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Spend Spend, Elect Elect, Tax Tax

The White House debt strategy.

Jul 25, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 42 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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And if the time comes when the president is faced with either of these​—​a tough choice between the new Republican austerity plan and the default that his administration has said must be avoided at all costs​—​he now has a third option: the bipartisan McConnell plan. Republicans in effect changed the debate this week from “austerity or else” to “austerity or there’s this back-up plan that we’ve laid out for you.”

But there’s a more worrisome prospect for Republicans. The president and Democrats may fully embrace the McConnell plan (they quickly warmed up to it in the days after it was introduced), while the House refuses to pass it. Many House Republicans simply don’t believe there will be economic consequences if the debt ceiling is not raised by August 2. So they will vote against it.

Nobody knows exactly what would happen, but there will undoubtedly be consequences​—​some of them real and some of them contrived by an administration eager to change the story from “Obama’s abysmal economy” to “Republicans’ unconscionable irresponsibility.” And there is no question that Republicans will be blamed for any disruptions in the market​—​not only by Democrats, but by the media and, almost certainly, the American people.

In that event, Republicans will have not only lost the debt-ceiling debate and failed to slow the growth of government, they will have handed Democrats a life-preserver for the 2012 elections.

At his press conference Friday, the president made that clear:

I am going to keep on working and I’m going to keep on trying. And what I’m going to do is to hope that, in part, this debate has focused the American people’s attention a little bit more and will subject Congress to scrutiny. And I think increasingly the American people are going to say to themselves, you know what, if a party or a politician is constantly taking the position “my way or the highway,” constantly being locked into ideologically rigid positions, that we’re going to remember at the polls.

In the same press conference, Obama made clear that his reelection would mean that the growth of government we’ve seen over the past two and a half years would continue unabated. It’s important for progressives to engage in the current debate about debt, he said, so that they can eventually spend more money:

If you are a progressive, you should be concerned about debt and deficit just as much as if you’re a conservative. And the reason is because if the only thing we’re talking about over the next year, two years, five years, is debt and deficits, then it’s very hard to start talking about how do we make investments in community colleges so that our kids are trained, how do we actually rebuild $2 trillion worth of crumbling infrastructure. If you care about making investments in our kids and making investments in our infrastructure and making investments in basic research, then you should want our fiscal house in order, so that every time we propose a new initiative somebody doesn’t just throw up their hands and say, “Ah, more big spending, more government.”

If you are not a progressive, the last few weeks in Washington have probably made you want to throw up more than just your hands.

Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.

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