Obama must stand up with debt crisis plan

Just before President Barack Obama signed his historic health care bill in 2010, Vice President Joe Biden famously shook the president's hand, leaned toward him and whispered "this is a Big (blanking) deal."

Unfortunately, a nearby microphone picked up the VP's congratulations along with the expletive in the middle.

The question two and a half years later, as the country faces an even more serious long-range fiscal problem, is why the president isn't proposing a similarly ambitious plan.

He has won his second term and will never have to run for office again. He was popularly elected by the nation at large, which should give him some temporary political advantage.

What is he waiting for?

While the media focuses on House Speaker John Boehner's failure to muster a critical vote from his Republican majority, little is said or written about Obama's failure to conclude a meaningful deal.

The president did extract a tax increase for singles making more than $400,000 a year and couples earning more than $450,000.

But the $6 billion that will raise over 10 years is essentially a rounding error compared to the trillions of dollars we need to raise or cut to meet our national obligations.

As Peggy Noonan recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, it was an "emotional, symbolic and ideological victory, not a substantive one."

Obama's haggling session with Boehner came to no conclusion. Finally, unable to reach an agreement, he sent Biden to the Senate to work out a compromise that basically postponed the crisis for a couple of months.

Instead of a solution, our country and our economy are again held hostage awaiting the next crisis, the fight over extending the country's debt limit in March.

This is not how a serious nation should operate, lurching from one embarrassing gun-to-the head crisis to another.

The goal of Republicans and Democrats continues to be giving up just enough ground to get by while expending maximum effort making sure the other side gets the blame.

Now would be an excellent time for Obama to show what presidential leadership is all about.

He has the material for a serious plan at hand, the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan that has been sitting on the shelf since 2010.

Some say the purpose of such blue ribbon commissions is to simply delay action on something obvious but unpleasant, like raising taxes and cutting long-term entitlements.

But Obama has been re-elected; now is the time to act.

He could show real leadership by proposing a strong, sensible plan. Such a plan will, by necessity, please no one.

But great leaders have the ability to convince their followers that there is a crisis ahead and call upon them to make shared sacrifice to confront the challenge.

With the movie "Lincoln" in theaters, Obama should note how the great man successfully confronted a problem — slavery — when others urged caution.

Obama could use his mandate to forge a compromise, obtain the support of the American people and induce Congress to accept it.

We cannot leave that job to John Boehner in the U.S. House or Harry Reid in the U.S. Senate.

This is a presidential moment, and the time has come for Obama to lead.


The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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PAUL ST JEAN's picture

This president could not lead

This president could not lead a flock of sheep across a one lane road.

GARY SAVARD's picture

What we have in President

What we have in President Obama is a charismatic person who cannot lead. When that happens, the obvious solution is to place the blame for problems on others. It works well for him, and his followers eat it up like a flock of chickens being fed cracked corn. When something needs fixing, the man at the top is supposed to find a way to fix it, that's why he is at the top in the first place. There is plenty of fault to go around on this mess, and both democrats and republicans have shares in it's creation. To keep blaming the other guy for the problems is about as lame as it gets.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

..."and his followers eat it

..."and his followers eat it up like a flock of chickens being fed cracked corn."
What his followers are being fed is bull manure, but most of them are dumb enough to believe that it is cracked corn he's feeding them.
Placing blame for their misgivings on others is the most effective strategy in the democrats playbook. Take it away and all that remains is, "Duh?"

Jason Theriault's picture

So what your saying....

With the movie "Lincoln" in theaters, Obama should note how the great man successfully confronted a problem — slavery — when others urged caution.

So what your saying is that Obama should invade? Put down the opposition by force?

 's picture

What Debt Crisis?

America has no Debt Crisis nor does it have a spending crisis. America has a Growth Crisis. After 30 years of mismanagement the Republicans, faithful to their worshipful adulation of the wealthy, have driven the US economy to the point of desperation. Deregulation and a failure to enforce US law has lead to massive fraud, tax evasion, and even murder (KBR in Iraqi has electrocuted and poisoned US servicemen and women and is now asking the US government to pay for the court settlements against KBR) without any accountability.
The President has to develop a plan to grow the economy with the Republican millstone tying his hands.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"The president has to develop

"The president has to develop a plan to grow the economy with the republican millstone tying his hands."
We should be thankful for that. It isn't the regime's function to grow the economy. The private sector could handle that task quite effectively if the government would simply get the hell out of the way.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Here we go again all

Here we go again all Republicans fault chant. No matter how you rationalize, justify, lie to yourself, the facts are clear. Expenditures exceed revenue by 43%. This is much more that you can extract from ALL taxpayers.

If it looks like a spending problem, smells like spending problem, it is a spending problem.

Just think, who would you blame for government failures if it were not for your enemy? You would have to face reality, but then again, I’m sure you will have an excuse.

Perhaps someday you will discover that it is government itself that is the problem.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Government's version of

Government's version of growing the economy is spending $11 for every $7 it takes in.

 's picture

Government is the Problem? Just a few stories from this week

Swiss Bank agrees to pay almost a $1 billion for setting up and operating a Tax evasion scheme for Americans. 33,000 very rich Americas have voluntarily joined the IRS amnesty program that resulted from the original UBS scandal. this bank in 2008 marketed their new tax evasion scheme to the former customers of UBS after UBS was exposed.
BofA agrees to join the settlement of the government regulatory action where the banks pay $8.5 billion for systematic fraud in mortgage creation, processing, and foreclosures. The fraud is so extensive that the regulators gave up. They didn't have the time to investigate all of the fraud and the transactions were too complex for any kind of analysis. Of course, this is exactly what brought the housing market down in 2007. No bank or bank employee is going to be held accountable for their crimes.
You need a cop on the beat because corporate America is better characterized as organized crime than as a free market. The government fails at this 95% of the time but there is always hope.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Tax the rich, feed the poor,

Tax the rich, feed the poor, till there are no rich no more.

 's picture

Ok, wasted one comment; care to try for two

1. statement is untrue.
2. has no policy value
3. is meaningless

Why would you tax the poor?
Why would you feed the rich?

and if you did would the poor disappear.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

1. I did not write the song.

1. I did not write the song.

2. It is obvious you didn't either.

3. If a keen sense of smell ever becomes a means of guaranteed monetary prosperity; the poor will be born without noses.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Why would you tax the

Why would you tax the poor?

To self-limit the services that poor ask for. If I can vote myself more stuff from the government without having to pay for it, then why not. However, if the poor have skin in the game, what they ask for is self-limiting. It is called having skin in the game.

“and if you did would the poor disappear.”

No simply because how the government defines poverty. There will always be people below the poverty level. If prosperity increases, so will the poverty threshold.

Even a poor American is rich compared to how most of the people live on the plant.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

I don't understand why people

I don't understand why people continue to look at the source of the problem for a solution.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

None of them wants to bite

None of them wants to bite the hand that's feeding them.

 's picture


Your assumption is false. Government isn't the source of the problem - power is. And until working people understand that they can win more frequently by uniting we will continue to lose and government will continue to fail to meet its promise 95% of the time.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

You are asking people to work

You are asking people to work against human nature; therefore, you will never resolve the issue if you keep looking to a central authority to solve problems that are best solved by the individual.

 's picture

No I'm not

That's what Madison's genius devised - the means to use human nature to reign in human nature i.e. use ambition to counter ambition. Checks and balances. One man's human nature balances anothers. The choice is not a central authority vs the individual. The choice is a democratic balanced central authority making it possible for that individual to realize their ambition. The government becomes the means for self-realization because it makes possible a society where everyone can. A dictatorship of the Corporations does exactly what feudal societies did - self-realization is only possible through the patronage of the elite which is dispensed abitrarily by whim not reason or merit.

 's picture

Mark, I objected to the characterization

Yes, we have a debt problem. Yes, I assigned blame for that problem to the Republicans (actually their masters the Corporate elite)because their policies are the source of 90+% of the problem. But its completely wrong to characterize the problem as a crisis. It may become a crisis and will if the Republicans continue to follow their boom and bust economic philosophy which puts all our futures at risk.
Just one small example. Medicare spending is out of control - fact. But why. Because the Republicans under George Bush's leadership passed and he signed the Medicare Part-D and then didn't pay for it. I don't know what the current costs are but during the debate over the bill Bush guaranteed debt hawk conservatives that the cost would not exceed $395 billion. His administration knew then that the costs would exceed $700 billion/year in the first year and projected costs over $1 trillion in the out years. That's the primary reason Medicare spending is out of control. Obviously the demographic shift also contributes and the medical cost inflation contributes and its not clear if Obamacare has reduced medical cost inflation from 6% to 4% or if the recession did. Medicare can be fixed. Since it was started Medicare has been projeced to go broke in less the 5 years many times and each time its been fixed. No Crisis here just irresponsibile management.
And no I won't. Government is the only possible solution even if it fails to live up to its promise about 95% of the time.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

It is amazing how much you

It is amazing how much you defend the Democrats at all cost and think they are not complicate and think they will solve this problem.

One the one hand you claim Republicans want to eliminate medicare, yet on the other hand you blame them for the fiscal problems. Amazing how Republicans can have it both ways - go figure.

 's picture

Now you get it

That's precisely correct. How do you eliminate a very popular, highly successful program that is essential to the wellbeing of millions of citizens while maintaining political power? Repeal loses political power and likely can't succeed. I read a quote from Lincoln this morning which was something like this - How do you get rid of a bad law - enforce it vigorously. So the Republican strategy has been to heap more and more goodies into the program while cutting revenues until the program is unsustainable. They think that point has been reached so now is the time to eliminate it. Now they still can't eliminate it head on so vouchers or privatization or some other scheme so that over time it will wither on the vine. Its called the Norquist Plan.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

The people take the money out

The people take the money out of Washington. Starve the beast.

 's picture

That's the problem

The Constitution, through Madison, provides the means to deal with the asymmetry of power. Without Government all power is controlled by the corporations primarily the banks and the people are oppressed (all corporations are dictatorships). As goverment grows it limits the power of the corporations so they corrupt the government. They succeed except for the Constitution which if the people rise up and use the Constitution they can eliminate the corruption and take back the power. Starve the government and you invite dictatorship.


Deficit, what deficit?

And you can bet that all those fiscally conservative Republicans will be falling all over each other to pony out this money to their favorite war profiteer. When it comes to their buddies the tax payer has plenty of money.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

I would say you are blind to

I would say you are blind to reality if you thing all pork spending is spawned by Republicans.



While the President of the United States is very powerful, he is not God. Nor does he do magic. Instead, he has to work with a Congress, which not only holds the purse strings, but right now is less popular than lice thanks to their ideological dysfunction and willfull contempt for what the public wants as expressed in the last election. As for persuading them. You cannot persuade fanatics nor can you persuade people who are afraid of fanatics. One can only hope that at some point someone in Congress will develop a patriotic love of country and put the good of the American people ahead of their greed.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"While the President of the

"While the President of the United States is very powerful, he is not God."
oBAMa doesn't know that.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

So tell the readers how Obama

So tell the readers how Obama would solve the gap between spending and revenue if your fantasy fanatics did not exist?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

oBAMa can only broaden the

oBAMa can only broaden the gap between spending and revenue. It's in his DNA. It took Reagan and the two Bushes 20 years to amass a national debt load of $10.6 trillion. It has taken the Campaigner in Chief less than 5 years to accumulate his $5.4 trillion portion of a $16 trillion total debt. And the lefties believe he will narrow the gap between spending and revenue? In their wildest dreams, maybe.


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