Category Archives: debt ceiling

An Inaugural Gift

“It’s lonely at the top”, they say (whoever “they” are). President Obama certainly looked lonely when he spoke to the nation on TV yesterday. He is the people’s President, but that is not much comfort in Washington where he has to do daily battle with intransigent opponents in Congress, mostly of the Republican persuasion. It is painful to watch our champion who sometimes seems all alone in our nation’s capitol fighting for the beleaguered middle class in post-industrial America. We were pleased that he ran for a second term of such abuse, we understood that as our first African-American President he really had no choice, and we admit that we would probably have been happy to walk away after that first contentious four years.  Stand firm, President Obama, keep reminding yourself that those “mean men (and women)” are very unpopular. We do have to give them points for consistency, however (more like obstinacy). They have raised the same strident voices regardless of defeat after defeat. They insist that our President should knuckle under and do their will because they tiresomely insist that they alone are right about the path America needs to take.

Congress, please raise the debt ceiling. Do it now. Do it as a gift to President Obama for his second inauguration day. Then you will get your spending cuts.

The Debt Deal we will Probably Get

There is a new debt deal on the table today and it will probably pass because we are at the end of our tether and really have little choice. It is, however, a very sad occasion for me because the adoption of this deal allows Republicans to call the shots in America, even though they are not in power, and, even though their policies will not restore economic growth in America. This deal also hurts my opinion of Barack Obama as a Democratic leader. It makes me very sad to say this because I have put some faith in Obama. This faith has been eroded again and again throughout his tenure as President. Maybe we need a Democratic Primary in 2012. Maybe Americans who see themselves as Democrats are to blame because we haven’t demanded enough from our President or supported him enough.
As this debt plan is described by the Associated Press, Democrats are left out of this plan. This current debt deal is “cut, cap, and balance” just drawn out over time, rather than all at once. Republicans get out of this with no tax increases, even without the closing of any tax loopholes.  The debt ceiling does not get raised in one fell swoop. Instead it gets raised in three installments each involving threshold cuts that must be made before the debt ceiling will be raised again. Obama and the America economy will be under the knife for at least a decade.
The plan, as described by the Associated Press looks something like this:
  • The first installment increase in the debt ceiling occurs immediately – a $400 billion dollar increase.
  • The second installment of $500 billion can be ordered by Obama unless both the House and the Senate override it by veto-proof margins.
  • The third installment (between 1.2 trillion and 1.5 trillion) will be made available after enactment of spending cuts recommended by a special joint committee of lawmakers.
  • The full 1.5 trillion could also be available if Congress adopts and sends to the state for ratification a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
  • This plan already includes cuts of more than $900 billion over 10 years from the day-to-day operation budgets of Cabinet agencies.
  • This plan caps spending passed by Congress for agency budgets at 1.043 trillion in 2012.
  • This plan creates a 12 person House-Senate committee evenly divided between political parties to produce up to 1.5 trillion more in deficit cuts over 10 years.
  • If the committee fails to reach agreement the White House Budget Office would impose across-the-board cuts which would include the Pentagon, domestic agency budgets and farm subsidies.
  • “Entitlements” except Medicare, veteran’s benefits and federal retirement benefits would not be covered by across-the-board cuts.
  • This plan also requires both House and Senate to vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
  • This plan establishes “program integrity” initiatives aimed at stemming abuses in benefits programs like Social Security.
  • This plan increases funding for Pell Grants for low income college students by $17 billion over 2012-13 financed by curbs in Student Loan subsidies.
If it is true that the President, according to the 14th amendment and traditional practice has the right to raise the debt ceiling as necessary then this whole plan and all the angst and argument of the summer of 2011 was uncalled for to begin with and Obama never would have had to put our federal government in thrall to the Republican Party. If we agree to this plan we will never know what would have happened if we had chose the “road not taken” and I think America will be the poorer for it.
Of course, I do not want us to default on our debt, so, one more time, I ask Obama to just raise the debt ceiling without agreeing to all these other restraints.