The new Republican party is an albatross of ideological intransigence. It is an anchor that lists the ship of governance as far to the right as it can, until it starts to take on water. The threat not to raise the debt limit, that enables the federal government to pay our debts, has pulled the starboard deck rail far enough below the water line, that Standard & Poors has already said it may not wait until we miss the August 2 deadline to downgrade the nation’s credit rating.
Recognizing “the dynamics of the political debate on the debt ceiling,” S&P explained, after putting the United States on its CreditWatch list, Thursday, “there is at least a one-in-two likelihood that we could lower the long-term rating on the U.S. within the next 90 days.”
While we wouldn’t exactly be in the junk bond category of countries like Ireland and Portugal, the Los Angeles Times said downgrading the U.S. credit rating would mean “America would be considered less creditworthy than Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Norway and Australia.”
Even if the president and Congress reach an agreement, the nation’s credit rating may still be brought down, the ratings agency said, “if we conclude that future adjustments to the debt ceiling are likely to be the subject of political maneuvering to the extent that questions persist about Congress’ and the Administration’s willingness and ability to timely honor the U.S.’ scheduled debt obligations.”
That could be read as a direct reference to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s controversial plan to raise the debt limit in stages. Indeed, it’s the politics of taxation and government spending that got us into this mess to begin with.
Democrats in the 110th Congress were so afraid that voting to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire on the wealthiest Americans would cost them the 2010 election, they did nothing to attack the deficit. They allowed themselves to be painted into a corner during the lame duck, which forced the president to compromise with the stubborn Republicans, which he did, without much of a fight.
In doing that, President Obama taught the elephants in Congress that if they hold the line, he will cave. On the other hand, he’s the one who is showing flexibility by putting entitlement programs on the table when the GOP won’t even talk about revenue increases, and he expects voters to notice that. “I think,” he said in Friday’s press conference, “increasingly the American people are going to say to themselves, you know what, if a party or a politician is constantly taking the position ‘my way or the highway,’ constantly being locked into ideologically rigid positions, that we’re going to remember at the polls.”
The GOP may be telling the president to hit the highway, but, ironically, most Americans believe he has taken the high road in this debate. Calling for “a balanced approach, shared sacrifice, and a willingness to make unpopular choices,” in his weekly address, Saturday, most Americans believe, is the right attitude, the adult attitude.
Recent surveys bare this out. A Quinnipiac poll, released Thursday, noted that 67% of respondents felt that “an agreement to raise the debt ceiling should include tax hikes for the wealthy and corporations, not just spending cuts.” A Gallup poll, released Wednesday, seems to agree with those findings, showing that only 20% of those surveyed thought that deficits should be cut with spending cuts alone. Sixty-nine percent, Gallup found, think that at least some, mostly, or equal tax increases should be included.
“I’ve put things on the table that are important to me and to Democrats,” Obama said, Saturday, “and I expect Republican leaders to do the same.” Americans agree. It’s the reasonable thing to do, if one intends to be part of the solution. After all, the saying goes, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
- Obama: Americans back me on debt deal – CBS News (news.google.com)
- Quote of the Day: The GOP’s Debt Ceiling Kamikizes (themoderatevoice.com)
- Debt-Limit Harakiri (online.wsj.com)
- Obama: Americans back me on debt deal (cbsnews.com)
- Republican Senators now regret picking a fight over ‘Debt Ceiling’ (crooksandliars.com)