There was a time when Barack Obama claimed to believe that raising the national debt ceiling was a “sign of leadership failure” and proof of “reckless fiscal policies” — not to mention the horrors of “shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren.” Less than eight years ago, in fact, then-Senator Obama argued that “Americans deserve better.” Apparently, now that Obama is president, they no longer do.
In yet another sign of “leadership failure,” as the current White House occupant once put it, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew sent a letter to congressional leaders this week demanding that Congress raise the borrowing limit by late February at the latest. If Congress refuses to do so, Lew warned, accounting gimmicks — so-called “extraordinary measures” — will only be able to keep Washington’s ballooning bills paid until around the end of next month.
“Protecting the full faith and credit of the United States is the responsibility of Congress, because only Congress can extend the nation’s borrowing authority,” Lew wrote in the letter to lawmakers sent Wednesday. “No Congress in our history has failed to meet that responsibility. I respectfully urge Congress to provide certainty and stability to the economy and financial markets by acting to raise the debt limit before Feb. 7, 2014, and certainly before late February.”
As usual, the establishment press is claiming that another supposed “showdown” between Republicans and Democrats is in the works. With the leader of their party in the White House, Democrat lawmakers are joining the administration in pushing for a so-called “clean” bill allowing the out-of-control borrowing and spending spree to continue accelerating. GOP leadership, meanwhile, appears to be hoping to wring a few largely worthless “concessions” out of the fight in a dubious bid to placate the party base.
“The Speaker has said that we should not default on our debt, or even get close to it, but a ‘clean’ debt limit increase simply won't pass in the House,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. “We hope and expect the White House will work with us on a timely, fiscally responsible solution.”
Of course, the real “fiscally responsible” solution would be to immediately stop saddling the American people and their descendants with impossible-to-pay odious debts to fund bloated and unconstitutional government. For Boehner and other Republican Party leaders in Congress, however, it appears that real solutions are entirely out of the question. “I would hope that the House and Senate would act quickly on a bill to increase the debt limit,” Boehner said last week.
According to the New York Times, congressional aides are suggesting that they may try to pursue some “face-saving measure to placate House conservatives.” Among other possible options on forcing supposed “concessions” from the administration: “controlling the growth of entitlement programs” or “easing the path to an overhaul of the tax code.” In other words, like in past “deals,” the bogus “concessions” will amount to essentially nothing — even if they do materialize.
Democrats, on the other hand, are vowing not to “negotiate.” The GOP must roll over and obey immediately — no questions asked — or Obama and his cohorts in Congress and the “media” will terrorize the American people with threats of imminent default and certain doom. As in the recent theatrical “government shutdown” brouhaha, the first programs to go will be those most likely to harm the greatest number of people, with foreign aid and other anti-constitutional schemes continuing untouched in perpetuity (or at least until the whole house of cards comes crashing down).
“With the bipartisan agreements on the budget and on funding the government for this year, we have an opportunity to move past the manufactured crises and work together on real challenges,” claimed Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who chairs the Senate Budget Committee. “I hope Republicans will listen to Secretary Lew and join Democrats to ensure the U.S. pays its bills on time with no strings attached.”
In March of 2006, though, when George W. Bush was president, Obama and other Democrats were singing a very different tune. “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure,” Obama said. “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.”
Increasing the U.S. government’s ability to borrow ever greater sums, Obama correctly continued, “weakens us domestically and internationally.” He added: “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.”
Back then, the debt was a “mere” $8.6 trillion. “That is ‘trillion’ with a ‘T,’ ” Obama emphasized. “That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers.” Today, after five years of what Obama then described as “leadership failure,” the debt is almost twice that, with no end to its devastating growth in sight.
Of course, the real root of the problem — the debt-based monetary system operated by the banking cartel’s privately owned Federal Reserve System — will not be addressed unless and until the American people demand it. In fact, there is literally no way to address the perpetually expanding debt burden without either totally destroying what remains of the economy or restoring honest money.
Eventually, drastically slashing federal spending must be a top priority, beginning with abolishing all unconstitutional programs, agencies, and departments. The alternative is borrowing America into oblivion, resulting in hyperinflation, bankruptcy, and eventual economic collapse. At the current rate, experts say that disastrous scenario could be here much sooner than any of the leadership failures in Washington are willing to admit.
Alex Newman is a correspondent for The New American, covering economics, politics, and more. He can be reached at