Chattanooga Free Press Editorial: Corker vs. Bigger U.S. Debt

Nov 16, 2010

Our outstanding U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., commendably is calling for a “fundamental change” in federal government spending to curb the growing national debt problem.

Since sound solution will involve cutting irresponsible spending, ending too much borrowing and avoiding too-high taxing, doing the right thing will be hard. But it will be worse if we don’t start.

Not many people want to face harsh facts, especially when they involve “me,” and cutting popular programs from which we want to “get” but for which we don’t want to “pay.”

Corker surely will face much opposition for trying to “do the right thing” that many people will not want to do.

“Our debt is getting out of control and, as a result, we are having to borrow a growing share of our money from foreign sources that may have different interests than ours,” he said.

Almost everyone would agree with that. The difficulty is in dealing with the details to solve, or even alleviate, the problem.

Who wants to spend less on “entitlements,” the things we want government to “give” us?

Who is comfortable even talking about slowing Social Security payouts, or cutting domestic programs — even unnecessary ones?

Who wants to reduce Pentagon contract spending?

Many people may applaud cutting “earmarks” — spending for pet projects for certain areas — until “we” are the ones whose earmarks would be cut.

With current deficits well over $1 trillion per year and the national debt $13.7 trillion, a bipartisan deficit commission has suggested cutting the national debt by $4 trillion over the next decade. It proposes reducing federal spending from 24 percent of our 2010 “gross domestic product” — everything we produce — to “just” 21 percent of GDP, by 2037.

Would that be “in time” and “enough”? It would be very difficult to do — with a lot of people in Congress and throughout our country “kicking and screaming” against putting brakes on excessive spending.

Corker wants a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget. Should any sensible person want less? But achieving that goal could require Congress to spend $6.7 trillion less over the next decade.

Corker correctly does not want higher taxes. With our economy in crisis, he says that “this is no time to be raising taxes.”

He insists that Social Security recipients not be hurt. He wants to cure the program’s ills beginning now, however, “to make sure the program is solvent and protected for our children and grandchildren.”

In short, he is trying to do exactly what a good and responsible senator should do.

Addressing the problems of excessive spending and taxing is painful. But not addressing them can be catastrophic.

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