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The President's Stunning Hypocrisy on the Debt Limit

Why was $8.6 trillion in federal debt unacceptable and reckless to Senator Obama in 2006, but $16.4 trillion perfectly acceptable to President Obama today?

What a difference seven years and moving from the position of U.S. Senator to U.S. President make! The following speech was delivered by then-Senator Barack Obama on March 16, 2006. I wonder if his supporters can provide valid explanation for Mr. Obama turning one hundred eighty degrees from fighting an increase in the debt ceiling tooth and nail in 2006 to insisting today that it be hiked, or a legitimate rationale for his objection to the $8.6 trillion in debt of 2006, but no concern about the $16.4 trillion of red ink that exists today, and which he contributed to mightily. Could there be any more blatant, bald-faced display of hypocrisy? Will his supporters own up to the fact that the president has spoken out of both sides of his mouth?

"Mr. President, I rise today to talk about America's debt problem. The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can't pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies.

"Over the past 5 years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion. That is ''trillion'' with a ''T.'' That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers. And over the next 5 years, between now and 2011, the President's budget will increase the debt by almost another $3.5 trillion.

"Numbers that large are sometimes hard to understand. Some people may wonder why they matter. Here is why: This year, the Federal Government will spend $220 billion on interest. That is more money to pay interest on our national debt than we'll spend on Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program. That is more money to pay interest on our debt this year than we will spend on education, homeland security, transportation, and veterans benefits combined ...

"Our debt also matters internationally. My friend, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, likes to remind us that it took 42 Presidents 224 years to run up only $1 trillion of foreign-held debt. This administration did more than that in just 5 years. Now, there is nothing wrong with borrowing from foreign countries. But we must remember that the more we depend on foreign nations to lend us money, the more our economic security is tied to the whims of foreign leaders whose interests might not be aligned with ours.

"Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ''the buck stops here.'' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

"I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America's debt limit."

Source:  Wall Street Journal, Notable and Quotable, Jan. 16, 2013

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Michele Baum January 18, 2013 at 04:42 PM
With very rare exceptions, Americans have been paying the debts of past generations since the founding of the republic. Social Security payments made to today's retirees do not come from the money they paid into the system. Their payments are coming from me and my fellow Baby Boomers. My payments would come from our children's paychecks. Frankly, I don't believe there will be any, though. Republicans AND Democrats are culpable for this. Thanks to Government's surrender to the Big Business lobby over the past 30-plus years, my generation is on its own.
Roger January 18, 2013 at 07:30 PM
Quoting: "... my generation is on its own." And, that is how it should have been for a long time. The confiscation of our funds over the many years, and having them badly managed is painful. It is not hard to do a little math, showing how one could have made safe investments with the same money over a work life, would have at least three times the income at retirement. Now, the system is in a spiral, with no easy answer out. We've trapped ourselves, not because of Big Business, but rather because politicians felt they could do better with our funds. The imposition of their will has taken lots of capital out of the system, while many retirees struggle by relying upon what the government gives them in return.
Michele Baum January 18, 2013 at 09:53 PM
Quoting: "It is not hard to do a little math, showing ..." This assumption provides primarily for those who have an appropriate understanding of market investments/resources to hire financial consultant and the excess income over expenses to be able to invest. Not everyone does, and those who do aren't always smart about it. Is that our fault? Partly. The defined benefit pensions that my parents' generation enjoyed -- and that many retirees enjoy today (while decrying the "greedy unions" whose activism sparked those benefits) -- are gone. All the "personal responsibility" wishful thinking in the world will not change the fact that millions more people will be aging in poverty; meanwhile, the social safety net is in shreds and the deficit hawks demand greater sacrifice. These are generalizations with, as you say, no easy answers. Compromise is critical, yet Washington is in refusal mode and people on USC Patch are shouting at each other. It's beyond depressing.
Roger January 19, 2013 at 02:42 PM
Michele, your comment about "have an appropriate understanding" says much more about our educational system than anything else. Why don't our citizens understand these very basic ideas, without the help of a consultant. Simple math, perhaps at the sixth grade level, is all that is needed, to see the workings of investments. Defined benefit programs may have helped some folks, but they have caused great harm to many financial infrastructures. Consider the public employee pension plans -- huge, huge unfunded liabilities, for which there is no underlying support. The idea of "employee benefits" was to leverage before-tax money. In the end, the concept has risen to bite us hard. What is wrong with paying somebody for the work they do, and let each person make their own decisions regarding other parts of their life (e.g. retirement, health care, vacation, ect.). The leverage for these idea is long gone. No, personal responsibility is not wishful thinking. The statement suggesting it to be true is one more step up on the ladder of having others make our decisions for us. And, the one source that has become front-center, the government. As the decades roll on past WWII, the dependency upon not only the government to make decisions for us, but to rely upon the government for the resources, has skyrocketed. The days of self-reliance are long gone. The regrettable part of that pattern is the compliance of our citizens. How warm is the frog in the kettle?
Oren Spiegler January 19, 2013 at 02:51 PM
Roger is correct about this being a society in which personal responsibility has been bid adieu. Look at the food stamp program as case in point. It was established as a bridge for families in legitimate need. At the time of its initiation, it served one in fifty. Today, it serves 47,000,000, or one in seven, and according to The Wall Street Journal, half of those receiving the benefit have been in the program for eight years or more. The program, incidentally, costs between $71 and $80 billion per year depending on whose figures are accepted as accurate, no small sum. Are some of the new beneficiaries there because of financial hardship brought about by the economy and unemployment or underemployment? Most certainly, but that cannot fully explain the extent to which the program has exploded. This administration, and the one of the fake fiscal conservative which preceded it, have encouraged individuals to become food stamp recipients, something which would have been unthinkable years ago.

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