In March of 2006, then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama offered an impassioned rebuke of runaway Republican deficit spending during a debate over the nation's debt ceiling.
"The fact we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure," Obama said at the time. "It is a sign that the U.S. government can't pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our government's reckless fiscal policies.
"Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally," Obama continued. "Leadership means that 'the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren."
Spoken like a true Tea Partier, right?
Of course, Obama changed his tune upon being elected - dramatically accelerating the very fiscal policies he previously chastised as "reckless." Now the "reckless" ones - according to both Obama and GOP strategist Karl Rove - are the pro-free market, pro-liberty fiscal conservatives advocating the spending restraint Obama once claimed to stand for (and which the Republican Party still claims to stand for).
Yet ask Obama and he'll tell you that these socially libertarian, common sense fiscal conservatives are destroying the country. And if you ask Rove he'll tell you they are destroying the Republican Party.
In both cases nothing could be further from the truth - and I've got the numbers to prove it.
Prior to the most recent stopgap debt deal, Democrats and Republicans in Washington had approved $11.2 trillion in new deficit spending dating back to 2002. Breaking down this total, $3.4 trillion was approved by George W. Bush and "Republican" Congresses, $2.4 trillion was approved by Bush and Democratic Congresses, $3 trillion was approved by Obama and Democratic Congresses, and $2.4 trillion was approved by Obama and a divided Congress.
In other words neither party has protected America's current and future generations of taxpayers - choosing instead to support Washington D.C.'s special interest-fed spending orgy (which subsidizes an aggressive centralized bureaucracy that routinely suppresses liberty and prosperity).
Spending is only part of the problem, too. Both Bush and Obama have embraced the failed command economic interventionism of Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve - which continues to print up to $85 billion a month in fiat money, cash that invariably winds up lining the pockets of Wall Street fat cats.
Was this what Obama - a self-proclaimed champion of the middle class - had in mind in 2008 when he told Joe the Plumber he wanted to "spread the wealth around"?
Because according to former Fed official Andrew Huszar, this $3.2 trillion (and counting) scheme represents "the greatest backdoor Wall Street bailout of all time."
Here's the thing: Wealth should be spread around - but only according to the laws of supply and demand and the innovative capacity of individuals operating within the free market. Prosperity is expanded for all people when taxes are low and government is small - and suppressed when taxes are high and government is too big.
Yet where is the political party advancing this simple, undefiled truth? Sadly the answer is "nowhere to be found."
At the federal, state and local levels GOP and the Democratic politicians love to throw rhetorical bombs at one other - vague, clichéd barbs sensationalized by the mainstream media (which thrives on meaningless conflict as a means of perpetuating its false narrative).
But the unavoidable truth is that both major political parties are slaves to the same system. Look no further than their shared refusal to make meaningful spending cuts - or their shared assault on the handful of elected officials who do propose specific spending reductions.
America is on an unsustainable fiscal course - and will remain locked on that course until a party emerges that is willing to faithfully and aggressively advance free-market alternatives.
Thomas Ravenel is a Charleston-based commercial real estate developer who was elected state treasurer as a Republican in 2006 and resigned in 2007.