The Chickens of Debt Ceiling Deal Have Come Home to Roost
Today, the Treasury Department announced that Obama will ask for another $1.2 trillion increase in the debt ceiling, carrying our national debt to $16.394 trillion by next year. This will bring Obama’s total share of the debt to $5.77 trillion by the end of his tenure, far more than any other president. Unfortunately, there is not a darn thing we can do about it. Yet, it didn’t have to be this way.
Looking back at this year of legislative battles, there is no doubt that the debt ceiling deal wins the award for the most insane capitulation of the year. In July, Obama, who had already accrued $3.6 trillion in debt, was faced with the embarrassing prospect of asking for yet another increase in the debt limit. That was our opportunity to extract transformational concessions from Obama in return for the ability to issue more debt. That was our time to push for Cut, Cap, Balance, or at the very least, a plain balanced budget amendment.
Not only did GOP leaders strike out and squander the entire opportunity, they ground into a double play. They gave Obama the ability to raise the debt ceiling another $2.1 trillion, just enough to spare him from another embarrassing debt increase right before the 2012 election. What did we get in return? Our reward for giving him the increase was, in fact, a twofer gift to Obama. We were “rewarded” with the creation of the 18th debt commission and the Budget Control Act, which completely abrogated the Republicans budget, thereby obviating any leverage we would have during the remaining budget battles of the year. After all, how could we go back on our word?
At a time when many “prominent” conservative publications were blithely cheering on this disaster, we detailed nine reasons to oppose the deal. Among other things, we noted that the deal would encourage notional spending cuts, preserve Obamacare, destroy the Ryan budget, engender deep cuts in defense, and grant Obama a lifeline, all the while, failing to prevent a credit downgrade.
Sadly, my premonition has come to fruition. After enjoying a free ride on the first $900 billion of debt, Obama now has the authority to issue another $1.2 trillion of debt. He has blown through the first ‘tranche’ of the debt ceiling increase at a rate of almost $6 billion per day. Now, pursuant to the debt deal, only a resolution of disapproval from two-thirds of both houses of Congress can preempt such an increase.
Those who promoted this debt ceiling scheme last July with oleaginous columns and speeches, while denouncing its critics as “intransigent,” should hang their heads in shame.
It is now incontrovertibly clear that this deal was worse than giving Obama a ‘clean extension.’ We could have fought it out another day; extracting a modicum of reforms from Democrats during each battle. Instead, the bipartisan Budget Control Act, while slowing Obama’s unrealistic baseline spending, will consummate the current unsustainable levels of spending for the next decade. As long as those who were signatory to the deal are still leading the House, they will be constricted by the spending levels of the BCA. Republicans can formulate any budget they want this coming April, yet they will feel compelled to commit to the higher spending levels promised under the debt ceiling deal.
So after months of garrulous promises to cut spending, we are left with a budget that fails to cut a penny from discretionary budget authority, even as mandatory spending continues to rise unabated.
Hence, it is often better to do nothing than to pass bad legislation. Thanks to this failed idea, there is no realistic roadmap for entitlement reform; not a single agency or program will be eliminated; Obamacare is off limits; there will be no balanced budgets, ever.
A simple strikeout would have been far superior to grounding into a double play. Then again, Republicans are called the stupid party for a reason.