By Rep. Kevin Brady
Imagine a company - for a century, the world's largest. It is admired for its innovation, remarkably productive workers and fearsome ability to compete and win anywhere in the world it competes.
But now the company is struggling. It has lost money 55 of the last 60 years. It is spending 25 percent more than it's taking in. That's an improvement over the recent past but the outlook worsens again later this decade.
The new CEO, initially hailed by the shareholders, has lost more money the last five years than in all the time the company has existed, combined. The most important products and services it offers, mostly to seniors and customers needing medical care, face a gloomy financial future certain to end in bankruptcy. Despite record revenue the company has hit its borrowing limit at the bank and must act.
The CEO, backed by his liberal directors, proposes telling its bankers, "Our books will never balance again, so we need to borrow more money. I have no idea if it can be repaid, and I refuse to discuss it further. Just loan us our money."
A small group of new directors has another approach. They insist the bankers be told, "We're in terrible financial shape and won't borrow more. As for the loans we owe you and the lines of credit we rely upon, we can pay some when they're due, others we can't. It all depends on cash flow, because we have no real plan to fund the products and services our customers need when they need them. We won't be a reliable company in which to invest, but surely you won't downgrade our credit rating and raise the interest rates on our existing loans or on those of our customers."
A block of conservative directors has a third approach. They say: "Tell the bank and all investors they will be paid fully on time with interest. Yes, we'll need a higher line of credit for a period while we turn this company around, but we agree that our business must change its untenable ways. We have the only credible plan to lower our company's costs while serving the most important needs of our customers. We know how to grow more revenue, which is also critical to balancing the books and eventually paying down our debt. Work with us now until we can get back on our feet. Staying the course is not an option if we hope to restore our reputation as the strongest and most reliable company in the world."
You've already guessed it, but this describes America's government as it hits its legal debt limit this week.
The president and congressional Democrats want a blank check to send America deeper in debt, unconditionally.
A tiny group of lawmakers thinks it won't be a big deal to threaten default on America's debt. Both options, says Dr. J.D. Foster, former senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, are "equally drastic."
The third option: House Republicans believe we must pay our debts on time and in full. The debt ceiling must be raised on time - in one step or two doesn't really matter - but conditioned on common-sense changes. Washington must cut its wasteful spending, both parties must take serious action to begin saving Social Security and Medicare, and together work toward fixing our broken tax code - so America can jump start its weak economy and grow the revenues we need to help balance our budget again.
Which option do you choose?