At the White House this afternoon, President Obama attributed Standard and Poor’s downgrade of the U.S. credit rating to a lack of will in Washington to implement the necessary solutions.
After “a month of wrangling” over the debt ceiling, S&P doubted “our political system’s ability to act,” Obama explained to reporters. He insisted that “we didn’t need a rating agency to tell us the gridlock in Washington . . . has not been constructive — to say the least.”
Echoing his fellow Democrats on yesterday’s talk shows, Obama blamed “a prolonged debate, where the threat of default was used as a bargaining chip” for the downgrade. “That threat . . . has now roiled the markets,” he said.
Sounding a more positive note, the president argued that “our problems are imminently solvable” and identified two solutions to the current crisis: tax reform “that will ask those who can afford it to pay their fair share” and “modest adjustments” to entitlement programs.
Listing the previous failed attempts at such reforms — the Gang of Six, the negotiations with Rep. John Boehner, etc. — Obama argued that “there are plenty of good ideas of how to achieve long-term deficit reduction that doesn’t hamper economic growth right now.”
The problem wasn’t a lack of ideas, but a lack of will. There was too much “insistence on drawing lines in the sand” — a “refusal to put what’s best for the country ahead of self-interest, or party, or ideology.”
At the same time, Obama acknowledged that most Americans remained concerned about the economy. He offered two suggestions for spurring economic growth: extending the payroll tax cut “as soon as possible” and extending unemployment-insurance benefits. Failing to do so could mean “1 million fewer jobs and one-half percent less growth,” he warned.
“These aren’t Democratic proposals,” Obama argued. “These aren’t big-government proposals.” Instead, they were “all ideas that traditionally Republicans have agreed to.”
In his closing remarks, the president paused to salute the 30 U.S. soldiers who died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan over the weekend.
Praising their service, the president concluded by saying that Americans — including, presumably politicians — needed to maintain an America “that reflects their courage, their commitment, and their sense of common purpose.”