Power of the purse

To the Journal editor:

Spent too much money this Christmas. Big family. Now the bills are coming due. My credit is good, interest is low. I could easily borrow money to pay the bills. But that would only encourage me to do it again next year. I need a little fiscal discipline. So I guess I just won’t pay those bills.

Make sense to you? Now let’s think about the debt ceiling. I heard a congresswoman on TV shrieking, actually shrieking, that refusing to raise the debt limit is “the only way to stop this president from spending.”

Has she never read the U.S. Constitution? Does she not realize that Congress, not the president, holds the power of the purse? Only Congress can appropriate money and only Congress can raise taxes to pay for their expenditures.

The debt ceiling was first authorized during World War I, to allow the Treasury to sell War bonds without having to go repeatedly to Congress. However, as our debt grew over the years, so did our practice of raising the debt ceiling. Just since 1960, the limit has been raised 78 times: 49 times under Republican presidents and 29 times under Democratic presidents.

The limit is raised to allow the selling of more government bonds to pay our legal obligations. Soldiers, veterans, government contractors, air traffic controllers, food inspectors, FBI agents, U.S. Coast Guard, border patrols, etc. all rely upon the government to pay them for the services Congress has purchased, not to mention income tax refunds, FDIC, pensions, even the food to feed VA patients. Everything costs money.

If Congress refuses to raise the debt limit, will it decrease the national debt? Not one whit. Congress has already spent the money. And every president has gone along. Refusing to borrow money to pay the bills just means we duck out on our bills. Instead of ordinary debt, it becomes bad debt. A nation of welshers.

The debt limit does not authorize new spending commitments. It simply allows the government to finance existing legal obligations that Congresses of both parties have made in the past.

The way for Congress to cut future spending is for Congress to cut future spending. After all, Congress holds the power of the purse. How about a little SISU here?

It is not seemly for them merely to cry, “Stop me before I spend again!”

Lola Johnson