New Castle News


February 13, 2014

Our Opinion: Borrowing will increase, but issues remain

NEW CASTLE — Leadership in the Republican Party threw in the towel this week over any battle related to the nation’s debt ceiling.

In remarkably subdued fashion, the House leadership allowed a vote to raise the debt ceiling to take place. And while most members of the GOP voted against it, enough joined Democrats to score narrow passage.

Then in the Senate, Republican leaders balked at a filibuster by Sen. Ted Cruz to block a vote on the increase. Thus the debt ceiling bill was sent to President Obama for his signature yesterday.

What does all this mean? And what are the economic and political consequences?

Well, the answer is complicated. In a nutshell, the debt limit had to increase. America must pay its bills or face ugly consequences.

But the quick vote does nothing to address the nation’s long-term debt issues. In the past, there have been efforts to control spending tied to deals to increase the debt ceiling. Unfortunately, they haven’t always gone so well, such as with last year’s standoff.

Many of these efforts make good political theater for those seeking to claim they are fiscally responsible. At the end of the day, however, the nation’s debt still grows.

Americans who are concerned about the country’s debt — and we count ourselves in that group — ought to understand that both parties are falling down on the job. Democrats show only marginal interest in the subject, while Republicans take stands that mainly nibble around the edges of the problem.

Controlling spending obviously has to be part of debt reduction. That includes spending in a wide array of categories that impacts interest groups supportive of both parties.

And it also means a serious move must be made to reform the nation’s tax code. That’s a politically popular call in theory, but there is precious little movement in that regard from Washington.

Changing the tax laws is a complex process that can produce lots of winners and losers. Defenders of the status quo aren’t keen on altering rules they see as beneficial to them.

But the tax code is a mass of special-interest goodies that appear to have nothing to do with advancing the nation’s economic interests or raising revenue in a reasonable fashion. We often hear how complex America’s tax code is, but much of this is the result of members of Congress adding language that’s favorable to influential constituents.

A clearer, simpler tax code would provide a variety of benefits, not the least of which is greater public confidence in the nation’s tax collection system. It probably also would provide more revenue for government if special interests aren’t being shielded.

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