When President Barack Obama was Senator Barack Obama, he famously thought that raising the debt ceiling was a terrible idea. Back in 2006, as Katrina Trinko points out over at National Review, he ranted, “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.” He voted against raising the debt ceiling.
Then, peculiarly, he disappeared during his presidential election campaign when it came to voting on raising the debt ceiling. In both 2007 and 2008, when we raised the debt ceiling by a combined $1.65 trillion, Obama avoided voting. Such absence wasn’t uncommon for Obama, who spent the vast majority of his only partial term in the Senate away from the Senate or ignoring his duty to vote. From September to November 2007, for example, Obama missed 80 percent of Senate votes, including one that would have designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. Overall, Obama missed nearly 50 percent of the votes in the Senate during his tenure. As a State Senator in Illinois, he voted “present” a full 129 times, many of those votes coming on critical and controversial issues.
Now, Obama wants to vote present again. So far, he’s done this by pretending to present a debt relief plan without actually doing so. This led to a weird press conference with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney trying to maintain that Obama had spelled out a specific debt ceiling plan, but that he didn’t need to give details of those specifics. He insisted that Obama had a plan, but that he didn’t need to make it public because … well, Fox would like that, wouldn’t they? Carney almost literally tried to pee on the press corps and inform them blithely that it was raining.
When Obama isn’t sending out Carney to do his dirty work, he’s doing it himself. Obama, who appears to abide by the monkeys-writing-Shakespeare theory of politics – if he says enough nonsense, eventually something will resonate with the American people – delivered a national address lecturing Republicans about debt levels, which is sort of like Amy Winehouse calling a press conference to bash Lindsay Lohan for her drug and alcohol problems.
In the press conference, Obama presented his plan to the American people: the American people should call up their elected representatives and ask them to do … stuff. Seriously. “If you want a balanced approach to reducing the deficit,” he intoned, “let your member of Congress know. If you believe we can solve this problem through compromise, send that message.” If you believe that people need to be nice to each other, call your senator! If you think friendship is better than enmity, email your representative!
To be fair, Obama’s pitch was slightly more sophisticated than that. He was essentially training the American public to become a million little Obama minions: he wanted them to use his buzzwords to pressure lawmakers. Most people are in favor of “balanced” approaches to things, as opposed to unbalanced approaches. What Obama means by balance, however, is raising taxes. So his big debt reduction plan is, apparently, to pretend that the word “balanced” means raising taxes, but not to clearly state that to the American people, so that they will begin using the word “balanced”; then our congresspeople, using their magic Obama decoder rings, will think that the American people are calling on them to embrace Obama’s heretofore unpresented plan.
If this plan makes sense to you, there is a solid shot that you are not smarter than a fifth grader.
In the end, Obama wants the responsibility of dealing with the debt crisis lifted from his shoulders. Congress shouldn’t do it. We should leave the debt limit precisely where it is. Either Democrats in Congress will decide on elements to cut, or President Obama will unilaterally have to do so. Then he’ll have to finally take the heat for his political actions. For years, Obama has been able to have his cake (spending) and eat it too (increasing deficits). If we cut off his monetary supply – to which he is wildly addicted – Obama will have to decide between spending the available cash on fiscal vegetables like paying down the debt, or on fiscal alcohol like paying off the unions.
His feet must be held to the fire. Either he or the Democrats in Congress must be made to choose where, when it comes right down to it, they want to prioritize their spending. Then we’ll see whether their spending choices can meet the scrutiny of American voters.