With a possible government shutdown once again staring them in the face, congressional Republicans would do well to take two hours to watch the Tom Cruise flick “Jerry Maguire.” The bottom line in the politics business is the same as it was for Maguire’s client, Rod Tidwell, an NFL receiver who kept telling his agent, “Show me the money.”
Tidwell’s point was simple and particularly appropriate now for a Congress staring at a $1.3 trillion federal deficit and an electorate clamoring for an end to out-of-control government spending: Words are fine, but you have to show us spending cuts today if you expect to be re-elected.
This week, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., unaware that reporters were listening in, gave a candid summary of Democrats’ strategy as a conference call was scheduled with four of his Senate allies. He told Sens. Barbara Boxer of California, Tom Carper of Delaware, Ben Cardin of Maryland and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut to say Republicans are not negotiating seriously because all of their spending cut proposals are “extreme.” Before panicked aides hushed Schumer, he said House Speaker John Boehner had to stop listening to the tea party and offer a “reasonable compromise.”
But Schumer, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and most of the Senate Democratic majority have made clear that for them “reasonable” means no real cuts, with the result that trillion-dollar deficits will continue as far as the eye can see.
Congressional Democrats are holding out against substantive spending cuts, confident they and the liberal mainstream media have so spooked Republicans with fear of “another government shutdown” that the GOP will eventually cave and settle either for minimal cuts or promises of a political fig leaf like a vote on a balanced-budget amendment.
This is where the “Jerry Maguire” line comes in: Congressional Republicans have a choice to make. On the one hand, they can do what many of their leaders expect, which is to continue business as usual on Capitol Hill by agreeing to such a sham. That course will keep the country stumbling toward the fiscal disaster, economic ruin and national humiliation that inevitably results from such political irresponsibility.
On the other hand, congressional Republicans can demand that members of their caucus follow the morally right and politically prudent course, which is to keep the government open by voting for significant spending cuts and a start on terminating duplicative federal programs. Democrats will then have to decide to either join Republicans in that effort or shut down the government in defense of policies that are leading to economic disaster.
In other words, first show us the money in spending cuts and program terminations, then make change permanent with process reforms like a balanced-budget amendment. Voters didn’t elect Republicans to make more promises about changing Washington, D.C. They elected them to do it.