testing, retirement age increases and formula adjust­ments to fix Social Security.

In addition to tackling entitle­ments, Mr. Coburn would repeal and replace Obamacare. He fur­ther argues that it is possible to achieve Ronald Reagan’s peace through strength while stream­lining the Pentagon budget. “Politicians love to ask for more defense spending,” he writes, “yet the fact is, America’s de­fenses have been decaying for decades despite increasing budg­ets.” The senator points out that even though spending has grown, combat forces have decreased: “We are spending more to get less.”

Most of “The Debt Bomb” will be uncontroversial to conserva­tives. But Mr. Coburn does en­dorse the basic framework of the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission, a deficit reduction panel on which the senator served, calling for savings along these lines: “$3 trillion from en­titlements, $3 trillion from dis­cretionary and other accounts, $1 trillion in defense, $1 trillion in ending some spending in the tax code, and about $1 trillion through avoiding interest costs ”

W James Antle III is associate editor of the American Specta­tor





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