Editorial

GOP should relent on debt limit

The GOP is again putting the economy in danger by creating a debt limit crisis.

January 15, 2013 

Once more Americans are being subjected to a budget drama that is actually an unfunny farce acted by a tiresome troupe, The Republicannots.

It’s the Debt Ceiling Debate, Act II. It should be greeted with rotten tomatoes.

President Obama is clearly not up for playing a role. He did that in 2011. That led the country to the so-called fiscal cliff of draconian cuts that the Congress has put off fully confronting.

This time Obama is saying he will not appease the Republican House caucus with promises of big spending cuts in return for their approval of an increase in the debt ceiling. He says correctly that the spending was agreed upon by earlier acts of Congress and should not be challenged over the technical matter of raising the debt limit to allow approved spending to be carried out.

Finally, emboldened by his reelection and spared the consideration of a future election, Obama has found the proper response to Republican threats to hold the economy hostage to their demands – let them do it. And if their intransigence does what it did last time — lowers the nation’s credit rating, rattles the financial markets and slows the economic recovery — so be it. It’s their tactic. Let’s see if they want to be responsible for what it produces.

Routinely approved

The debt ceiling – officially the authorized borrowing limit – was created to deal with federal expenses during World War I. It allowed the treasury to borrow up to a certain level to pay for what Congress had already approved. Since then, the debt ceiling has been lifted dozens of times, usually without controversy.

In 2011, tea party Republicans in the House held out on the debt ceiling vote. Obama offered $4 trillion deficit reduction deal over 10 years. It wasn’t acceptable because it contained tax increases. An agreement to create a commission to recommend cuts and tax increase — and automatic cuts and increases if the recommendations weren’t approved – settled the impasse, but not the issue.

Now Republicans are back with the same posturing. The party that brought us the costly Bush tax cuts and the expense of two wars is now obsessed with cutting spending. All else is secondary. The jobless. The needy. The economy.

Obama and the Democrats want to reduce the deficit with cuts and tax increases. They agree that the growth of federal spending is a long-term problem. The debt ceiling the government hit on Dec. 31 was a staggering $16.4 trillion. Temporary measures by the Treasury will hold a government default until mid-February or early March.

Boost the economy

But the short-term need isn’t a long-term fix. The immediate need is to get the economy moving again and get all unemployed Americans who want to work back to work. A robust economy and the increased tax revenue it will generate is the surest way to ultimately reduce the deficit.

The real deficit that drives the debt ceiling debate isn’t the gap between revenues and expenses. It is the deficit of Republican ideas. The party of no offers no real solutions to the problem of red ink. It opposes tax increases even when taxes are at their lowest point in decades. It doesn’t want cuts in defense spending even as our wars are ending.

There needs to be a debate about taxes and spending and there will be. It happens every year when Congress debates the budget. Do it then.

What’s going on now is a ridiculous show about frugality that could cost the nation dearly. It – not the government — should close.

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