A Dose of Debt Ceiling Reality for President Obama

| January 19 2013

Gretchen Hamel: A Dose of Debt Ceiling Reality for President Obama

As seen on BlogHer
By Gretchen Hamel

Sometimes it feels like we swing from one fiscal crisis to the next. Earlier this month it was the fiscal cliff, now it is the debt ceiling, and after that will be the sequester. … Consider this your dose of debt ceiling reality.

President Obama took an unusually aggressive posture in his press conference yesterday discussing the need to increase the debt ceiling. Pushing the political panic button, he named a litany of sensitive groups that would see cuts if we fail to raise the debt ceiling: seniors, veterans, nuclear inspectors and small business owners.  Calvin Woodward with The Associated Press offered context to the president’s threat, noting, “It’s possible, but not preordained, that Social Security recipients, veterans and beneficiaries of other cherished programs would take a hit. The administration has choices in how to spread the pain.” Woodward makes an overlooked point as well: it is President Obama alone who will determine what gets cut.

Obama then proclaimed, “[Congressional Republicans] will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy.” The “ransom” Obama refuses to surrender is spending cuts to our bloated federal budget as part of a larger debt ceiling deal.

Later in his speech, President Obama inadvertently made the case for spending cuts in a meandering analogy between the debt ceiling and the dine and dash:

… [I]f Congress wants to have a debate about maybe we shouldn’t go out to dinner next time, maybe we should go to a more modest restaurant…

That’s the point. Congress does want to have a debate about not going to dinner next time or going to a more modest restaurant; it’s the president who doesn’t.

History is on the side of those who want to attach spending cuts to the debt limit, both in terms of precedent and policy. It’s a new year, a new Congress and the beginning of a new term for President Obama. Let’s hope it means a new approach to spending and budgeting in Washington.

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