Skip to content Accessibility Mode

What the Deficit Debate Is Really About

Just about everywhere he went during his campaign for President in 2008, Barack Obama talked about the need for our leaders in Washington to focus on solving problems instead of scoring political points.

In these challenging times, he said, we had to put the next generation ahead of the next election because we simply can’t afford to continue kicking our problems down the road.

President Obama made that same argument in yesterday's press conference, because this is what the current debate over the federal government’s debt is all about.

It’s about more than whether we take the short-term steps necessary to preserve this country’s full faith and credit and avert an economic catastrophe that would harm every American.

It’s about whether we can work together, Democrats and Republicans, to responsibly address the long-term financial challenges facing our country and bolster our economy in the aftermath of a deep recession.

At his press conference yesterday, President Obama made a powerful case for a comprehensive approach to this problem—an approach that will be balanced, fair, and faithful to our values as it also helps us meet the demands of the future.

The cuts we make should preserve critical investments like education and research and development. We should deal honestly with the mounting pressures on Medicare and Social Security. We’ve got to make those programs more secure so we can fulfill our commitment to today’s beneficiaries as well as to future generations.

Last week, Speaker Boehner said he agreed with the President that a deal protecting these investments would be in the country’s best interest. But apparently he couldn’t get the partisan ideologues in his party to accept that if we’re going to solve this problem, everyone has to contribute to the solution—including oil businessmen, corporate jet owners, Wall Street hedge fund operators, and everyone else who currently enjoys special tax breaks we simply can’t afford.

What’s even more troubling—and telling—is that all the Republican presidential candidates have fallen in line with the most strident voices in their party, rejecting any solution that would include closing gold-plated tax loopholes.

Tim Pawlenty called on Congress to “draw a line in the sand,” even if it means that the United States fails to meet its legal obligations for the first time in our history. Meanwhile, Michele Bachmann vowed to oppose any vote to address the debt ceiling that could help avoid an unthinkable default on the national debt. And as the Wall Street Journal reported this morning, one candidate, Governor Romney, has refused to even address the issue.

Most Americans know that we can’t solve our problems without good-faith compromises in which both parties are willing to look beyond partisanship and point-scoring. The longer we delay, the more difficult it will become to take on these challenges.

As the President said yesterday, “If not now, when?”

Show Comments Hide Comments
David Axelrod