By Tom Quiner
President Obama is correct that Republicans should increase the debt ceiling.
Quiner’s Diner’s readers, I’m sure, are stunned to read those words in light of the prodigious pummeling this humble blogger has dished on the president.
Many of you may be sputtering that Barack Obama is a shameless hypocrite on this subject. And, of course, you would be correct.
Let us recap his hypocrisy before returning to my point.
Senator Obama famously said back in 2005,
“You don’t have to be a deficit hawk to be disturbed by the growing gap between revenues and expenses.”
The next year, he intoned from the Senate floor,
“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. 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.”
Sounding like a Republican, he expressed concerns about being “tied to the whims of foreign leaders” who might try to leverage their clout at the expense of U.S. interests:
“Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally.”
And then the kicker:
“I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.”
Has anything changed since he uttered those apparently insincere words?
They’ve gotten worse under his watch.
Is Barack Obama a shameless hypocrite who will say anything for the sake of political expediency?
Of course he is.
On the other hand, Republican presidents have raised the debt ceiling more often than Democrats, as you will see in the video above.
Now that we’ve gotten all of that hypocrisy out of the way, is Senator Obama right or is President Obama right?
The Constitution suggests that President Obama is right when he calls for an increase in the debt ceiling. After all, it states that the U.S. government has to pay its debts.
Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, have spent all of this money. And they’ve done a poor job of it.
Take Medicare. Did you know that the average person pays $109,000 into the program, but receives $343,000 in benefits?
We can’t afford all of this spending and unsustainable benefits. Republicans are correct that we need to reduce federal spending. However, it’s unbecoming for the GOP to manufacture another new political spectacle by stonewalling on an increase in the debt ceiling. Even more, it is a political loser … unless they handle it correctly.
Let’s face it, all the president has to do is suggest that seniors won’t receive their social security checks because of those damn Republicans, and it’s over.
Republicans will cave.
They will be the political losers in this latest manufactured drama.
They should give the president what he wants, with a twist, as suggested by Keith Hennessey in the Wall Street Journal this morning.
He suggests that Republicans present two proposals to Senate Democrats and the White House:
“Step one is for House Republicans to argue for and pass a debt-limit increase combined with present and future spending cuts. Mr. Obama will reject deep spending cuts and accuse Republicans of playing dangerous games with our financial system.”
Let’s face it, Obama wants what he wants. Everything has to be his way.
If Republicans won’t give him what he wants, he has demonstrated an enthusiasm to destroy the opposition. He is out to destroy the Republican brand with the complicity of the mainstream media.
To counteract the negative PR sure to follow the above proposal, Mr. Hennessey suggests Republicans should offer a second one, one that gives Democrats a choice:
“He can have a long-term debt-limit increase if he agrees to cut spending, or he can have repeated, short-term increases without spending cuts. If the president continues to dodge the country’s long-term spending problem, the solution is to force him to ask Congress every few months to give him the authority to borrow more while facing questions about why he refuses to restrain spending.”
In other words, do Democrats want a short term … or a long term solution? Short term solutions have been the norm, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a more intelligent, long term solution?
The onus is put on Democrats.
Mr. Hennessey then offers the kicker, and this is his big idea.
Republicans will make it clear they will support the long term solution which raises the debt ceiling and cuts spending.
Democrats won’t like it.
So Republicans will make it clear that although they can’t support the short term solution which merely increases the debt ceiling every three months without spending cuts , they won’t block it with a filibuster. Democrats in the Senate can pass the short term solution. In the House, John Boehner will provide just enough Republican votes to help Democrats pass the increase.
Democrats will own it, not Republicans, and all the drama is done with minimal carnage to the Republican brand.
If the economy continues to stagnate, it’s on Democrats, not Republicans.
If unemployment continues to increase, it’s on Democrats, not Republicans.
If our credit rating takes a hit or if there’s another financial crisis, well, it’s the Democrats who refused to cut spending and insisted on a never-ending upward spiral in the debt ceiling.
President Obama is right. Let’s get this debt ceiling drama resolved. Congress has already spent the money. But Republicans should move quickly to structure the solution to place responsibility on the party of big government, the Democrats, and live to fight another day.