Most lawmakers in Washington no longer even pretend to care about federal spending and our debt crisis. The spending binge these days not only signals a collapse of serious statesmanship but highlights our broken federal government. Six major candidates are vying to be the next U.S. senator in North Carolina, and any unwillingness to tackle the obscene spending should be an automatic disqualifier by voters.

The Democrat candidates are Cheri Beasley, a former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, former state Sen. Erica Smith, and Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg. On the Republican side, U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, former Congressman Mark Walker, and former Gov. Pat McCrory are all vying for the soon-to-be-open seat.

One of the few U.S. senators who continually sounds the alarm on our spending crisis is Rand Paul, R-Kentucky. In a recent interview with the Foundation for Economic Education, he rightly puts the blame on both political parties.

“I think inflation is pretty easy to explain and people need to know what causes inflation,” Paul said. “[The federal government] gets debt, then the Federal Reserve prints up new money to pay for the debt, that new money enters circulation, and that expansion of the money supply [leads to] inflation.”

As the nation approaches the $30-trillion debt mark, spending continually increases no matter which party holds power. (Those who remember the 1980s recall how the $2-trillion debt was considered a national crisis.

Paul is right. A loose monetary policy of printing more money devalues the dollar, wiping away the earnings and savings of lower- and middle-class Americans.

Republicans and Democrats have both continually blown through debt ceilings, while borrowing more and more with no end in sight. The consequences of all this spending and debt are starting to hit Americans through higher prices on items such as retail goods, housing, energy, food, and transportation.

Amazingly, most lawmakers hyperventilate about any decreases in federal spending, and mere suggestions of belt-tightening are automatically deemed uncompassionate by the media.

Why is this? Simply put, the vast majority don’t have the moral and political courage to turn off the spending valve.

For North Carolinians, McCrory may offer credibility as a governor who oversaw surpluses at the state level. Still, does he have enough courage to stand up against his own political party? How many Republican governors implemented meaningful spending reform at the state level and have done little to nothing in Congress?

Budd and Walker have been critical of federal spending and the debt, but this is true of many House Republicans, and nothing changed even when they controlled the gavel in Washington. Budd voted against raising the debt ceiling in September, but that still does nothing to restructure runaway spending. Those actions only sow government shutdowns and potential economic chaos.

Walker highlights the doublespeak in his own party: “Republicans can’t keep continuing to be talking about monitoring our spending and still continue to vote for every spending bill that comes down the pipe.”

Democrat candidates might offer appeal, too. But only if they can reflect past budget hawks in their own party who showed legitimate concern about federal spending and the danger of debt. At times, they have shown willingness to work with state Republicans to pass fiscally responsible budgets for North Carolina.

There has to be something more heroic emanating from Washington than groveling for more federal spending as we approach $30-trillion in debt. The status quo is no longer sustainable and only leads to a more meager existence for those who can least afford it.

Ray Nothstine is opinion editor of Carolina Journal and a research fellow on Second Amendment issues at the John Locke Foundation.