Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post fact-checker, took a lot of heat for ducking out of a fact-check on President Obama’s efforts to walk back his famed “chemical weapons red line in Syria” comments. But he’s not pulling any punches when it comes to the lines of red hooey Obama is drawing around the debt ceiling. This is what the President said yesterday:
You have never seen in the history of the United States the debt ceiling or the threat of not raising the debt being used to extort a president or a governing party and trying to force issues that have nothing to do with the budget and nothing to do with the debt.
Kessler peels away the crusty layer of legalism poured over Obama’s comment, and finds it only takes a few licks to reach the Tootsie Role center of falsehood, listing numerous incidents where the debt ceiling was employed as leverage for various issues.
Clearly, Obama’s sweeping statement does not stand up to scrutiny, even with his caveat. Time and again, lawmakers have used the “must-pass” nature of the debt limit to force changes in unrelated laws. Often, the effort fails — as the GOP drive to repeal Obamacare almost certainly will. But Kowalcky and LeLoup speculate that one reason why Congress has not eliminated the debt limit, despite the political problems it poses, is because lawmakers enjoy the leverage it provides against the executive branch.
There’s an old reporter’s rule that you want to avoid using the word “unprecedented.” Otherwise, a professor might call or e-mail the next day to dispute it.
Let’s add this rule for politicians: Never say “never.”
The President earns a fib rating of four Pinocchios from Kessler. This debt ceiling battle is going to become a massive jobs program for Pinocchios, and unlike the bulk of the jobs created during Obama’s “recovery,” they won’t be part-time. Another hoary Obama talking point he repeated yesterday was his assertion that raising the debt ceiling doesn’t actually incur more debt – it’s necessary to pay bills that have already been racked up by Congress. (Never, of course, by the Empty Chair, who is not responsible for the results of any policy that enjoys less than a 60 percent approval rating.) From CNS News:
“Now, this debt ceiling — I just want to remind people in case you haven’t been keeping up – raising the debt ceiling, which has been done over a hundred times, does not increase our debt; it does not somehow promote profligacy. All it does is it says you got to pay the bills that you’ve already racked up, Congress. It’s a basic function of making sure that the full faith and credit of the United States is preserved.”
Obama went on to suggest that “the average person” mistakenly thinks that raising the debt ceiling means the U.S. is racking up more debt:
“It’s always a tough vote because the average person thinks raising the debt ceiling must mean that we’re running up our debt, so people don’t like to vote on it, and, typically, there’s some gamesmanship in terms of making the President’s party shoulder the burden of raising the — taking the vote.”
But, isn’t the fact that the U.S. has hit its debt ceiling “over a hundred times” – and, thus, has had to keep raising it – proof that raising the limit does, in fact, lead to increased debt?
It takes a very special kind of lunacy to insist that raising the ceiling on the national debt – and claiming that the country will instantly default, if such an increase is delayed – doesn’t mean we’ll be accumulating any more debt. How did the debt soar by so many trillions under Obama? Don’t ask him, and for God’s sake don’t consult your calculator.
In truth, there is no reason that a debt-ceiling freeze would threaten the “full faith and credit of the United States.” This is not political spin, it’s an outright, shameless, bald-faced lie. The federal government has more than enough income to pay its mandatory financial obligations. It would be necessary to significantly restrict discretionary spending if the debt ceiling is left in place. However painful that might be, it is not the same thing as jeopardizing the faith and credit of the government.
And if Obama wants us to think that cutting into discretionary spending after a debt-ceiling freeze would be unbearably painful… isn’t that a frank admission that debt is accumulating at reckless speed? If someone cannot survive a single month without borrowing a huge amount of money it means, by definition, that person is spending far beyond his means.
Also, if Obama’s favorite talking point about raising the debt ceiling to pay our existing bills is taken seriously, that’s a powerful argument against his madcap brand of tax-and-spend government bloat. He’s describing a sort of perpetual-motion debt machine, in which no one can ever seriously discuss fiscal restraint, because the politicians of today are entirely concerned with paying yesterday’s gigantic stack of bills. In the past, the President has compared failure to hike the debt ceiling with skipping out on a big check at a restaurant. Well, to use a Monty Python allgeory, it’s long past time to wheel blubbery Uncle Sam out of that restaurant before someone feeds him a wafer-thin mint and he explodes.
This whole “raise the debt ceiling to pay bills we’ve already incurred” argument would hold more water if this were the first time Congress had debated raising the debt ceiling. But as the President himself is quick to point out, it’s happened a hundred times already. When we hit that ceiling, we’re supposed to hold a sober discussion about the nation’s finances… but now we’re told we can never hold that discussion, especially not when it’s time to raise the debt ceiling! We can never get off the insolvency roller coaster – our seat belts have been welded shut, and it speeds up when it passes the boarding station. That’s no more reasonable than the President’s astonishing contention that accumulating more debt does not mean more debt is being accumulated.
Have you got any arguments you can make without Pinocchio’s help, Mr. President?