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“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. 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. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.”
That quote wasn’t made by House Speaker John Boehner this week. And it wasn’t something Congressman Paul Ryan said, either. Instead, as most know by now, the above statement was given in March 2006 by then-Senator Barack Obama.
My how times have changed.
Back then the national debt stood at a paltry (at least compared to today’s standards) $8.2 trillion, and Congress was being asked to raise the debt ceiling to $9 trillion. When President Obama took office the national debt was $10.6 trillion. A little over two years later that debt ceiling has ballooned to $14.3 trillion and the White House is clamoring for more—much more—just to get to the end of the fiscal year in September.
Senator Obama was right back in 2006; President Obama, in 2011, is failing to lead.
America should not default on its obligations. That’s a given, and as Boehner noted this week, it would also be “irresponsible.”
But, just as irresponsible, is the ongoing belief that this nation can continue to pile up debt without making the tough calls on reducing spending. The answer isn’t to raise taxes with the idea that will solve all the problems. That won’t work. The government, as Boehner stated this week, must now take “dramatic steps to reduce spending and reform the budget process.”
It’s time for action.
Boehner said there should be cuts of “trillions, not just billions.” But more importantly, he pointed out that there should be “actual cuts and program reforms” instead of general ideas that serve only to “punt the tough questions to the future.”
There’s been enough punting, by both Republicans and Democrats.
The reality is the U.S. isn’t going to default on its obligations; Armageddon isn’t going to happen. The fact is, however, a majority of the American public understands what’s down the road if our leaders don’t take action and get spending under control. And many in that majority don’t want the debt ceiling limit raised at all; that was the message that swept last November’s elections in favor of the Republicans.
That might not be practical in the short term. But in the long term it’s the direction that must be taken. And it must start now.
Real cuts are needed and that will take true leadership. And that must begin at the top.