July 13, 2011

"We've never thought the debt ceiling was the best leverage for a showdown over the entitlement state..."

"... and now it looks like Mr. Obama is trying to use it as a way to blame the GOP for the lousy economy," says the Wall Street Journal:
This may have been the President's strategy all along: Take the debt-limit talks behind closed doors, make major spending cuts seem possible in the early days, but then hammer Republicans publicly as the deadline nears for refusing to raise taxes on business and "the rich."

This would explain the President's newly discovered fondness for press conferences, which he has rarely held but now rolls out before negotiating sessions. It would also explain why Mr. Obama's tax demands have escalated as the August 2 deadline nears. Yesterday he played the Grandma Card, telling CBS that seniors may not get their August retirement checks. Next he'll send home the food inspectors and stop paying the troops.
Read the whole thing. It's an effort to explain that McConnell is not "selling out Republicans."


rhhardin said...

Hitting the debt limit is a balanced budget amendment. Income has to equal outgo after that point, until the debt limit is raised.

Obama is going to prioritize payments, though, to maximize his reelection chances and demonize opponents, not by good sense.

TreeJoe said...

I tend to agree that one of the press' core jobs is to be overtly skeptical of the executive. I'm not saying go on witchhunts - but to look at things through the lenses of a skeptic.

It's a shame that that function is currently being called "far right wing" in the press right now. The WSJ is pointing out some fascinating aspects here - the sudden near-daily press conferences, the rhetoric more suitable for a Chuck Schumer than for the president, the blatant misrepresentations, etc.

Michael said...

I like this ploy a lot. Make Obama take ownership of an issue he got interested in about two weeks ago. It lets both parties off the hook and places the burden squarely on him. Let Mr. Obama eat some fucking peas.

traditionalguy said...

Amen. The WSJ understands the game.

Brennan said...

The President goes golfing while Granny starves.

Game on Mr. President.

Harsh Pencil said...


I'm not sure that hitting the debt ceiling is the same as a balanced budget amendment. Right now, the government has a certain amount of money flowing in each month. But it also has a certain amount of statutorily approved obligations it must pay each month. That is, Congress has already directed the Executive to pay certain sums. And I believe the total of the obligations (interest on debt, social security, medicare, medicaid payments to states, military ...) are more than what is coming in. As a matter of law, can the president simply not pay certain bills that Congress has already authorized him to pay just because it would violate the debt ceiling? I think it is analogous to current law telling the president he must pay Sue $1, and Amy $1, and Bob $1, must total payments cannot exceed $2. What happens when such statutes conflict is, as far as I know, unchartered territory.

A balanced budget amendment, on the other hand, as part of the constitution, trumps statutes. It is a restriction on BOTH political branches not to pass new spending bills that don't meet certain criteria.

Brennan said...

That is, Congress has already directed the Executive to pay certain sums.

Only it hasn't done so in almost 800 days. That was the last time the Congress passed a budget.

The Congress could not pass a budget with Obamacare in it. Reid and Pelosi just opted not to. It's created this havoc.

Scott M said...

Let Mr. Obama eat some fucking peas.

Probably one of the most inevitable statements, but anticipated nonetheless, in the upcoming presidential debates is going to be how well the GOP candidate uses "peas" in an attack on Obama.

WV - "lactive" running while drinking milk

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Harsh Pencil-

I think you are mistaken. Much of government spending is discretionary. If the NEA gets $100 million in the budget, that is the limit on what it can spend. It is not required to spend that much. So it's more like the President may pay Sue up to $1, and Amy up to $1, and Bob up to $1, and the total payments may not exceed $2.

You are right that it's not like a balanced budget amendment. It gives the President a lot of discresion about where to pay and where to cut. But I doubt that it will require the President to break one of two conflicting laws.

Mogget said...

The problem with McConnell's plan is that it requires the press to play their traditional role, that is, they must report on the deliberations associated with each tranche in order for the public to see Obama's role in allthis. McConnel cut much the same deal during Obamacare debates, allowing the Senate to break for Christmas in return for what was supposed to be a much-publicized vote on the debt ceiling in January.

Didn't work out thT way because the press blew it off.

Hagar said...

I think that statement by the President is the most outrageous political statement I have heard a sitting President make.

(Political - "I have not had sex with that woman!" still holds first place as a personal statement.)

I do not know if the President can choose to shut off Social Security payments if they do not have a debt ceiling agreement by August 2nd. However, if he does, I can hold out for about a year before my situation gets critical, and I am willing to do so.

Harsh Pencil said...

Ignorance is Bliss -

I don't think you are correct about the "may spend" vs. "must spend" part. This was a fight fought during the Nixon administration if I recall correctly. Nixon tried to cut spending through recision (not spending authorized funds) and I think was shut down. Does anyone else remember this?

pm317 said...

I said this on your other thread (but I have to give credit a commenter from another blog who alerted us to this strategy). Let the pea dispenser own up to his peas.

NYTNewYorker said...

On this I am agreeing with Sen. McConnell, but for this morning at least the hard right is up in arms over this and calling for the Senators head.


Obama is incompetent but not irrelevant and the presidency has many cards to play.

Slow and steady will win this race against Obama. A steady drip of his record already implemented and of his future plans will win the day.

This nation does not want a socialist president with Un-American ideas, plain and simple.

Show him for what he is over and over again.

Triangle Man said...

It's nice to live in a place where there is no rich and poor. In America we have only "the rich" and "the middle class", and the "middle class" are really just "the rich" who are going through a temporary rough patch.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Harsh Pencil-

After further research it appears you are right. Thank you for enlightening me.

Scott M said...

Thank you for enlightening me.

Enlightenment kinda harshes your bliss, doesn't it?

dbp said...

What rhhardin said. Exactly.

Molly said...

The interpretation that I favor is that the arrival of a moment when the government cannot meet all obligations will (almost by definition) identify those obligations that the Obama administration regards as the least important. So far we've heard "Social Security, veterans, children's health, the disabled" as possible targets. Doesn't that mean that Obama believes these are the least important of current obligations?

Drew said...

It was interesting listening to the left call McConnell a pussy for saying that nothing could be done as long as Obama was president. Of course, the president's intransigence has made McConnell 100% correct.

The only approach is to make the president own the state of the economy.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Triangle Man-

Not true. In America you can be whatever you want, as long as you are willing to work for it. Some people work very hard ( judging by the choices they make ) to achieve poverty.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

W.V. unfing

President Obama's press conference was un-f-ing believable.

Scott M said...

Doesn't that mean that Obama believes these are the least important of current obligations?

Not necessarily. It means he, or his handlers, think those are the most important to the voters.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Enlightenment kinda harshes your bliss, doesn't it?

Don't worry, I have plenty of ignorance to spare.

dbp said...

The McConnell plan is good in that it will place the political blame for the debt squarely on Obama's back. The problem is that it kicks the can down the road till the president is out of the way. I think we can do better than this.

There is plenty of room for compromise. The feds are borrowing 40 Cents for every Dollar they spend. In exchange for a 10% cut in total spending this year, the Republicans would give enough debt limit increase to last one year. This could be repeated every year.

The Crack Emcee said...

I told you - McConnell & Co. are being crafty. Obami does as he's told or he falls alone.

The point is to not get any blood on yourself,...

Levi Starks said...

1) We are not Broke. The US is even as we speak taking in Billions of dollars a day in tax revenue.

2) We have obligated ourselves to spend more than we are taking in. For me as an individual this would be morally wrong. for government its business as usual.

3) Social Security is even less broke. To the best of my knowledge it is in fact currently solvent.

4) Instead of showing some chivalry and saying "As president I am going to insure that with the money we are receiving the elderly will continue to receive their social security checks" He chooses the words of a coward, and threatens those least likely to be able to survive without the government "insurance" they have been promised.

5) It has to make you wonder just how deep the rabbit hole goes when the mainstream media continues to be in the tank for him. Imagine if he said "If the debt ceiling is not raised we will not be able to continue operating remotely flown bombers to attack and kill suspected militants in countries with which we are not at war.

Hagar said...

Besides that Nixon lost his on argument that he could choose not to spend money that Congress had authorized, is not Social Security a special case?
That is, so far the payroll tax dedicated to that purpose has taken in more than the Treasury paid out, so that in effect SS payments have been made from current income, and they dropped an "I.O.U." into Al Gore's "lockbox" for the excess and used that money to pay for other things. So, do the "I.O.U's" become just another obligation of the U.S. that the Gov't may choose to repudiate or defer payment on, but the Gov't must still make current payments on the percentage of its SS obligations that is covered by income from the current payroll tax?

I am pretty sure the Administration cannot just pick and choose here, so the President also was factually incorrect.

EDH said...

Right now, forcing Obama to run in 2012 on what he actually wants to do to the economy isn't bad politics for Republicans.

edutcher said...

Somebody tell Little Zero the capo is not the one who tells the shopkeepers, "Nice little business...". That what Vinnie does.

Just shows to go what happens when you trust the family biz to Skip Corleone.

I think this is gonna blow up in his face.

PS Somebody tell Levi to tell Michael Moore to real the Social Security Trustees' report.

cubanbob said...

Obama's antics are making a great case for privatizing social security. As another commenter noted by threatening social security and veterans he is signaling what he and the democrats believe are expendable.

Let him withhold the social security checks. On that day the republicans ought to introduce a bill to privatize social security and medicare. Something along the lines of an insurance annuity that is exempt from all creditors (including government) with a modest government safety net if the annuities don't yield a sufficient amount at retirement age. Lets see the democrats go apoplectic. They won't dare not sending out the social security checks. Too risky for them.

Welfare and food stamps; with all the fraud and abuse it might be a good idea to let them not get a check for August. Government employees don't get paid, thats a good thing. Call it a pay cut, they aren't happy quit and find another job.

The republicans should propose a budget with every single cut they intend to cut along with the repeal of Obamacare, the Wagner and Davis-Bacon Acts and every piece of legislation and every regulation that is anti-business and anti-growth. And to make it even sweeter give the democrats the tax hike they want plus tax hikes and elimination of deductions and credits that will hit mainly democrat areas. And tell Obama its all or nothing. Take it or leave it its not negotiable.

Karmakshanti said...

Of course Conservatives are being sold out. But they never should have tried this particular game of Chicken in the first place.

Obama simply held all the cards: the people who are on Social Security don't want it to stop, the people who are on Medicare don't want Medicare to stop, the people who need FEMA to mitigate their disaster don't want FEMA to stop [and these days they are mostly in the "red" states below the Mason/Dixon line], people who are ready to send kids to college don't want Student Loans to stop, no Government contractor wants the payments to stop, and, most importantly, the high rollers who pull the strings in the Republican Party, don't want the Stock Market to drop from a USA default [To say nothing of those who hold Treasury Bills!]

Democrats [of course] don't want things to stop and Independents [by a 2 to 1 margin!] don't want things to stop.

The only people who want anything to stop are Conservatives/Republicans [the two terms are pretty much identical these days, which is the greatest Republican weakness of all].

And even C/R's only want somebody else's things to stop, and not theirs.

It is absolutely amazing to me that the ridiculous fantasies about Obama the man, still blind Conservatives to the qualities of the man who consistently defeats them: patience, steady nerves, and a willingness to choose the most effective alternative even if it is a higher risk alternative. Even after the killing of Osama Bin Laden they still are blind to them.

If there is a C/R office holder or likely candidate with patience, steady nerves, and a willingness to take well-calculated risks, I'd like to know about them. Sarah Palin? Rand Paul? Certainly the current House leadership doesn't appear to have them.

It is also amazing to me that Conservatives didn't even see that Obama held all the cards. It's been a long time ago now, and maybe most true C/R's are too young to remember the Clinton/Gingrich government shut down that broke the 1990's get-the-government-off-our-backs nonsense. But if they aren't, you can add to all the other ineptness an inability to learn from experience.

And because the House Republicans have folded, guess what? Obama still holds all those same cards, and, probably, most C/R's still don't know it, and still don't know how and why he plays them so effectively.

Joseph Marshall

ricpic said...

There will never be a "showdown" as long as Republican leaders' highest priority is to be in with the in crowd, the country be damned.

Canuck said...

Lipstick on a pig. McConnell holds maximum leverage right now and he's giving it away.

virgil xenophon said...

Great points, cubanbob--all of them. If I were the GOP leadership I'd be spotlighting the "Galveston Plan" night & Day (Galveston/county used a brief privatization window to go off SS and purchase pvt annuities and Life Ins in the 80s) showing the HUGE larger amts Galveston's retirees are getting viz SS. Also, ala Mark Levin's exhortations and yours,, the House should IMMEDIATELY pass it's budget with the requisite cuts to bring spending down and send it to the Senate, with the Senate Republicans loudly & publicly calling for an up or down vote and let Reid, Obama and the rest of the Dims explain why not. It would ALL be on them then..