Debt Ceiling Deal Infuriates Liberals
The debt ceiling debate is not over.
The compromise President Barack Obama announced yesterday to raise the limit on federal borrowing and control the U.S.'s national debt must still be approved by Congress by Tuesday, which is when the Treasury says it will run out of money to pay its bills.
The deal, which immediately raises the current debt limit and cuts about $2.3 trillion in government spending over the next ten years, faces a challenge in the House where it needs 216 votes to pass. This poses difficulties because, as CNN and the International Business Times point out, there is something in the legislation for everyone to hate. Some liberal leaders have already promised to oppose it.
The bill first raises the debt ceiling by $900 billion while slashing defense and non-defence discretionary spending by a matching figure. At the end of this year, the debt ceiling would be raised by an additional $1.4 trillion and cuts would be put in place to reduce spending by another $1.2 trillion to $1.4 trillion over the next decade. Read more here.
A bipartisan commission would be charged with identifying ways the government could save that $1.4 trillion. If they fail, the bill's "enforcement mechanism" would make automatic cuts to government programs, including entitlements. The deal includes no new revenues.
The White House argued Monday that one of the primary achievements of the compromise is that the political rankling over the debt ceiling will not repeat itself until 2013.
Conservatives say the deal does not go far enough to reduce the national debt, and the $2.4 trillion in debt reduction does not come close to the $4 trillion deal that rating agencies wanted to see before preserving the U.S.'s AAA credit rating. However, the Wall Street Journal declared the deal a victory for the "forces of small government."
But those angriest over the compromise may be liberals.
- Paul Krugman writes in the New York Times that the President has surrendered to the will of small-government conservatives at the peril of the nation's already fragile economy: "The worst thing you can do in these circumstances is slash government spending, since that will depress the economy even further. Pay no attention to those who invoke the confidence fairy, claiming that tough action on the budget will reassure businesses and consumers, leading them to spend more. It doesn’t work that way, a fact confirmed by many studies of the historical record."
- Economist Mohamed El-Erian and other experts tell the Guardian that the cuts-only approach will not do much to ease the worries of those watching the situation from abroad: "Unemployment will be higher than it would have been otherwise, growth will be lower than it would be otherwise, and inequality will be worse than it would be otherwise ... We have a very weak economy, so withdrawing more spending at this stage will make it even weaker."
- The Daily Beast's Peter Bainart leads off his editorial reaction by examining what he sees as a new political power dynamic: "While the details of the debt-ceiling deal remain fuzzy, this much is clear: Barack Obama may be president, but the Tea Party is now running Washington."
- Mark Thoma echoes the view that conservatives got more of what they wanted from the deal because they appeared more willing to let the government default on its debt: "We are about to sanction extortion as a legitimate Congressional negotiating strategy. Anyone think this is the last time we will see this happen? One side put a gun to the economy and said do it our way or else. The other side had many ways to disarm the strategy, the 14th amendment for example, that it didn't even bother to keep alive as an alternative."