When President Joe Biden and his team talk about a clean debt ceiling increase, it is one more example of Washington using language to deliberately mislead the American people.
They are using the word “clean” because it is a positive word. In everyday speech, it means “free of dirt, blemish, or unwanted matter.”
But in Washington-speak, “clean” means more spending, taxes, regulations, debt, and interest payments on the debt. It means weakening Medicare and Social Security, shrinking the economy, and lowering the American standard of living. A supposedly clean debt ceiling increase is the dirtiest option — and is enormously destructive.
Stopping the growing debt, widening deficits, and ballooning government are vital to the future of America. Having a clean debt ceiling deal removes one of Congress’s best tools to fix these problems. The chance for serious reform collapses if the debt ceiling is simply increased, because the pressure point disappears.
Historically, debt ceiling fights have been major opportunities to control spending, shrink projected growth in government, and insist on reforms. Caving in and giving Biden more money with no reforms eliminates the opportunity.
The Democrats’ use of “clean” is exactly what George Orwell warned about in his brilliant essay “Politics and the English Language.” Orwell — the frighteningly prescient author of the novels “1984” and “Animal Farm” — understood how dishonest politicians and bureaucrats could be while seeming to be candid and reassuring.
He wrote, “political speech and writing are largely the defence [sic] of the indefensible.…political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”
If our political system was honest, anyone who called Biden’s debt ceiling position “clean” would not be taken seriously.
Of course, being honest would doom Biden’s extreme position. It would make life much harder for those who favor higher taxes, bigger bureaucracies, and more spending than the American people support.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy has taken on the issue of controlling spending and proposed a serious, reasonable “reform debt ceiling increase” (to offer an alternative language).
Steve Moore in the Committee to Unleash Prosperity Hotline wrote:
“[McCarthy’s] plan is wise: it would suspend the debt ceiling for one year in exchange for common sense fiscal reforms…
“1. One percent cap on domestic spending
“2. No funding for 87,000 IRS agents
“3. Cancel the hundreds of billions of unspent Covid money (the green new deal)
“4. Repeal Biden student loan bailouts
“5. Enact Reins Act requiring federal reg agencies to get congressional approval for new regulations.”
As Speaker McCarthy said of the Biden administration on the floor after announcing his plan, “They have no more excuse to refuse to negotiate.
“President Biden has a choice: come to the table and stop playing partisan political games, or cover his ears, refuse to negotiate, and risk bumbling his way into the first default in our nation’s history.”
The first bipartisan support for McCarthy’s reform debt ceiling deal came from West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin. The New York Post reported that Manchin strongly criticized the White House for not playing ball with Republicans.
“While it is reasonable to sincerely disagree with any specific debt ceiling approach, we will achieve a historic default, and the economic whirlwind which follows, if President Biden continues to refuse to even negotiate a reasonable and commonsense compromise.
“To that end, I applaud Speaker McCarthy for putting forward a proposal that would prevent default and rein in federal spending.”
Ultimately, Manchin called Biden’s refusal to negotiate “a deficiency of leadership” and urged him to work with McCarthy.
“Failing to do so may score political points with the extremes of the Democratic Party, but make no mistake, it will be the American people — and our nation — who will pay the ultimate price if partisan politics continues to define our politics and policies.”
Despite the bipartisan McCarthy-Manchin appeal, Politico reported that Biden is still refusing to negotiate — and leaning on congressional Democrats to do the same.
This approach is totally puzzling. As we reported at America’s New Majority Project, the Biden Democrats’ position is supported by only 24 percent of Americans. A much larger 45 percent would only raise the debt ceiling with spending cuts. Another 16 percent would not raise the debt ceiling — and force the government to quit going into debt.
If we accurately describe the Biden position as “a dirty debt ceiling deal,” I suspect the numbers would be even worse.