Jul 27 2011
Charles Krauthammer was on Bill O’Reilly last night and was voicing a major (and legitimate) concern. Since it is impossible to get everything we want now, with only the House under GOP control and therefore open to pressure from the GOP and Tea Party Libertarians, how do we declare victory and reap some rewards on the debt ceiling? More important, how do we not fail and lose all the progress to date.
In many ways victory has been achieved. Endless deficit spending is now the enemy of democracy and our free economy. We have begun to end the knee-jerk myth that the answer to all things is a government program. Many are prepared to sacrifice if that sacrifice turns things around. Raising taxes is not a preferred solution, and is probably considered a last resort if anything.
All in all, the Tea Party has to be congratulated in turning the debate around and in the right direction. But as I have said before, now comes the part where we need patience, steel nerves and real results.
Which is why I still say a short term debt ceiling rise is in the nation’s interest. Contrary to the left wing media spin, I think the country would prefer the forcing function of the debt ceiling and the debate it forces over the pretend out year fixes that never arise. Because that too is another victory we have in our hands – no more shell games or punting. No one is buying the grand solution. Every poll shows:
- People don’t want the debt ceiling raised because it adds to our kids life long burden, but we know it must be and therefore serious reforms and changes must come with it.
- People absolutely reject broad tax increases or more mad liberal spending – we know the stimulus bill was a disastrous fail. So liberal economics has been totally debunked.
- People don’t trust government to work, politicians to tell the truth or the news media to know what the truth is, which means the voters are freeing themselves from the propaganda and spin.
The best sign of progress was President Obama whining about how Presidents Reagan, Clinton and George W Bush all increased the debt limit without any friction or debate. Well, that era mindless debt limit increases is gone and Obama is the poor sap who has to deal with an electorate fed up with a screwed up, ineffective and overly costly government.
While the debate has turned in the right direction, we have yet to see tangible changes. Even Boehner’s plan fell short of making any real cuts. The problem is too big and to multifaceted to solve in one fell swoop. You can’t take on all the out of control spending issues and their political implications all at once. We can’t cut 40% of the budget overnight. The toll in human financial pain and fear would be too much too soon.
So we go back to an idea Krauthammer and I both promoted – small increases tied to digestible and acceptable changes in fiscal course. I would put on the table a 6 month debt limit increase and some low hanging fixes that can be implemented now, and some that can begin to be phased in after the 6 months. Rinse and repeat.
This will take us to the 2012 election without chaos and the blame that will go with it. Krauthammer is right, we can all still misplay this thing and end up with an Obama second term and Pelosi back as Speaker. We have to find point where we can bank the fruits of our labors without total failure. Face it, concrete measures can only be ensured over short time periods, primarily because the government take years to change its mind, let alone fix things. So the long game should be off the table. Even if the House fails, we will have another shot in 6 months.
With the ship of state turning in the right direction, we must recognize we are heading into a sea of icebergs of possible failures. Running full steam is not the answer, no matter how badly we want to get to our destination. We must find that line between victory and failure and make sure we get as close to it as possible – this round. Then we prepare for the next round and the next goal.
Update: And BTW, Krauthammer rightfully noted the next big goal – the 2012 elections. With only the House the GOP and Tea Party are unable to do anything major. But if they took the Senate and White House, while expanding their reach in the states, that Balanced Budget Amendment looks more and more feasible.
Which brings us to the other fruits of the 2010 victory and debt ceiling debate – Obama’s sinking poll numbers:
The race for president isn’t a national contest. It’s a state-by-state battle to cobble an electoral vote majority. So while the national polls are useful in gauging the president’s popularity, the more instructive numbers are those from the battlegrounds.
Those polls are even more ominous for the president: In every reputable battleground state poll conducted over the past month, Obama’s support is weak. In most of them, he trails Republican front-runner Mitt Romney. For all the talk of a closely fought 2012 election, if Obama can’t turn around his fortunes in states such as Michigan and New Hampshire, next year’s presidential election could end up being a GOP landslide.
Obama’s support is collapsing because of this debt ceiling debate and his failures on the economy and job creation. Again, we don’t need to throw the guy a life line by overplaying the hand now. Short term debt ceiling rise, some achievable (yet small) fixes and come back this winter to discuss the next round.