by Vito Tomasino
The President has stated his willingness to consider all ideas regarding ways to cut deficit
spending and tackle the problem of a growing national debt; which, left unchecked, would
threaten another downgrade of our credit rating in a fragile economy. He has also made it
very clear, that raising the federal debt limit was not open to negotiation, and that he would
not be held hostage by Republican leaders who would use the threat of a government shutdown
to push their fiscal agenda.
I believe the President would indeed allow the government to be shut down, and our credit
rating downgraded, rather than give in to Republican demands for significant spending cuts
and entitlement reform—neither of which he wants, though both are absolutely needed.
Do the Republicans have the courage to call the President’s bluff? I don’t think so. Last year,
when they confronted him on the so-called “fiscal cliff,”they caved in to his demands at the
last minute; then rationalized their concession by convincing themselves that—given the debt
ceiling deadline—they would have more leverage to force his acquiescence. They were wrong.
Their bluff did not work then and it will not work now. What then, should they do?
Someone once said, “Politics is the art of doing the possible.” Why not start there. Take
Obama at his word. Give him what he wants; i.e., raise the debt ceiling, and do it soon, not
at the eleventh hour. We all know it will be raised, so why waste time debating the issue and
give the President a convenient excuse for not addressing the spending problem? Moreover,
it should be raised high enough so that we need not be concerned with it for the next two
years, thus clearing the table for meaningful fiscal reforms in spending, entitlements, revenue
enhancement via a simplified tax code, and a thorough overhaul of regulations hindering
Speaker Boehner should form a bi-partisan committee within the House of Representatives
to write a bill offering viable, thoroughly vetted solutions to the above issues--one containing
many recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission. Such a bill would have the best
chance of passing the House with Democrat and Republican support, and of reaching the floor
of the Senate for a vote. The President could not stop it without contradicting his own statement
regarding spending cuts and forfeiting his political capital, making him a true “lame duck.”
Congress, on the other hand, would regain much of its lost public confidence and reclaim its
role as one of the key federal branches envisioned by our founding fathers as being necessary
to insure that our democracy remains true to the people it serves.