The Campaign Spot

Stale Tricks from an Overconfident Magician

From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Breaking: Obama Declares Nothing Is Ever His Fault, Especially the Debt Since 2009

Obama’s press conferences, rare as they are, are going to be even more unbearable in the second term.

It’s not like his rhetorical sleight-of-hand is all that complicated, and at this point, it feels like watching a magician perform very predictable and boring tricks. He insists that whatever he wants at that moment is “sensible” and insists that any cuts, of any program, be they discretionary spending or entitlement programs, fail to represent a “balanced approach” and “balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable.” The spending he wants is always characterized as “investments we need to make.”

He says he’s open to “making modest adjustments to programs like Medicare to protect them for future generations” without going into much detail about what they are; usually they amount to declaring the federal government will pay doctors less and hoping those doctors don’t stop seeing Medicare patients, the way the Mayo Clinic did. Less than a month after getting the income-tax increases he started demanding the moment the GOP took over the House of Representatives, he’s at it again, declaring, “We need more revenue, through tax reform, by closing loopholes in our tax code for the wealthiest Americans.” He still complains about “a multimillionaire investor can pay less in tax rates than a secretary” and “tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans” as if nothing had changed on January 1.

Four years into his presidency, the problem is not of his making; he spoke about “spending that Congress has already committed to” and “debate with this Congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they’ve already racked up” as if he had nothing to do with the rate of federal spending since January 20, 2009.

Bruce McQuain:

The more I see politics of today the more I think George Orwell simply listed by about 30 years. Imagine a politician a few decades ago trying to make this argument and then calling the other guy’s argument “absurd”.

“While I’m willing to compromise and find common ground over how to reduce our deficit, America cannot afford another debate with this Congress over how to pay the bills they’ve already racked up,” Obama said in the East Room of the White House at what aides have billed as the final news conference of his first term. “To even entertain the idea of this happening, of America not paying its bills, is irresponsible. It’s absurd.”

But the problem is, thanks to both Congress and this administration, we are not paying our bills. We’re borrowing money that we don’t have and have been spending it. I find it ironic, that the president who has run up the largest deficit in history is talking about being irresponsible.

Conn Carroll:

As this American Action Forum table going back to 1993 shows, the debt limit is almost always raised in the context of some other deficit reduction/budget process legislation. No one likes to sign off on borrowing more money without getting at least some measure of fiscal responsibility in return. In 2010, for example, Blue Dog Democrats forced then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pass PAYGO rules in exchange for their votes to raise the debt limit. Demanding a price for a debt limit hike vote is absolutely business as normal in Washington.

Which is why it is virtually guaranteed that Speaker John Boehner will get at least something in return for moving a debt hike through the House.

Paul Mirengoff:

Plainly, Obama cannot reconcile his votes as a Senator with his present position that the debt ceiling must be raised no matter what. Instead, he creates a straw man — the notion that the Republicans won’t raise the debt ceiling unless they get “100 percent” of what they want.

To my knowledge, that is not the Republicans position. In any case, Obama has made an argument only for not giving Republicans 100 percent of what they want, not for refusing to negotiate.

The president’s apparent confidence that he’s holding a winning hand politically may be justified. But given the public’s desire (abstract though it is) for debt reduction and given Obama’s votes on this issue as Senator, it’s also possible that he is over-confident.

Sometimes it feels like Obama is dodging questions from the press. Then every few months we watch him filibuster and get persnickety about having any of his positions challenged, and then we wonder why we wanted to see more of this.

This morning, the editors of NR declare:

The House should pass a bill to redefine the debt limit so that it constrains primary spending but not debt service. Under this reform, a Treasury that had hit the statutory borrowing limit could continue to borrow what it needed exclusively for paying interest on the national debt and to roll over existing debt obligations, but it could not borrow for any other government spending until the limit had been increased. This would take default entirely off the table.”


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