It’s been at least two weeks since the impending “fiscal cliff” disaster was avoided at the last minute. That means it’s time for our grossly dysfunctional, leaderless government to stumble into crisis mode, again.
This time, the deadlines are in March and April, and one of the key issues is the debt limit. The debt limit now stands at $16.4 trillion — that $16,400,000,000,000 — but that staggering sum is not enough for our debt-ridden, spending-obsessed, deficit spending-addicted country. At a press conference yesterday, President Obama said Republicans should just raise the debt limit, without insisting on spending cuts. We’re not a “deadbeat nation,” he said, and the full faith and credit of the United States should not be a “bargaining chip.” If agreement on raising the debt ceiling can’t be reached, he says, Social Security and veterans checks might be delayed.
It seems awfully early in the game to play the Social Security card and scare seniors and veterans. Unfortunately, they aren’t the only ones who are frightened by another crisis brewing. This morning, global markets are stalling due to concerns about the debt limit, and the ratings agency Fitch says if the debt ceiling issue isn’t resolved promptly America’s credit rating could drop.
At his press conference, the President said he was willing to talk about spending cuts to stabilize the debt, but that such spending cuts should be discussed separately. We’ve heard that song before, but cuts never get made, programs never get eliminated, and trillion-dollar deficits go on and on. For all of his talk, talk, talk, the President has shown no willingness to take the courageous spending reduction steps that truly are needed to get our debt problems under control. Like Wimpy, the President would rather promise to pay us Tuesday for buying him that hamburger today. After four years, however, the bill hasn’t been paid, and there is no sign it will be paid.
I think Republicans have concluded that, deep down, President Obama would be perfectly comfortable to let the spending and big deficits continue until he leaves office, and that is exactly what will happen if he isn’t forced to sit down at the table and bargain. If the Republicans see the debt ceiling as a fail-safe means of forcing some hard negotiations with the President that produce real progress on federal spending and the deficit, the President has only himself to blame.