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The president was right the 1st time

April 26, 2011 - Mike Maneval
President Barack Obama, speaking to ABC's George Stephanopoulas in mid-April, characterized a vote he cast as a U.S. Senator years prior against lifting the debt ceiling as an error, implying his vote failed in "doing what was important for the country." In lobbying Congress to lift the debt ceiling again, Obama is renouncing this past action.

In seven months, according to CBS News, the debt increased $1 trillion dollars, from $13 trillion in June 2010 to $14 trillion as of Jan. 3, 2011. As a considerable portion of our debt is financed by the Chinese dictatorship, our continued dependence on foreign debt financing hinders our ability to press China to respect human rights or even keep the oppressive regime at an appropriate distance. Instead, our dependence requires we reward their tyranny with preferential trade status and diplomatic credibility. And as we slide deeper into debt and spending deficits, the price tag at the end only will grow — the more deficit spending done today, the more paying off the debt will divert tax dollars from essential government functions in the future.

Republicans wouldn't be irresponsible to insist on a binding commitment to entitlement reform before authorizing a rise in the debt ceiling. Proposals that should be on the table — some of which this blog has detailed before — include lifting the age of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare, abolition of Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage, more stringent eligibility requirements for Medicaid and other low-income assistance programs, and means-testing to reduce or eliminate Social Security benefits for the wealthy.

Some will bristle at the idea that curtailing entitlements should be the first step toward a more balanced budget. And I agree — in theory — that both far-reaching reform of the tax and revenue codes that includes more tariffs and a heavier tax burden on unearned income and cuts to defense spending will be needed. But the president has not taken up either fight effectively in two and half years. Rather, we now are entangled in Libya and our disentanglement from Iraq is progressing much more slowly than candidate Obama had campaigned on.

Compromise with Republicans on entitlement reform would open a window of time for the White House to reposition itself, to continue and speed up withdrawal from Iraq and disengage from Libya so we can cut the military-industrial budget, and to formulate a tax plan that partially cuts the debt through taxation less enamored with various models of usury. But to provide the White House with the impetus to make these trade-offs, Republican senators should be willing to adapt the president's correct position — a willingness to vote against what Obama once said "weakens us domestically and internationally" if the first step of entitlement reform isn't taken.


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