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John McCain's Good Idea
Paying Down the Debt the Only Real Answer

By William Swann


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Decades ago, somebody pressed a record.

There was one record for Democrats -- it said spend more.  There was one for Republicans -- it said cut taxes.

Good times or bad, they literally cannot stop playing these records.

As usual, no other option is on the table.  We either head into the future dramatically slashing taxes, or ramping up spending.

The frightening possibility this year is that we'll try to do both.

What goes unrecognized is the third option.  A certain brash and irrepressible Senator suggested this option when he was out on the campaign trail trying to convince us he could be president.

It's what any reasonable person would do, he told us.

McCain said we should keep tax cuts and new spending to modest levels.  And he said we should take those big surpluses and use them to knock big chunks out of the 5.7 trillion dollar federal debt.

He said we should protect Social Security, and he made the obvious point that the surplus provides the resources.  Using it wisely makes it possible to keep our promises to the broad segment of Americans approaching retirement.

How do you make funds available to the system ten, twenty, or thirty years from now?  You pay down the debt.  A lean government approaches the coming demographic crisis with an ability to borrow money.  An already bloated government doesn't.

And how do you keep a roaring economy going?  Dramatic debt reduction lowers interest rates for everyone.  People's mortgage rates, car loans, credit card payments all go down.  Businesses can borrow money cheaper.

It's like a tax cut with a wonderful extra silver lining.  In accepting this form of a cut, rather than the one currently contemplated, we get to simultaneously relieve our children of a potentially crushing debt burden.

It's good for the kids.  It's good for us.  What could be better? 

People remember McCain for his daring and dogged work on campaign finance reform (it's not like he'd *let* us forget, right?). 

But they've forgotten the bigger idea ... the one that smashes the broken records both parties carry around on economic policy, and quite possibly gives us the keys to a bright future.

William Swann, 2001

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