Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Debt Ceiling Dispute

This week we get to see whether Our President has finally grown big enough balls to stand up to those big bad Republicans. Yes, I know, they're very scary! Some of them are so stupid they may as well be crazy, and some of them have been publicly committed to supply-side voodoo for so long they are incapable of making rational choices.

Obama's biggest problem is that he's backed down so many times there's no reason for even the sensible Republicans — those who are just ordinary politicians — to believe he won't do so again. That means he has to get out ahead of the game this time, even given the fast approaching "deadline" that's supposed to frighten all of us so much.

Here's my suggestion: begin by announcing that there will be no agreement that does not include tax increases for the rich. He should not fudge the language by talking about "closing loopholes" or "eliminating subsidies" — he should come straight out and say "tax increases." The Republicans will, of course, accuse him of "class warfare," but what the hell? America is ready for a little "class warfare" at the moment, and the tea parties should not have a monopoly on populism while so-called conservatives load greater and greater burdens on the backs of the middle class and the poor.

Obama has taken a good first step by rejecting any temporary, stopgap measure that will do nothing but push the problem closer to the 2012 election. He has a history (think of the Bush tax cut extensions) of being nickled and dimed into major concessions, and he shouldn't allow that to happen again.

After drawing his line in the sand, his next step should be to announce that he will instruct Treasury to continue to sell bonds even after the debt ceiling is reached, based on the idea that when Congress votes for spending without raising sufficient revenues to pay the bills, it must be assumed that Congress is empowering the executive to borrow. By the time the Supreme Court issues an opinion on the Constitutional validity of a debt ceiling, breaching it will be a fait accompli, and the debt ceiling no longer could be held hostage by Republican blackmailers.

It's time for the president to start acting more like a scary black man and less like somebody who got his job through an affirmative action program. The only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them. Barack Obama seems to be beginning to make that attempt. Let's hope he follows through.

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