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Yet when the election yielded a Republican majority in the House only, it was virtually inevitable that the two principal reasons for Republican success — promises to defund ObamaCare and get spending under control — would be killed in the Democrat-controlled Senate, or vetoed by the White House, if either somehow got that far. Thus, Republican leadership embraced a series of CRs, each containing some cuts, as a means of chipping away at the spending. It is precisely this timidity which annoys those Republicans who voted against nickel-and-diming the way towards fiscal sanity.
Which brings us to the third sub-drama: whether or not to raise America’s debt ceiling. Earlier this year, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner warned that a failure to raise the borrowing limit in the coming months could lead to “catastrophic economic consequences.” Despite Geithner’s warning, a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken in January revealed that 71 percent of Americans opposed raising the ceiling, which currently stands at $14.3 trillion. One of those opposed Americans is newly-elected Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) who explains why in a Wednesday editorial for the Wall Street Journal which can be read here. Rubio characterizes raising the debt ceiling as a “leadership failure of epic proportions,” and, like many of his conservative Republican colleagues, has indicated he will only change his mind if ”it is the last one we ever authorize and is accompanied by a plan for fundamental tax reform, an overhaul of our regulatory structure, a cut to discretionary spending, a balanced-budget amendment, and reforms to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”
Which brings us to the fourth sub-drama: a lack of leadership. Mr. Rubio was not the only one who characterized raising the debt ceiling as a failure of such. Back in 2006, Senator Barack Obama said precisely the same thing when he voted against raising the debt ceiling then — to $8.965 trillion. Yet it is Democrats and Mr. Obama, in control of Congress and the White House for four and two years respectively, who have added almost five trillion dollars to the national debt. And it is Mr. Obama himself who proposed a $3.7 trillion budget in which, like so many other issues, including Libya and domestic energy production to name two, he demonstrates a surreal capacity for hypocrisy, absent the slightest acknowledgment or hesitation.
With respect to the budget, this is both distressing and understandable. Despite what Americans may believe, restoring fiscal sanity is impossible without major reforms of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It is this reality which is the basis for the disconnect between Americans who want spending brought under control, and their steadfast refusal to accept that the three entitlements which account for nearly 60% of federal spending are the biggest culprits. Genuine leadership would require telling Americans some really unpleasant truths — in the run up to the 2012 election, no less.
One can debate whether or not Mr. Obama is up to the task, but it is an irrelevant debate. In this particular case, a lack of leadership, or clarity if you will, accrues to the president’s advantage. It is worth remembering that Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign was built around the epitome of amorphousness known as “hope and change,” even as a somnambulant media refused to press him for specifics. It is likely that at least 40 percent of the electorate will once again be swayed by another siren song devoid of details, especially unpleasant details. Mr. Obama, along with other member of the Democrat party, are undoubtedly hoping genuine reformers like Marco Rubio and other Republicans will be the bearers of unpleasant tidings (as Rubio has already indicated above), thereby pushing enough Americans who don’t like bad news into the Democrat camp in 2012. Add a little of the boilerplate Democrat demagoguery regarding any spending cuts to the mix — as in killing grandma or tossing children into the street — and one has the basis for a highly cynical, but possibly effective election campaign.
If polls are accurate, such a strategy is already working. Many of the same voters who handed Republicans a decisive victory in November now give president Obama a one point edge with respect to being “best equipped” to reduce the budget. As for a government shutdown, former DNC head Howard Dean thinks Democrats should be “quietly rooting for it,” believing Republicans would get blamed as they did for the two which occurred in 1995 and 1996–both of which helped Bill Clinton get re-elected despite the shellacking his party took in the 1994 election.
Can history repeat itself? Certainly, with one exception: When Bill Clinton was re-elected in 1996, the national debt was $5.2 trillion. A Democratically-controlled Congress added almost that much to the national debt in four years, over three trillion of which occurred on Barack Obama’s watch.
That is the ultimate sub-drama which will be an integral part of the 2012 election campaign. It is one which Americans cannot–literally–afford to ignore.
Arnold Ahlert is a contributing columnist to the conservative website, JewishWorldReview.com.
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