Suppose you have a teenager and you give them a credit card, but place a limit on how much they can borrow. They reach the limit and now ask to be able to borrow more. What would be your response as a responsible parent?
The following three choices are before you:
1. Refuse to increase your teenager's borrowing limit and demand they cut their spending to be able to pay future bills.
2. Only increase your teenager's borrowing limit if you institute serious reforms on how they spend their money so that this never happens again.
3. Increase your teenager's borrowing limit with no spending reforms, risking that they will keep adding on new debt and eventually result in a massive debt that you’ll have to pay for.
I would venture to say that no responsible parent would choose the third option, one that sends the teenager the wrong message that they can keep acting irresponsibly and get away with it and is against the parents’ own monetary self-interest.
The above situation undoubtedly occurs in households across America and more tragically is the exact situation we are in with our federal government, as it is, again, expected to reach its borrowing limit in late February to early March. The government, like the teenagers, has reached its borrowing limit once again and is requesting the ability to borrow more on a credit card we set up for them. And this decision comes with the unfortunate difference that we, the "parents" aka taxpayers likely won’t pay the bill – instead we are using the force of government to make future generations pay most of the bill .
So how should we, American taxpayers, the responsible parents in this situation, respond?
After thinking about how the debt ceiling debate is just like one we may have in our own household with our teenagers, I doubt few taxpayers would choose the third option.
However, many of our so-called representatives are still demanding the third option of more borrowing authority with no changes in spending, the desire of a teenager. President Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress are unfortunately in this camp.
It is important to note that both political parties have acted like teenage spending addicts in racking up this debt, but at least Republicans have admitted they have a problem, the first step for an addict.
Further, Republicans now propose the responsible option of increasing the debt ceiling, in agreement with Democrats, but unlike them, are demanding it be increased along with serious fiscal reforms so that this never happens again and we bring an end to the era of stealing from our children. It is far past time for the Democratic leadership to join them and stop acting like teenagers.
President Obama is once again accusing Republicans of playing hostage with our nation’s credit rating by demanding serious fiscal reforms to increase our nation’s debt limit. But just as you deal with any teenager who is unwilling to act responsibly on their own, you also find points of leverage over them to force them to act responsibly. For your teenager, that leverage may be the school dance, and for Democrats, Republicans have prudently chosen the debt ceiling.
If Democrats decide to act like adults and embrace serious fiscal reforms, there would be no need to have a fight over the debt ceiling, but until that day we have no choice but to use blunt instruments in order to save our children from a future of debt, doubt, and decline.
Oh the teenagers.
Alex Cortes is the Executive Director of Let Freedom Ring, a conservative public policy organization.