For most Americans, all of the wrangling over who will be the next Speaker of the House has about as much relevance as when then-Vice President Al Gore tried to score points in the 2000 presidential debate by asking, “I specifically would like to know whether Governor Bush will support the Dingle-Norwood bill.” The what?
Exactly. Nobody cares.
Leave it to Rep. David Brat (R-Va.) to make things relevant. As an economics professor, he was the first primary challenger in history to oust a sitting House Majority Leader when he defeated former Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in the 2014 Republican primary. Brat understands what’s wrong with the federal budget, and he understands practical politics. People on both sides of the aisle should pay heed to what he has to say.
It’s not pleasant. Our nation has $19 trillion in debt and $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities. In just 11 years, all federal revenues will be spent on just entitlements and interest on the debt. Not a dime will be left for the military, education, transportation or any other federal government services.
“Even Keynes — a liberal economist — knew you had to run surpluses in good years so you could pay for deficits in bad years,” Brat recently said. But we have now had $500 billion deficits for seven consecutive years.
Congress continues to spend with reckless abandon, decisively proving P.J. O’Rourke’s adage that “giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” Bad things happen.
In this case, the bad things consist of runaway government spending that will collide with reality in 11 years or less. That’s a guaranteed financial crisis, enshrined in law, in about a decade.
That singular fact, more than any other, is why the role of the House Speaker has become controversial inside the Beltway in Washington, D.C.
The sad reality, for those aligned with Brat and his colleagues, is that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has been far too willing to sell America’s birthright to tax-and-spend liberals for a meager bowl of their entitlement pottage. Boehner and like-minded deal-makers have been far too willing to surrender the future to prove to inside-the-beltway pundits — the ones who knew all about the Dingle-Norwood bill back in 2000 — that they could get to a deal.
“We need to prove we can govern,” Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa) said to Brat in a televised exchange.
“Governing seems to always mean increased spending,” Brat reposted.
For liberals, the budget approval process is asymmetric warfare. It takes two to tango but only one side to demonize the other when a budget is not approved. After all, the presumption of tax-and-spenders is that the next budget will always bring more spending than the last.
Precisely for that reason, congressional leaders such as Brat deliver a message of uncommonly good sense at the crucial juncture when the majority in the House of Representatives selects the next Speaker. Republican members should pay heed to Brat’s admonition if they wish to avoid Cantor’s fate.
First published in The Hill in October 2015