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The Maddening Debt Ceiling Debate

4:08 PM, Jul 13, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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In this week’s newsletter, Matt Continetti writes:

The debt ceiling debate is maddening. I feel as though I'm living in Bizarro world, where an argument over which programs to cut suddenly morphs into a discussion over which taxes to raise.

I made the mistake of watching President Obama's press conference on Monday, and came away thinking that he doesn’t believe America has a spending problem. Again and again, he mentioned programs he wants to fund, initiatives he'd like to pursue. He has no real interest in restructuring Medicare or Medicaid to put those programs on a sound footing. He's interested in reelection. The only sacred cow he wants to kill is the tradition of Republican opposition to tax increases.

Meanwhile, you have liberals and moderates haranguing conservatives for blocking a deal. Only the right is being inflexible, Eugene Robinson writes in the Washington Post. Bizarro-Jerry, is that you? How can the Tea Party alone be "obstructionist" when Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have long held that Social Security is a nonstarter, and the president won't allow changes to Obamacare?

Typically, liberal caterwauling is a sign that Republicans and conservatives are winning. But this time I'm not so sure. Executives have the upper hand in budget fights. And who knows how far Obama may be willing to go to pin economic calamity on the Republican party. We have a miniature version of the debt-ceiling debate playing out in Minnesota, where the government shutdown has entered its second week with no end in sight. Of course, Minnesota doesn't have a $14 trillion debt and foreign creditors to worry about.

The chances of a reasonable deal seem to grow smaller every day. I've come to the conclusion that a clean debt ceiling increase that gets us through 2012 actually would be better than a bad deal that increases the debt ceiling, increases taxes, doubles down on Obamacare-style cuts to Medicare, guts defense spending, and promises across-the-board cuts to discretionary spending that can always be undone.

Maybe Obama will agree to a deal with spending reductions and mild changes in entitlements in exchange for raising the ceiling and closing that corporate jet loophole he keeps yapping about. That would at least allow us to move on to the fight over the fiscal year 2012 budget. If not, well, I'll no longer disagree with the idea that America is in decline.

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