America's debt crisis is due not to undertaxation but to overspending, not to "right-wing partisanship" but to bipartisan collusion. Spending profligates who demand "more revenue" on the occasion of an impending debt-lifting deadline are like thieves who turn back to their old victims upon the arrival of new bills.
The conventional wisdom -- that opponents of tax increases and big spenders stand equally responsible for the crisis -- is false. But even that bogus equivalence is too much for liberals to take; they consider opponents of tax increases wholly responsible for it.
How evil are opponents of tax increases in the eyes of the liberal chattering class? Evil enough for a member of it to compare Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor unfavorably to a murderous king. "To understand Cantor, think Macbeth with all the vaulting ambition and none of the accompanying guilt," writes Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus.
President Obama, meanwhile, plays the innocent bystander who strolls up to a crash he caused and asks to help. "Now is the time to deal with these issues," he said at Monday's press conference. "If not now, when?"
On crises he has ignored or made much worse, Obama never fails to present himself as the expert at solving them. He can add trillions of dollars to the deficit and then blithely cast himself as a deficit hawk, all the while portraying real deficit hawks who warned of the debt crisis as the parties least concerned about it.
"Never let a serious crisis go to waste," said Obama's former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel -- a motto for Obama that applies particularly to his self-generated ones. And so this crisis -- accelerated by Obama's overspending -- has become a useful pretext for him to propose new taxes while presenting himself as an above-the-fray centrist who favors spending cuts over the objections of his party (cuts which he would undo later, as he signaled to his base through the word "investments" in this line from his Monday press conference: "Let's get this problem off the table…with a solid fiscal situation, we will then be in a position to make the kind of investments that I think are going to be necessary to win the future.")
But Senator Mitch McConnell has now proposed a plan that complicates Obama's posturing. Let's just give Obama the authority to lift the debt ceiling without having to hash out a compromise, argues McConnell. This is not his "first choice," he says, but at least it would avert a default, saddle Obama with responsibility for raising the debt limit, and spare Republicans from having to accept any tax increases as part of a compromise.
The can of peas that Obama claimed to want on the table and promptly eaten could be kicked down the road by him after all, if he takes McConnell's proposal. This might cause Obama some embarrassment, but, let's face it, that's never stopped him before. According to the press, "senior Democrats" like what they are hearing from McConnell.
It turns out that the wish of Nancy Pelosi -- raising the debt ceiling without spending cuts -- isn't as fanciful as some thought. Her position was mocked last week; now it looks ahead of the curve.
"At Thursday's White House meeting between President Obama and congressional leaders, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner laid out in stark terms the awful economic repercussions of allowing the debt ceiling to lapse. Everyone in the room agreed that defaulting on U.S. debt would be disastrous and that something must be done. At that point, Nancy Pelosi asked: Why couldn't the debt ceiling be decoupled from deficit reduction?" reported Time. "Her query, after so many weeks of reports and talks centered on deficit reduction tied to a debt ceiling deal, visibly surprised some leaders in the room, several Republican and Democratic sources say. Obama politely informed the House Minority Leader, those same sources say, that that train had left the station weeks ago."
McConnell's "detour" suggests that train may roll back to pick her up, with Obama boarding too.
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