Money & The EconomyOpinion

The debt ceiling bill shows the country is moving back to the center

Since the 1950s, the US majority was generally moderate and leaning slightly to the right (conservative). That changed in 2008. By 2016, the country had moved to the left of center. In 2021 the country moved toward the far left. After the first two years of the Biden Administration working with a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate, the country moved to the far left.

With the recent passage of the debt ceiling bill, it appears that the country is moving back toward the center. The GOP hopes that with victories in 2024, they can move the country further back to the center and perhaps even return to the traditional right-of-center position.

In 2008, newly elected President Barack Obama said that his administration would fundamentally change America. He meant that he would act to move away from traditional values and toward a liberal society.

To be on the left, means that the country wants more social responsibility and less individual responsibility. It also means a larger role for government, higher taxes and less individual freedom. That is exactly opposite to what allowed the US to go from the birth of a nation to the largest, most prosperous economy in the world in about 150 years.

The US was able to accomplish this unprecedented feat because of four basic principles. The US encouraged individual freedom and individual responsibility while promoting low rates of taxation, and a limited role for government. These four traditional, conservative values produced the economic miracle in the US.

With the Obama-Biden Administration in 2009, things changed. Obama wanted more social responsibility, so he passed bills that allowed the government to take freedom and responsibility away from the individual. The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 was an example. Especially in the first two years of the Obama Administration when both houses of Congress were Democratic, Obama dramatically increased spending for social welfare programs.

Obama’s move to the left policies did reduce individual freedom, reduce individual responsibility, raise taxes and increase the role of government. That’s exactly the opposite of the principles that made the country great.

Obama eventually convinced much of the country to support these left-leaning ideas. The country was moving away from traditional, right-leaning positions.

Although the Trump Administration was somewhat successful in stopping this move to the left, it would take more than four years, especially considering the COVID problems in Trump’s last year. Still, Trump’s policies resulted in more individual freedom, more individual responsibility, lower rates of taxation and less government control.

But in 2020, the country elected Joe Biden. Much of his support came from the far-left Progressives who demanded a larger role for government and high rates of taxation especially for those who aren’t paying their “fair share.” Biden also increased government spending for social programs that shifted responsibility away from the individual.

The shift was gaining momentum through 2023 and it looked like the government would pass more left-leaning programs. But the Debt ceiling bill and the GOP House changed that.

To move the country back toward the center, the first step would be to control government spending. In 2019 the federal government spent slightly less than $4.5 trillion. In 2023, the federal government will spend $6.2 trillion, and Biden wanted spending to increase to $6.9 trillion in 2024.

The debt ceiling bill will hold most of government spending constant for next year and allow only a 1% increase in the following year. Government spending has increased every year since 1946.

While most Conservatives did not fully support the debt ceiling bill, there were enough moderates to get the bill through. This marks a shift from the far left toward the center.

This debt ceiling bill was probably the best that the GOP could do given that they barely control just the House of Representatives, although most conservatives in the House will disagree with that. The House did pass a more conservative bill, but the Senate refused to even vote on it and the President said he would veto it.

The debt ceiling bill which was overwhelmingly passed by both the House and the Senate shows Congress can compromise and that the country is moving away from far-left positions and toward the center. The GOP hopes that in 2024 there will be a GOP House, a GOP Senate and a GOP President. Then more traditional conservative policies can be implemented.

For those conservatives opposed to the debt ceiling bill, I would refer you to President Reagan who often said in situations like this, “Half a loaf of bread is better than none.”

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Michael Busler

Michael Busler, Ph.D. is a public policy analyst and a Professor of Finance at Stockton University where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Finance and Economics. He has written Op-ed columns in major newspapers for more than 35 years.

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