October 10 2013
Dithering about Debt
Vicki E. Alger
Congress is considering the fifth debt ceiling increase since 2009 (Table 2, p. 19).
We’ll recall that last February we suspended our debt at $16.7 trillion ($305 billion above the preceding limit, p. 1). Failure to increase the debt limit now, according to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, “would have catastrophic economic consequences.”
Then Sen. Barrack Obama didn’t think opposing a debt ceiling hike back in 2006 was such a big deal. On the contrary, he insisted:
The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. Over the past 5 years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to$8.6 trillion. That is ‘‘trillion’’ with a ‘‘T.’’ That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers. And over the next 5 years, between now and 2011, the President’s budget will increase the debt by almost another $3.5 trillion. …
Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘‘the buck stops here.’’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.
Indeed! But that was then, and this is now. President Obama explained earlier today,
Nothing has changed…I voted against a debt ceiling increase at the time because I had some concerns about what President (George W.) Bush was doing [namely, increasing debt].
But now Obama insists that raising the debt ceiling:
Really now? According to FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, debt is set to double under Obama:
…the Obama administration recently projected an annual deficit of $750 billion in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, and $626 billion the year after. At that rate, the debt owed to the public will more than double during the Obama presidency.
Critics of federal debt levels often cite another, larger figure for total federal debt, which includes money the federal government owes to itself through such devices as the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. That total debt figure stood at just under $16.75 trillion on Oct. 4. That’s an increase of 57.6 percent since Obama was first sworn in.
As of this writing, House Republicans have offered a six-week debt ceiling increase slated to expire November 22. The plan would extend the country’s borrowing authority, but the partial government shutdown would remain in effect. It’s also unclear what (if any) steps would be taken toward long-term deficit reduction and rolling back ObamaCare.
Spending more than we have is at the core of our debt ceiling crisis. We need a candid review of the programs and services we believe the federal government should be handling based on its Constitutional authority, along with honest and accurate cost estimates. Then we need to decide if we are willing to pony up the cash to pay for approved federal programs.
The last thing we need is more dithering from elected officials who change their tunes about the seriousness of debt based on the political party of the current president.