Commentary: A debt deal only an extortionist would love

The cartoonist Lee Judge has it right. You don't stop your car on the tracks, in the path of a speeding locomotive, because you've decided that now is a good time to give it an overhaul.

Yet that's exactly what Republicans have done with their version of "fiscal discipline" (i.e., making government smaller), with one exception: The car they are driving isn't their own. It belongs to all of us.

The correct analogy is that GOP leaders have carjacked our vehicle, with all of us in the back seat, and then threatened to leave it on the tracks unless we agree to drain the oil from the engine and let the air out of the tires.

And that's what's going to happen if, as expected, Congress approves and the president signs a last-minute package of spending cuts that Republicans have insisted upon to raise the debt limit and prevent the nation from defaulting on its debts for the first time in history.

We can all breathe a sigh of relief that our car is no longer in the path of a speeding train. But the car we are left with is needlessly crippled and deflated, at a moment when this nation needs to get moving.

There's no doubt that the nation's debt levels are intolerable. The question is when and how to take action against them. Every leading economist will tell you that, when the economy is going great guns, you should use your surpluses to pay off loans.

Republicans could have championed this notion when the economy was booming and they had one of their own in the White House. Instead, they squandered the surplus on wars abroad and tax cuts for the wealthy.

Now that the economy is ailing and a Democrat is president, the extreme wing of the Republican Party has made debt out to be the Great Satan. It is all a ruse. Their real goal is to shrink government, at any cost, even if the burdens fall on the poor and the middle class. On that score, the debt crisis deal is a major victory for this wing of the GOP.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.sacbee.com.