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By William J. Olson


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There once was a time that elected leaders wanted to be seen as powerful to gain the confidence of their constituents.  But many House Republicans, who now have in their hands total power to end runaway government once and for all, are feigning powerlessness.

These House Republicans claim to be just one-third of the legislative process, unable to achieve anything useful without compromise and a bipartisan consensus.  They grouse that the Democrats in the Senate and President Obama are forcing them to settle for what they can get in exchange for an inevitable and necessary increase in the debt limit.  They claim to need even greater electoral victories in 2012 before they can stop the spending.

The truth is that House Republicans already hold all the cards.  The debt ceiling is already fixed in law, and will remain fixed unless they capitulate.  Rather than just saying no to an increase in the debt limit which would end deficit spending, the GOP has developed “Cut, Cap, and Balance” which it sells as a principled proposal.  Yet, with CC&B, the House Republicans propose to end the deficit spending by the curious method of increasing the national debt by $2.4 trillion (almost 17 percent) to $16.7 trillion.

In increasing the debt ceiling, the House Republicans leaders are doing what comes naturally.  The House leadership historically has not wanted to stop spending — with entitlements like Medicare Part D they have used our own money to buy our votes just like the Democrats.  The motivation behind CC&B is not about cutting current spending, capping future spending, or balancing the budget — it’s about what it’s always been about — the politics of reelection.

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It could be that the House Republicans are acting out of fear that in holding fast to principle they would not be seen as being “responsible” in the eyes of the media and Wall Street.  They could be afraid that Wall Street and the administration could use their refusal to increase the debt ceiling to provoke an international financial crisis that would be blamed on them.  They could fear that the American people will turn them out for doing what they said they would do.  The common denominator of these motivations is fear, which always leads to bad decisions.  If we grant to the establishment the role of arbiter of what is right and responsible, we have given up the fight.  House Republicans forget the truism that “we are always more free to do that which is right than we think we are.”

When the vote was taken in the House on Tuesday night, only nine Republicans saw through what the leadership was doing.  The rest of the House Republicans followed what they thought talk radio, a large swath of the conservative movement, and some misguided Tea Partiers wanted.  What makes “Cut, Cap, and Balance” into true political art is that the House Republican leadership is using it to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory while selling this effort to their constituents as an act of courage.  Thus far, only is leading the charge against it, and only is reporting on its flaws.

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