Be Careful When Writing Blank Checks

COMMENTARY Budget and Spending

Be Careful When Writing Blank Checks

Oct 1st, 2021 2 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Richard Stern

Senior Policy Analyst, Budget Policy

Richard is a senior policy analyst for budget policy at The Heritage Foundation.
President Joe Biden talks to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as he leaves after meeting with House Democrats on October 01, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

Congressional Democrats’ $3.5 trillion tax-and-spending plan would greatly expand the power and reach of the federal government.

Many view excessive federal spending and debts as some beyond-the-horizon burden that will only be felt by a yet unborn generation. That is not the case.

As reckless federal fiscal policies have grown this debt, it has quietly sapped our economic growth. Without this debt we would have a more prosperous society.

Congressional Democrats’ $3.5 trillion tax-and-spending plan would greatly expand the power and reach of the federal government. Its fate rests on what Congress does with the debt limit.

House Democrats recently offered a plan to suspend the debt limit. The provision, quietly tucked into the corner of a completely different bill, would conveniently suspend the debt limit past the midterm congressional elections.

Make no mistake, a suspension of the debt limit is nothing more than a blank check. While suspended, the limit ceases to exist, leaving the federal government free to rack up as much debt as it possibly can. 

Please understand: the Democrats control both chambers of Congress and could increase the debt limit, by a specific dollar amount, themselves. How? By using the same partisan process they are using to advance their massive tax-and-spending package.

>>> 4 Ways to Understand Democrats’ $3.5 Trillion Spending Bill

The only reason they don’t do that is because they want to leave their options open, at your expense, and don’t want to be transparent about how much they plan to add to the national credit card.

This presents Congress with a choice: to either quietly grant another blank check for the further expansion of government, or to enact meaningful spending reforms that will safeguard Americans’ future.

Previous debt limit fights have resulted in the enactment of the pay-as-you-go rules and the Budget Control Act, which helped slow the Obama spending binge. Congress should use this opportunity to adopt fiscal reforms that will ensure long-term balance through spending restraints. The reforms should also cap federal taxation and prohibit suspensions of the debt limit.

Many view excessive federal spending and debts as some beyond-the-horizon burden that will only be felt by a yet unborn generation. That is not the case.

Before the government can spend a dollar, it must first take or borrow that dollar from someone who earned it. This stunts private-sector growth and puts that money under the control of politicians and bureaucrats. 

Whereas the creditworthiness of an individual or company is based on merit, the creditworthiness of a government is based on its power to tax someone in the future. This blunt power lets the government borrow under whatever terms are required to crowd out private investment.

The current $28.4 trillion national debt equals roughly one-fifth of American household assets. These funds were pushed out of private investment and locked away at the direction of the federal government.

The national debt represents only a portion of what the government has taken from Americans and repurposed to meet the desires of federal bureaucrats and politicians. The misallocation of such a large portion of the nation’s assets stunts wage and job growth today.

The runaway trajectory of the national debt will compound these burdens each day that goes by without reform. In just 30 years, the publicly held debt will reach 202% of our economy, and net interest costs on the debt will consume over 8.6%.

>>> Clean Debt-Limit Suspension Is a Blank Check for Ever-Expanding Government

That interest cost alone is equal to the annual production value of all agricultural, forestry, fishing, mining, oil extraction, utility, air and rail transportation, and construction industries in the United States. That is the volume of the annual work and productivity of the American people that will be consumed simply to service the federal government’s debt.

This debt burden was not created in a single generation. As reckless federal fiscal policies have grown this debt, it has quietly sapped our economic growth as well. Without this debt, we would, today, have a more prosperous society that offers more economic mobility for all Americans.

Continuing to indulge the reckless spending and tax plans of the left will compound these burdens. Whether through lower wages, higher prices and unemployment, or reduced access to goods and services, the blank check they want will have your name at the bottom.

This piece originally appeared in The Washington Times