Ribble Op-ed: End the Fiscal Cliff Jousting Match

The Green Bay Press-Gazette 

December 21, 2012

Americans are fed up with the jousting occurring between President Obama and Republican congressional leadership on the fiscal cliff. There is a lot of public posturing but apparently not much genuine conversation.

Here’s the reality: when facing a $16 trillion debt and spending 32 percent more money each year than we take in, revenue must go up and spending must go down. There are no other choices. So the debate is centered on how to collect more revenue and where to cut spending. 

Neither party is without fault. Republicans must confront their own conventional wisdom that says, “the only way to shrink government is to starve it of resources.”  Government has consistently grown in size and interfered with the private sector…during periods of both high and low tax rates. Spending has become completely decoupled from revenue and that’s a dangerous policy.  What, in fact, has actually happened under this strategy is that both the debt and the size of government have grown and all debt is simply a future tax on the next generation…someone, someday will have to pay the bill for the debt driven spending today.

Democrats must challenge their orthodoxy as well. While annual revenues are roughly what they were in 2006--just a few years ago-- spending has increased by $1 trillion every year since 2008. Democrats argue that the only way to increase jobs is to increase consumer spending, so they fight for more stimulus and temporary giveaways. Yet consumer spending is at historic levels. If consumer spending alone created jobs we would have the most robust job environment in the world right now.

So to Republicans I say, instead of the “borrow and spend” orthodoxy consider asking the American people to pay for the government that they have – then just maybe they will agree with you and demand a government that does less. To Democrats I say, instead of your “tax and spend” orthodoxy consider removing the regulatory friction points in our economy that have been installed.

We must recognize that even though raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans makes good politics, it does little to solve our nation’s financial crisis. The $16 trillion dollar debt will not magically disappear on the backs of 2 percent of Americans. In fact it will only reduce this year’s deficit by about 7 percent. We can’t just have a 7 percent solution for a 100 percent problem. All of us receive the benefits so all of us must share the sacrifice – either in the form of higher taxes or lower government benefits.

Democrats have to demonstrate their willingness to put serious spending reductions on the table and Republicans need to offer a pro-growth, pro-job agenda that includes revenue. Most importantly both sides need to lay down their swords and act like the problem solvers the American people deserve and expect.

Click here to read the op-ed online at the Green Bay Press-Gazette