13 April, 2011

The President Isn’t A Hypocrite About The Debt Ceiling

Well, he is. But he’s no more of a hypocrite here than a typical politician.

Many people are pointing out one of his past statements about raising the debt ceiling, and his “no” vote on the issue.

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.

And now:

And today White House press secretary Jay Carney said that “the president, as David Plouffe said yesterday, regrets that vote and thinks it was a mistake.  He realizes now that raising the debt ceiling is so important to the health of this economy and the global economy that it is not a vote that, even when you are protesting an administration's policies, you can play around with, and you need to take very seriously the need to raise the debt limit so that the full faith and credit of the United States government is maintained around the globe.

Look, fiscal responsibility is always a good talking point. You rarely come out on the losing side of that issue, as long as you don’t provide any specifics. Therefore, the minority party nearly always opposes raising the debt ceiling. Why not? It doesn’t cost them anything. They know it’s going to pass without their help, so they can score a few political points coming out against it.

The truth is that generally very few in Washington are opposed to debt, no matter how big it is. But they don’t want that to be public. So, the minority party and vulnerable members from the majority vote no. Then everyone pats themselves on the back, and winks to each other that they’ve fooled the American public again, and business proceeds as usual in Washington. It’s been going on like that for over 100 years.

Had President George W. Bush (R-USA) been a Senator in the minority before becoming President, he likely would have voted against raising the debt ceiling too. That’s the way the game is played.

Do I like that? No, of course not. But I’m not foolish enough to be in denial of it.

So, President Barack Obama (D-USA) is no more a hypocrite on this issue than just about every other Congressman and Senator who has ever lived. I’m not happy about his reversal, but it’s hardly surprising, and it would be hardly surprising even if he had an R after his name. Bloggers and pundits that think he should be excoriated for this need to examine history.

Now, having sad all that, I’m not going to let him or the rest of the Democrats off the hook entirely. The Democrats took the screaming about debt and deficits to unheard of levels during the Bush years. Ok, you want to argue that Bush and the GOP were spendthrifts? I wouldn’t argue too strongly against you.


When the Democrats gained power, did they cut spending? No. But no one in Washington ever has, so that’s hardly surprising. Did they follow the normal pattern and go to modest spending increases? No. They threw everything they could get into the budget, and into their plans for the foreseeable future. FY09 had nearly a $1.5T deficit. Ok, but half of that was TARP. So, FY10 and FY11 should have been much smaller. They weren’t.

If Bush and the GOP were fiscally irresponsible in the early 2000s, then the spending that Obama and the Democrats have done amounts to treason. You want to accuse them of hypocrisy, there’s your target. And you’d be absolutely right.

Now, the Tea Party has gone even further. Did I say that the amount of screaming about the debt and deficit during the Bush years was unprecedented? If so, then we need a whole new word for what the Tea Party has done. And that’s a good thing. As long as we hold the Republicans feet to the fire on this issue.

Sooner or later (hopefully sooner), the Democrats will no longer be the dominant power in Washington. There are more than a few indications that the GOP leadership expects once again to go back to business as usual when that happens. Sure, they’ll offer up a few token cuts to appease the base, but then they’ll go back to patting themselves on the back and winking to each other that once again, we’ve been fooled. We can not let that happen this time. We cannot be fooled again. This time is has to be different. We have to make it be so.

Or it’s over. Forget about security for your children. There’s not even going to be security for you.

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