Last week, President Obama began a series of economic speeches aimed at breathing life into a dismal economy. “Right now, what we’ve got in Washington, we've seen a sizable group of Republican lawmakers suggest that they wouldn’t vote to pay the very bills that Congress rang up," he said. "And that fiasco harmed a fragile recovery in 2011, and we can’t afford to repeat that.”
Unfortunately, for the president and the general public, evidence suggests that we will be facing another fiasco, one which we simply cannot afford.
Instead of racing towards the next fiscal cliff and trying to claim victory over the president, Republicans should do one thing: raise the debt ceiling with no strings attached. Putting the country’s credit on the line again is not the way to restart a sluggish economy and certainly not the way to win over changing demographics that will be affected by a selective default. Averting catastrophe presents an opportunity for the GOP to regain credibility with the American people when it comes to the budget. If the government shutdowns and Obamacare is not defunded and we lose our credit worthiness because the debt ceiling was not raised, Republicans risk their chance of controlling both chambers of Congress.
According to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, 83% of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing, the highest disapproval rate in the polls’ history. Although this spans party lines, voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act for the 40th time is not helping solve the problem. People are not seeing Congress try anything different and it seems more than plausible that disapproval would rise higher if our government drives over another fiscal cliff.
Some may disagree on what exactly constitutes the next fiscal cliff, but with our budget having already hit the debt ceiling in May and the Treasury Department undertaking extraordinary measures to pay the government’s bills, the alarm has been sounding off pretty loudly.
Despite this, Speaker Boehner is signaling that he does not plan to heed any warning and is willing to cause real damage by threatening not to raise the debt ceiling. "We're not going to raise the debt ceiling without real cuts in spending. It's as simple as that," he said.
The Senate is no better. A group of Republicans led by Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) has indicated they are willing to shut down the government if Obamacare is not defunded. Taken together, these threats illustrate a total disregard for the financial health of the country. Looming in the not-so-distant future is the Continuing Resolution, legislation that funds the government and is set to expire on September 30.
There is plenty of blame to go around. President Obama must also change course in order move the country forward before his final term in the White House is up. Throughout his presidency, he has shown a willingness to put programs, that American people across the political spectrum support, on the cutting board in order to reach a deficit reduction deal with Republicans. This strategy does not work, but the White House still entertains cutting these programs through the Grand Bargain, which is the potential deal to slow spending and reduce the debt. Like many in Washington over the past four years, the Tea Party is unwilling to allow for any more tax increases since the last fiscal showdown. Instead, the president should forcefully make the case to the American people that programs like Social Security deserve to be expanded instead of cut.
I work for Social Security Works, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that advocates for expanding Social Security benefits. We support the Strengthen Social Security Coalition, which is made up of more than 350 national and state organizations representing more than 50 million Americans. In April, we delivered more than two million petitions to the White House to oppose any cuts to the Social Security system.
So, clearly, the president would have support.
The American people are tired of going to war over the same issues time and time again. Many will say that we must repeat these trials in order to fix what is really dragging down our economy, like entitlements, which they argue add to the deficit. However, by law, Social Security cannot contribute to the deficit.
The last time I checked, the deficit was falling.