Earlier today, my friend Jonathan Bydlak was published at National Review Online. Jonathan, the President of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, called for the public and Members of Congress to join him in participating in the other half of the Norquist Pledge — his Coalition’s “Reject the Debt” pledge. From the piece:
Imagine if instead of pledging not to raise taxes, all those politicians had pledged not to raise spending. It’s unlikely the United States would be facing massive tax increases as part of the so-called fiscal cliff. That’s why it’s important to do for spending what Norquist has done for taxes: create a means for voters to hold elected officials accountable when they break campaign promises of fiscal responsibility.
Our claim is a simple one: Spending more than you take in is dangerous because that money ultimately has to come from somewhere. When a government operates on an unbalanced budget, the tax burden is passed not only onto future generations but also onto our own, diminishing our opportunities through indirect taxation, such as higher interest rates and inflation.
Both parties have failed in this regard. We’ve seen Medicare Part D under Bush, the Affordable Care Act under Obama, and bank and auto bailouts combined with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan under both presidents.
It’s time for all of us to take our hands out of the cookie jar. Having the Pentagon spending billions running grocery stores doesn’t make the U.S. strong on defense. And keeping the retirement age indefinitely at 65, even as Americans are leading longer and healthier lives, doesn’t make us compassionate. Both mean that we’re fattening up at the expense of our grandkids’ standard of living.
I have known Jonathan and some of his colleagues for about six months, and they have really done a lot of great work. According to Jonathan in a phone conversation this morning, Ted Cruz and Doug Collins, both Members-elect, have signed the Pledge. A total of 24 candidates signed the Pledge in the primaries, and 11 candidates in their respective general elections. Cruz and Collins were the only signers to be elected.
Earlier this week, Jonathan was declared to be “the 29-year old who wants to be the next Grover Norquist” in multiple publications for his Pledge. The Pledge is pretty simple, and consists of the following planks:
1.) Vote against any budget that isn’t balanced or any bill that increases net spending
2.) Be willing to cut expenditures for all government programs
3.) Reject any increase in the government’s borrowing capacity. Only congressional authorizations for military force are exempt from the pledge.
Unfortunately, as is true with any major push of this sort, the Reject the Debt Pledge suffers from two problems, both of which I noted when I interviewed Jonathan in June. Namely, the Pledge says candidates will not support an imbalanced budget or support an increase in the debt ceiling — which means any plan that takes more than one year to balance the budget isn’t good enough, and cutting 30% from the federal budget while allowing an increase in the debt ceiling would be inconsistent, even if that 30% was the first big step to balancing the budget in a two-year period.
Jonathan’s defense of these problems is one of political pragmatism. Here is what he told me regarding the debt ceiling:
When it comes to pledges, there has to be flexibility. Grover Norquist [President of Americans for Tax Reform] offers flexibility in his pledge all the time, and it makes him more effective. Senator Paul opposes raising the debt ceiling, but he has said he will raise it in order to get a Balanced Budget Amendment vote. Our goal isn’t to back people into a corner, but to affect real policy change. We’re open to being flexible in upcoming debates over the debt ceiling if there are real, substantive cuts on the table.