Editorial: Congress misses the big picture on U.S. debt

Doublethink,” George Orwell wrote, “means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” The current “deficit-reduction” plan that will actually increase America’s debt would make Orwell roll over in his grave.

Under the proposal, the federal government would trim nearly $50 billion in spending — mostly from programs serving the poor and almost $15 billion from student loans — in order to finance tax cuts that would cost the country even more. Ironically, this self-proclaimed return to fiscal discipline for lawmakers comes just months after they approved tens of billions of dollars in pork spending attached to the highway and energy bills.

After watching the red ink swell, all Americans should welcome an honest dialogue about our nation’s priorities. Sadly, we must all wait a bit longer for the honesty.

Closing the budget gap will likely entail tightening belts for all, including students; that may mean asking us to do more with less financial aid. However, spending cuts must also be matched with structured tax increases — or, at least, no further tax reductions. Both low taxes and a well-educated populace help fuel economic growth, and one should not come at the expense of the other.

Though Congress refuses to admit it, debt — whether the result of excessive spending or inadequate taxes — only discourages future investment, hurting the economy for years to come.

These days, when it seems that lawmakers are more interested in robbing Peter to pay Paul, Orwell offers valuable advice: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”