DN Editorial: No compromises! Obama should act on debt ceiling

Posted: July 27, 2011

THE VOLUME of calls to the House of Representatives yesterday was so heavy they jammed the congressional switchboard - evidence that Americans responded to President Obama's plea Monday night.

The president asked Americans to tell Congress to "compromise" and stop the suicidal "three- ring circus" that risks economic catastrophe over what in the past has been a routine vote by Congress to raise the debt ceiling.

How routine? During the Bush administration, Republicans voted to raise it four times for a total of $4 trillion.

We also are urging you to call your representatives in Congress (202-224-3121). You can also dial up the White House comments line (202-456-1111). Give them this message: Congress should approve, and the president should sign, not a one of the proposed "compromises" with $1 trillion, $2 trillion, $3 trillion or $4 trillion in budget cuts that are "balanced" with a little "revenue" (none dare call it taxes).

Instead, tell them that it's really dangerous to be making momentous, life-and-death policy decisions with the threat of economic Armageddon hanging over all of us: If Congress doesn't vote to increase the debt ceiling by Tuesday, the U.S. could default on its debt for the first time.

And make no mistake, even the most modest budget cuts that are reported "on the table" (what a world in which $1 trillion in cuts is "modest") will have tragic consequences for many Americans: seniors denied health care, children who get sick because their food wasn't properly inspected, consumers abused by credit-card companies or predatory lenders.

These kind of deals - like December's budget deal - are basically anti-democratic. If members of Congress want to cut benefits for Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid, how about hearings and open debate instead of closed-door sessions involving a handful of people? Same thing for raising taxes on millionaires.

(We know why: with 70 percent-plus majorities, Americans want no cuts to Social Security and Medicare, no how. They want the rich to pay their fare share.

But what they really, really want is jobs.

So we were disappointed yet again when the president made like Herbert Hoover and declared Monday that the government is like a family that needs to cut back spending now. Just the opposite is true: Government needs to continue to run deficits to create jobs, which will increase demand for goods and services and get the private sector growing again. Spending cuts will do just what they did in Hoover's time - make bad things worse. It's now clear that the tea party-infused House Republicans are incapable of saying yes even when they get what they said they wanted.

It's too late now for either a "grand bargain" or a small deal. Congress should come up with a "clean bill" to raise the debt ceiling. If not, Obama should heed President Bill Clinton's advice and invoke the 14th Amendment to raise it on his own. Give them a call and tell them so.

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