By U.S. Senator Roy Blunt
“Show me your budget, and I will tell you what you value.” That’s what Joe Biden said last summer, and he meant it as a criticism of Republicans. The vice president’s comment raises a question: Where are the Democrats’ values? They’re in hiding, judging from their unwillingness to present any budget plans for almost four years.
Republicans have drawn up and voted for serious budgets that make tough choices – even though making those choices exposed our side to political attacks. We were willing to take the hits, accept the controversy and make our case to the American people. The budgets we have proposed have, just as Biden said, reflected our aspirations: a strong defense, an affordable safety net, a private sector with the running room to thrive and renewed economic growth.
The Democrats have been less forthcoming. Senate Democrats now routinely ignore their legal obligation to pass a budget. House Republicans say that the Senate should either pass a budget or forfeit its pay – and they are right. Too often, though, the press has treated the Senate’s failure to budget as a minor procedural matter.
On the few occasions when reporters ask Democrats why they have chosen to dispense with budgets, Democrats have offered non-answers. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), for example, claimed that Democrats did not need to have budgets because of the sequester deal of mid-2011. The Senate parliamentarian said that action wasn’t a budget and she was right.
We will see whether Schumer’s words prove more binding on Democrats than the budget laws have been. In all likelihood, Democrats have opted not to pass budgets because they believe the political price would be too high.
Budgets lay out plans and the Democrats don’t have any plans that will pass the straight-face test with the American people. The public will not tolerate the amount of debt and taxes that their spending plans require. If the federal government is to come anywhere close to balancing the budget at the elevated spending levels the Democrats desire, we will have to tax Americans at all income levels at historically unprecedented rates. Or we will have to accept crippling and dangerous levels of federal debt – much worse even than today’s.
Debt and taxes beyond anything we’ve ever seen: That future may reflect the values of today’s Washington Democrat, but it’s not a political message they can afford to send.
Worse still for the Democrats, a budget of their own would take the sting out of their attacks on Republicans. Right now, they can attack Republicans for savage cuts without having to make an apples-to-apples comparison. They don’t compare our spending restraint, for example, to the ruinously high middle-class taxes their own policies will require. They compare our budget, implicitly, to a fantasyland where no choices need ever be made – where budgeting is no longer necessary.
It’s been said that failing to plan is planning to fail. When it comes to our budgetary future, though, that’s the Democrats’ strategy.
As Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, you may recall, openly told Congress that the administration has no plan to deal with the long-term debt problem; it just knows it doesn’t like the Republican plan.
My Republican colleagues and I have voted for a budget that levels with the public about the difficult choices we face in this fiscal environment. It’s time Democrats do the same.