Debt Ceiling Negotiations

President Barack Obama had some thoughts on this in a press conference the other day.  Surprise—I have some thoughts on his thoughts.

Obama said this in response to a question from CBS News‘ Major Garrett on how Obama reconciles his refusal to vote to raise the debt ceiling while a Senator (the raise would be a “leadership failure”) with his current refusal, as President, to negotiate his demanded raise of the debt ceiling:

And, you know, the fact of the matter is, is that we have never seen the debt ceiling used in this fashion, where the notion was, you know what, we might default unless we get 100 percent of what we want. That hasn’t happened.

Actually, we’ve seen this repeatedly in the recent past.  Under Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, for instance, spending cuts (or what passed for them—reductions in the rate of growth of spending) were explicit parts of the deal to raise the ceiling.

Obama then added this:

Now, as I indicated before, I’m happy to have a conversation about how we reduce our deficits further….

There are a couple of things about this one.  One is that bit about being “happy to have a conversation.”  A conversation is an “exchange of thoughts and feelings.”  It’s not a negotiation.  Obama is willing only to engage in idle chit-chat on this subject; he’s not willing to enter into serious negotiation.

The other thing is that nonsense, “reduce our deficits further.”  As a man of Obama’s learned education knows—as his economic advisors in the White House and in his Cabinet know—a reduced deficit is still a deficit, and so it still grows our nation’s debt.  Once again, Obama is unwilling to take our debt seriously.

Obama then concluded his evasion of the original question (he never did address Garrett’s question of how Obama reconciles his Senatorial “No” with his Presidential “Raise it now” demand on the debt ceiling) with this:

But what you’ve never seen is the notion that has been presented so far at least by the Republicans that deficit reduction will only count spending cuts, that we will raise the deficit—or the debt ceiling dollar for dollar on spending cuts.  …what we’re not going to do is put ourselves in a position where in order to pay for spending that we’ve already incurred, that our two options are; we’re either going to profoundly hurt the economy, and hurt middle-class families, and hurt seniors, and hurt kids who are trying to go to college, or alternatively we’re going to blow up the economy.

The first part of that is true.  Having seen the failure of tying reduced spending growth rates to raising the debt limit, the House Republicans now are tying actual spending cuts to raising the debt ceiling.

The rest, though, is exactly what Obama is threatening.  He’s holding out for “100% of what [he] want[s],”  or he’ll blow up our economy.  He’s the one demanding a debt ceiling raise with no strings attached (he’s even called for ceding borrowing authority to him) and refusing to discuss any alternative.  He’s the one who’s said he won’t negotiate at all on the debt ceiling.

Yet, it’s his demand for continued borrowing, for continued expansion of our debt, that is profoundly hurting the economy, the middle class, seniors, the poor (who are notably absent in his “concern” for the welfare of others).   The opposition has already agreed to raise the borrowing limit.  They just want real spending cuts, also, so as to break the DC addiction to spending, and so as to reduce—or even eliminate—the need to borrow more.

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