We support President Obama's proposal for a "debt commission" to rein in federal spending. It's out of control, and it's clear Congress is either incapable or unwilling to stop the overspending.
The Financial Times of London says, "The U.S. must fix its growing debt problems or risk a new financial crisis," quoting a Federal Reserve official in Kansas City.
The thing is, Obama has been a chief proponent of deficit spending -- and to the extent presidents are able to, he's become the biggest spender in American history.
Imagine for a moment a multi-panel editorial cartoon in which Obama starts eating. With each panel, he keeps eating and keeps growing fatter. In the final panel, a morbidly obese president is sitting on a doctor's examination table saying, "Doc, find out what's wrong with me."
That's pretty much what he's doing in setting up a debt commission. It's no mystery what the problem is -- and he's been helping cause it. Neither the disease nor the cure requires an expert to diagnose and prescribe!
But OK, we accept the sad state of affairs in Washington: Our elected officials as a group do not have the wherewithal to stop the obscene spending, which is threatening the viability of this republic. They need help.
An executive-branch debt commission is better than none. But it's the legislative branch -- Congress -- that holds the purse strings. Too bad Congress can't admit its impotence in this matter and agree to set up a debt commission of its own, which would prescribe spending discipline (especially in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid), which the House and Senate would then be required to vote up or down on without tearing it apart in debate.
Some believe the president's desire for a debt commission is little more than a vehicle to raise taxes. Indeed, the president recently acknowledged he is "agnostic" about raising taxes on the middle class -- amazingly, since the cornerstone of his campaign in 2008 was no new taxes of any kind for anyone making under $200,000 or so. We hope the skeptics are wrong. This is no time for new taxes; Americans are getting crushed by them already.
It's also important whom the president puts on the commission, and what the members' predilictions and philosophies are. We're rather skeptical the group will be overly laden with free-market, low-tax advocates.
But let's see what they come up with. If the panel's recommendations are worthy, Congress can always adopt them.
Our fiscal future may depend on it.