Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Do Your Job" Who is responsible for our looming debt crisis?

Article from 1953 on raising the debt ceiling.
Compromise. It's all over the news right now. President Obama is asking Republican leaders to compromise on raising the debt ceiling. I'll be honest economic issues are not my strong suit so I decided to do some research on this issue and what the consequences of the proposed solutions are. The first thing that caught my attention was Google's newspaper archives so I looked into articles written at times when other presidents wanted to raise the debt ceiling.The first one I found was from 1953 when President Eisenhower asked Congress to raise the debt ceiling from $275 billion to $290 billion. According to the article in the August 5th edition of the Milwaukee Sentinel, the bill passed in the House, but for the first time a strong minority fought against raising the debt ceiling. One of the leaders pushing against the President's request was Senator Byrd who pointed out that the President "does not have to spend every penny he is given. He has the power to economize". According to the article, the bill did not pass the Senate and a bipartisan majority of the finance committee found that "the only way to stop astronomical spending was to keep the treasury within the law." I find this history excerpt very interesting because the article points out that a limit was first placed on the country's debt in 1935 of $45 billion and that by 1946 the limit had reached the $275 billion that Eisenhower wanted to raise. What caught my attention the most was not actually part of the news article at all. but the "sponsored links" on the side of the page. Two of the three links grabbed by attention with, "Tell Boehner to Do His Job" and "Tell the GOP to Do Their Job". Both of these links were for petitions to send to Republican Congressional leaders asking them to back President Obama's plan for raising the debt ceiling.

So after looking at historical information on the issue I looked up current articles and I found a repeat of the idea that the Republicans in Congress are not doing their job because they won't agree to the President's plan. White House spokesman Jay Carney was quoted in an article on USA Today's website saying, "And it's a Sophie's choice, right? Who do you save? Who do you pay? That's an impossible situation that this country has never faced, and should never face, if Congress does what it was elected to do and does it's job." Congress has two bills out on this issue at the moment, one in the House and one in the Senate, but Carney says of the House bill that the Democratic Senate will reject it if it passes in the House because it only includes a six-month extension of the debt ceiling. Carney says this bill is a waste of time because it is not a compromise and therefore the representatives behind it are not "doing their job." It sounds to me like it's the White House who is unwilling to compromise, not the republicans in Congress. Many of the Republican representatives were elected on a promise to cut spending and not increase it. They are risking breaking their promises to the voters if they agree to raise the debt ceiling, but yet they are willing to discuss a plan that includes raising the debt ceiling temporarily. I don't know many of the specifics of each plan, but it seems clear to me that if Boehner's plan includes raising the debt ceiling at all it is definitely a compromise and the fact that the White House doesn't see it as such shows me their own stubbornness.

As I said earlier, there is a lot that I still don't understand about this issue and I recognize that it is very complex, but to me the evidence suggests that the White House is attempting to sway public opinion against the Republican representatives who are in fact trying to "do their jobs" and be faithful to the people that elected them.