In a primetime address to the nation Monday, President Barack Obama reiterated his demands that any long-term solution to the looming debt crisis include what he termed sacrifices shared “by those who can best afford it.”
Moving seamlessly between talk of “millionaires and billionaires” and those Americans “making more than $250,000 a year,” Obama tried to pin the blame for failing to pass the debt ceiling squarely at the feet of congressional conservatives.
“(A) significant number of Republicans in Congress are insisting on a cuts-only approach,” Obama said, “an approach that doesn’t ask the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to contribute anything at all. And because nothing is asked of those at the top of the income scales, such an approach would close the deficit only with more severe cuts to programs we all care about — cuts that place a greater burden on working families.”
Obama talked of the debt crisis as one in which everyone agrees about the need for tough choices, arguing that it was merely “about how it should be done.”
“Most Americans,“ he said, “don’t understand how we can ask a senior citizen to pay more for her Medicare before we ask corporate jet owners and oil companies to give up tax breaks that other companies don’t get. How can we ask a student to pay more for college before we ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries? How can we slash funding for education and clean energy before we ask people like me to give up tax breaks we don’t need and didn’t ask for?”
These are false choices, ones that ignore the real problem: that government continues to be too big and spend too much.
In his speech, Obama quoted Ronald Reagan who, at one time in his presidency, signed off on a deal known as “TEFRA” that was supposed to cut the deficit through the closing of tax loopholes and the introduction of tougher enforcement of tax rules. And, at its center, was a promise of $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in new revenue.
Sound familiar? Well, as most everyone who warned Reagan against the deal predicted, the revenues increases came about straight away while the spending cuts mysteriously never seemed to materialize.
In his response to the president, House Speaker John Boehner characterized Obama’s approach to the negotiations thus far as wanting to continue what he called “business as usual” in the nation’s capital.
“The sad truth is that the president wanted a blank check six months ago,” Boehner said, “and he wants a blank check today.”
Warning “’that is just not going to happen,” Boehner reinforced Congress’ support for Cut, Cap and Balance — the only plan to yet be brought up for a vote in either chamber, let alone pass in one of them.
“It cuts and caps government spending and paves the way for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution,” Boehner said, “which we believe is the best way to stop Washington from spending money it doesn’t have. Before we even passed the bill in the House, the president said he would veto it.”
So much for the talk of bipartisanship and compromise that was the theme of Obama’s speech.