The Debt Ceiling Fight: What I Wish Would Happen (Patrick)

5 Jan

Paul Krugman has an interesting piece in the New York Times about the recent Democratic victory in the fiscal cliff negotiations and how the debate over the debt ceiling is shaping up.  He makes a lot of great points over the stregthened position of Obama and the Democrats, but he rightly points out that this next fight does not bode well, as there is no reasonable possibility of missing this deadline.  How can Obama work this so he doesn’t have to bend to Republican hostage taking of the country’s full faith and credit?

My answer is that he has to use his inauguration and address to Congress to begin a vigorous and passionate pitch to the American people about his plan.  He needs to formulate a reasonable plan to reform the tax code to raise revenue and simplify the tax code, something business wants, rein in defense spending, and offer some reasonable entitlment reform package, take the initiative and offer some ideas like means-testing of benefits and raising the payroll tax to cover higher incomes (as the payroll tax is currently restricted to the first hundred thousand dollars of income, making it inexplicably regressive).  By pitching a comprehensive plan to the American people, he comes across as the forward-thinking, serious leader we elected, to start.  He takes the argument that he does not care about the debt away from Republicans, removing any reason for the Republicans to hold the nation hostage.  And finally, by giving a little on entitlements, without pitching anything that would hurt the working class, he takes away many of the reasonable reforms that Republicans would use to sound like harmless moderates.  From there, Republicans can only fight for policies that would hurt, resoundingly, the lower classes.  Additionally, he should remind Congress that it is his duty to uphold the full faith and credit of the United States, and stated in the 14th Amendment, and that if Congress does not act, he would not be afraid to take bold action and invoking this duty to authorize further borrowing.  When Obama says he will not debate over the debt ceiling, he needs to put teeth in that threat.

To boot, he must do what he has done since re-election, take his case to the people.  He has to travel the country, keeping his vision in the headlines, refuse to let the Republicans let their nonsense ideas dominate the news.  He has to continually remind the people that he is the one fighting for them.  And if his views are unpopular with some in his own party or if there is doubt in the population about what his plan means for him, he needs to show the passion and vision that he has shown for the past year and a half, and has shown since his speech to the DNC in 2004.  Whenever Americans begin to turn against him, it’s because they forget he is just one of us, a man who only just recently paid down his college loans, has a family, and has fought his way to the Presidency on behalf of a vision of a fairer, stronger America for all Americans, not just the richest few.  If he takes his plan on the road, he can get the American people on his side, an insurmountable force when directed by a strong leader.

By making a forceful case for his vision for the budget, he can then reject any attempt by Republicans to use the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip.  By immediately getting the American people, and the business community additionally, on his side, he can put enormous pressure on Republicans to prevent a repeat of the last debt ceiling crisis.

Americans want a leader to direct the nation and Congress, a leader that gets the nation’s business done in a timely manner.  Obama, in showing vision and passion, can get what he wants, and begin to cement his legacy as a great President.

The Krugman article:


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