Posted on Oct 22, 2012
Earlier this year, the United States had the dubious distinction of surpassing the $16 trillion mark on its national debt. But that’s just the tip of the iceburg. When accounting for unfunded mandates in Social Security and Medicare, some estimates put our true debt somewhere near the $100 trillion mark.
Of course, everyone is pointing the finger at someone else. Lots of folks have lots of charts indicating how much the debt increased under such-and-such president, both in dollars and in percentage. Everyone says the “other party” bears the lion’s share of the blame.
Reagan’s tax cuts. Bush’s wars. Obama’s welfare state and sputtering attempts to jump-start the economy. Fill in the blank. Find whatever you can to make you feel better about “your” political party, turn on the TV and watch a ball game. Or start arguing about things like who should pay for whose contraception.
Meanwhile, the debt problem isn’t going anywhere. If nothing is done by January, a double whammy of tax hikes and spending cuts is set to kick in.
In the meantime, we’re cranking up the printing presses and rolling out brand-new dollar bills again, which lowers the value of your money. You can already see that in gas prices. Hey, if we’re going to devalue our currency, why shouldn’t OPEC drive up the price of oil to compensate?
This country has been given a great gift by Western Europe — a chance to see what happens when nations spend beyond their means — and we’re squandering that gift. We’re following the same path.
Idaho’s 1st Congressional District Rep. Raul Labrador has been described by his Democratic opponent, Jimmy Farris, as a “one-trick pony” of sorts, obsessed with cutting spending. A Tea Party ideologue.
But in these times, Idaho needs to send someone to Congress who isn’t afraid to say “no” once in a while — even to pet causes traditionally championed by Republicans. It may be a cliché, but it’s true: America is at a crossroads. We either follow Western Europe down the rabbit hole of society-collapsing debt, or we make the tough choices necessary to remain solvent.
Labrador is the candidate best suited to represent Idahoans’ interests at such a pivotal junction in American history. He is a traditional conservative Republican on the issues, which aligns him with Canyon County voters, but his first allegiance is to balancing the budget, and his first questions when asked about proposed legislation are “how much will it cost” and “how are we going to pay for it.”
Critics will say he hasn’t been active in any significant legislation. He has sponsored a few bills dealing with land sovereignty and grazing rights, geothermal energy and amending the Endangered Species Act, but nothing that’s really gone anywhere. But then again, Congress has been in such a state of gridlock that nobody’s really getting any significant bills through these days.
Farris says he’s the right kind of person to end that gridlock — someone who can sit down and work with both sides to get things done and stop us from going over the fiscal cliff. He says it’s time to stop blaming each other and get to work. But then, in the next sentence, he’s blaming everything on Republicans.
“There is partisanship on both sides. There is plenty of blame to go around,” Farris says in a post on his website. Right next to that is another post, which says “It’s time for the GOP to stop playing party politics and put (the) economy first.” He agrees that spending cuts must be made, but then characterizes any serious proposals to do so as mean and cruel.
On the issues, Farris is basically party-line Democrat, and his demeanor is far more confrontational and unbending than his party’s predecessor, Walt Minnick, a more moderate Democrat who did work well with Republicans much of the time in his term from 2008 to 2010.
If Farris is serious about politics, he should start by running for state Legislature and show us what he’s got. Labrador did that and earned the respect needed for our nation’s House of Representatives. Football experience alone isn’t enough for Farris.
But he does have a point about bipartisan cooperation. Labrador wisely supports a balanced budget amendment, but his support of a debt ceiling agreement was contingent upon that amendment. That isn’t the best way to get things done in such a polarized environment. It might work if 70 percent of the country — and Congress — were conservative Republicans, but in such an evenly split nation, you have to compromise. Concede on a few things in order for a few concessions from the other side. Labrador should continue to fight for necessary spending cuts, but he should also be willing to consider some forms of revenue increases, as well.
He should also make sure he’s not missing so many votes. Labrador has missed almost twice the average. You, the public, need to have your interests represented in congressional votes. But, to be clear, he hasn’t missed any game-changing votes on major issues.
Restoring fiscal sanity to the nation will revitalize confidence in Americans who are losing it, and employers who worry about the future. It’s serious stuff, and it won’t be easy. A lot of Democrats and Republicans will be unhappy at some of the steps we’ll have to take to do it.
But it must be done. And Rep. Raul Labrador is the candidate best suited for it. Then we can argue about far less important things, like grazing rights, amendments to the Endangered Species Act, or who should pay for whose contraception.
* Our view is based on the majority opinions of the Idaho Press-Tribune editorial board. Members of the board are Publisher Matt Davison, Managing Editor Vickie Holbrook, Opinion Editor Phil Bridges and community members Kim Keller, Carlos Soriano, Timothy Brown, Taylor Raney, Ken Pieksma and Nicole Gibbs.