Barack Obama is behaving disgracefully about the debt ceiling. Republicans will do themselves no favors by dealing with him.
Where do the debt ceiling talks stand?
Right now, Republican and Democratic Congressional leaders have met at the White House for three days. They are no closer to an agreement now than they were a month ago. Republicans insist that if Congress raises the debt ceiling, then the White House must agree to cut spending by at least the same amount of money. (Why the government cannot simply cut spending and be done with it, no one bothers to explain.) The White House wants to raise taxes. They say they want to raise taxes only on this country’s richest citizens and private business companies. (Obama has a particular obsession for companies who own or lease private business jets for their chairmen and other ranking executives. Does he want to force them to fly “commercially” so that he can restrict their travel when he wants? Or does the thought of the TSA patting them down “jolly him up”? But that’s another topic.)
Tea Party activists have warned Republican Congressional leaders not to give in to Obama’s demands. The Club for Growth released a new TV spot warning Republicans not to become “another party of bigger government.” By all accounts, the Republicans (in the House, at least) are heeding those warnings.
So last night Obama raised the stakes, in a disgraceful way.
What did Obama say?
In an interview with Scott Pelly, reporter for CBS News, Obama actually said these words:
I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven’t resolved this issue. Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it.
There you have it. Obama is now holding certain government-program beneficiaries up for ransom.
This statement is even more outrageous because it contradicts everything that his side has said about Social Security “not contributing to the deficit.” For decades, apologists for Social Security have said that a “Social Security Trust Fund” exists, and that this fund will guarantee Social Security payments for the next twenty-five years.
What is the truth about Social Security?
The Social Security Trust Fund, such as it is, holds Treasury bonds, not cash or any objective store of value. Those bonds exist, not on paper, but as line items in a database—or figures in an electronic ledger. Nevertheless, one could argue that Social Security is sound because it holds some of the best “high quality” investments available—US Treasury bonds. The government has never defaulted on these bonds—yet. Nor would it default now. The interest on all the government’s debt comes to about five or six percent of what the government takes in every year.
One could argue that—and in fact the government has argued exactly that, to hold up to ridicule anyone who says that Social Security is anything but secure. Do they now agree with Social Security’s detractors? Are they now ready to admit that Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme that has been in technical default for years?
The larger meaning of Obama’s words
The larger meaning, and context, of Obama’s “no guarantee” statement are these: he is holding people up for ransom. In this case he is using Social Security recipients as a “human shield.” His message is plain: “Pay higher ransoms, or see these people suffer, and bear full responsibility for that.”
First, Obama should look at conservatives, then look in a mirror, then ask himself whether any conservative could ever think that his moral stature is at the mercy of Obama’s actions. (Actually, Obama seems to spend a lot of time looking in mirrors lately.)
Second, no one has yet shown any real need to raise the debt ceiling. If the debt ceiling does not rise, then the government has to set priorities. How they set them, and whether they set them properly, the people will judge. The country has an election coming up in less than a year and four months. Any damage that occurs should still be repairable by then.
Third—and most importantly—if Barack Hussein Obama now proposes to withdraw government support from a key constituency, then let him find out what happens when that constituency finds a more reliable support system. Many of those Social Security recipients are Tea Party members. (Your editor has talked with several of them.) They are fighting for the future of their children and grandchildren. They will not surrender to Obama’s blackmail. They will likely get direct help from their own families, and tough it out. And they will be less likely to vote for Obama next year than they were before.
Gallup reports that by more than 2 to 1, Americans don’t even want the debt ceiling to rise. (Independents say the same. Only Democrats, by a bare plurality, want the debt ceiling to go up.) If Obama is going to demand a debt ceiling rise as a ransom, then that’s reason enough not to grant it.
Featured image: a Weimar-era householder wheels a barrow full of money to buy a loaf of bread.
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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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