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After attending the Young America’s Foundation’s 2011 National Conservative Student Conference in Washington, D.C (August 1-5), I have new insight on the content of the Debt Limit deal, the strategy behind it, and what America can anticipate in the future. Before the deal passed, I took the professional decision as the President of the Brandeis Tea Party Nation to make a public statement on my club’s facebook page.
I wrote on July 29th,
“Right now, the mainstream media is trying to make the Tea Party appear to be a roadblock to a 2012 Republican victory, with its “unanimous” opposition to Boehner’s plan. This is suspiciously oversimplified. While the Tea Party Nation, Tea Party Patriots, and other conservative organizations such as Townhall.com, Freedomworks, the Heritage Foundation, and The Tea Party.net have spoken out against specifically raising the debt ceiling, their opposition is not to the principle of Boehner’s plan, but a high-standard criticism of its every detail. You could say this is the caveat of free will–and it is an honorable thing that our members hold every individual to the same standards, constantly seek to improve their own representatives, and reject elitism. However, as former U.S. ambassador John Bolton recently said, this vote is strategic, and signing on to Boehner’s plan is not a compromise, but a battle that desperately needs to be won. The Greater Waltham Tea Party understand this and supports Boehner’s plan, acknowledging that it isn’t perfect, and I agree with them personally. Charles Krauthammer made a similar argument in his recent piece, “Conservative vision better focused”. I refuse to force anyone’s hand, but in this battle for the future of free will, it is an irony that for the purposes of power, we must realize that becoming a temporary collective will not compromise the values of integrity that we all hold dear. Please consider Boehner’s plan in this way, so that we can bring out the true power of the Tea Party for this momentous year! ”
My position remains the same after hearing from Congressional Republicans, national security analysts, and journalists who spoke at the 2011 National Conservative Student Conference, although I’m now more critical of the deal and very anxious about national security, as I’ll explain.
First, let’s recap on the current situation: as of a few days, our credit rating has decreased from AAA to AA+ status, and America has an approximate 14.5 trillion national debt, not including the costs of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. This translates into every man, woman, and child in America owing approximately $50,000 each. Overall unemployment over the past nine months has been approximately averaged at 9%, and the inclusion of underemployment doubles that number to 18%. The Obama administration has borrowed $4.5 trillion over the past three years, with 27% of that money borrowed from China. GDP growth has reached levels as low as 1.3 % and 0.4 %. Before Obama came to office, gas prices averaged at $1.85 a gallon. Today, average gas prices have more than doubled to $3.68 per gallon. The Democrat-controlled Senate has not passed a budget in more than 820 days, and the Republican-controlled House has failed to pass seven appropriations bills.
Flash forward to the present day, after which the Debt Limit Deal has passed. At the National Conservative Student Conference, the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes stated that it reduces borrowing from $10 trillion to $6 trillion—although the ideal number would be $0 of borrowing given our current economic recession. Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) admitted that while he voted against the deal, it did indeed contain tax cuts and spending reduction. Several days earlier, Congressman Allen West (R-FL), who voted for the deal, insisted that passing the deal was a strategic move that made Obama irrelevant, changed the national dialogue to how much should be cut and not spent, and has provided an opportunity to bring a Balanced Budget Amendment to the states. Indeed, Stephen Hayes agreed that this deal has not only politically harmed Obama on the heels of the next presidential election, but that, with the significant help of Tea Party criticism, the national conversation has shifted to conservative reasoning. On the other hand, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), who voted against the deal, stated that it was not subject to an amendment process and that spending cuts were decided upon by a behind-the-scenes joint committee. However, he interestingly agreed with Congressman West that a Balanced Budget Amendment should be brought to the states because it would force the government to restrict spending as a percentage of GDP. In terms of spending cuts, to paraphrase Marc Thiessen, the passage of this deal was a major victory for fiscal conservatives but a major blow for national security. Thiessen stated that of the spending cuts in the Debt Limit deal, $350 billion came from the defense budget. Congressman Jim Jordan reinforced this picture of dire national security funding when he pointed out that less than 4% of GDP is spent on national defense.
This fact in particular has frightened me enough to seriously question my support for this deal. However, I’ve decided to retain some optimism now that it has passed, and note the insight of Reagan national security guru KT McFarland. She pointed out that, as in the Reagan Adminstration, national security is inextricably linked to economic soundness, and effective defensive measures are gradual and begin with a strong economy. It goes without saying that despite the Debt Limit deal’s defense cuts, and the $400 billion of defense cuts Obama implemented over his first term, the American military is still the best in the world. If this Debt Limit deal will allow Republicans to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment and simultaneously contribute to a campaign strategy that will remove Obama from a second term, (and replace him with a Republican who will build up our defenses again) America may yet be saved. For now, America needs the Tea Party’s steadfast criticism to further the national conversation on repairing the U.S. economy with responsible spending cuts and lower taxes. I sincerely hope that their influence on American culture, and hopefully the Balanced Budget Amendment, will be complimentary steps for taking back America both economically and socially. Until then, let’s take advantage of how far we’ve come, and keep fighting for a significantly better future.