The debate over raising the debt limit seems to be coming to a conclusion, after weeks of wondering what it would mean for the United States to default. The warnings said that the United States’ credit rating would be damaged, leading to problems with long-term investment from other countries, while others said that not much would happen if the United States defaulted. The United States is still a reliable country for investment, the only real option from countries like China who still have money to invest. Regardless, the new plan will reduce spending by $2.4 trillion over the next decade, raise the debt limit in stages to avoid default, and allow for a bipartisan committee to agree to another round of cuts. If they fail to come up with a new budget in November, there will be automatic cuts to defense and Medicare, which is supposed to hurt Republicans and Democrats equally.
Polling shows that nobody really wants to cut Medicare or Social Security and that defense is the most easily sacrificed, as the current wars and attempts at American hegemony are unpopular. Polls show that even Tea Party supporters do not want cuts to Medicare or Social Security. The President and party leaders, as well as the media, have pointed out that few are satisfied with the results of the debt debate, though it is clear the Republican congressmen are not acting on the behalf of their constituents in arguing for limiting popular programs. Meanwhile, Democratic attempts to reach a compromise have made them less favorable with their party members as well, as they try to shun their image as the profligate party.
A graph from the New York Times showing reader comments. Although the source is biased, fewer people support reductions in spending without increases in revenue, yet they are more stalwart in their opinion (indicated by deeper orange colors).
Even though a majority of people would be accepting of closing tax loopholes and increasing revenues, the deal reached does not promise any increase in revenue. The compromise may not even pay off for Democrats, since the cuts could stall the economy, creating more joblessness and less economic recovery, hurting Obama’s chances of reelection. High confidence in the government, like tax cuts to increase consumer spending, do not help our economy.
As the graph below shows, most of the debt we have was accumulated under George W. Bush, mainly on unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. People seem to fail to understand these facts about what occurs under Republican presidencies. Bush acted unhampered by Congress and made himself into a legislative authority, whereas Obama has come off as weak for trying to be partisan and not being forceful with his agenda. He, too, passed tax cuts that do not help the economy and only further put us into debt.
Source: New York Times
One problem in convincing people of the increases in spending under Republican presidents is the idea that Democrats are associated with the government. Thus, when something goes wrong in Washington, Democrats face the backlash. The author of the linked article, Stanley Greenberg, says that having Democrats enact large reforms, rather than half-hearted measures produced by compromise and fear of appearing socialist, are less desirable than overhauls to tax reform and immigration policy. Strong reform from Democrats could have been popular with the public, but was not popular in the Republican-led House.
It is truly sad that Obama did not do more when he had the chance at the beginning of his term before the 2010 elections. It seemed that even at the early stage he was worried about his chances of reelection, and that cost him the opportunities to make a difference. (Certainly with other policies, such as reform to gay rights, he has never spearheaded a progressive effort). The president, especially in G.W.’s term, has the opportunity to inform policy while Congress waffles. I can respect Obama’s desire to restore the Congress to its original duties, of being a more representative legislative body, but it failed Obama and the rest of America, and probably would’ve failed us again if he did not act on the debt. My hope for the next election is that, as a second-term president, Obama will be less scared to make a difference.