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The Sophist

4:40 PM, Jan 14, 2013 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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At his press conference today, President Obama showed that he either thinks he can pull the wool over Americans’ eyes through the sheer force of his own outrageous rhetoric, or else he really believes his own rhetoric and is living in a fantasyland.  The guess here is that it’s a roughly even mix of the two.

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At his press conference, Obama claimed responsibility for “about $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the past two years.”  But the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says that we’ve actually racked up $2.386 trillion in new deficit spending over the past two years.  What’s more, that colossal 2-year tally is more than the combined deficit spending we racked up during the four years of World War II — in inflation-adjusted dollars (see White House table 1.3).

Obama said, “Over the past two years, I’ve signed into law about $1.4 trillion in spending cuts.”  But the CBO says that over the past two years, we’ve spent $7.137 trillion, $4.751 trillion of which we’ve actually had available to spend.  So, over the past two years, for every $2 the government has had, it has spent $3.

Yet Obama said at his press conference, “[W]e’ve already done probably more than half of the deficit reduction we need to stabilize the debt and the deficit.”

Obama also claimed he has put forward a plan “that would reduce our deficits by $4 trillion over the next decade.”  But the CBO has said that Obama’s latest budget would add $6.4 trillion in new deficit spending over the next decade.  That’s more than double the amount of deficit spending that the CBO was projecting in the absence of Obama’s budget.

Obama said, “And the — you know the — the notion that Republicans in — in the House, or maybe some Republicans in the Senate would suggest that in order for us to get our way on our spending priorities, that we would risk the full faith and credit of the United States, that I think is not what the Founders intended.”  Presumably the Founders instead intended for us to rack up $16,000,000,000,000 in debt and pass Obamacare.

Obama also said that House Republicans “can act responsibly” and raise the debt limit, or else they “can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis.”  But in 2006, then-Senator Obama voted against raising the debt limit and said, “I rise today to talk about America’s debt problem.  The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure….It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our government’s reckless fiscal policies.”  Obama now describes that 2006 vote as simply “a political vote.”  He hasn’t yet said whether his accompanying speech was simply a political speech.

At his press conference, Obama said, “My starting point is not to worry about the politics.” 

Perhaps richest of all, Obama said at his press conference, “Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize us to spend more.  All it does is say that America will pay its bills.”

Republicans need to be unflinching in response to this and speak plainly to the American people.  Raising the debt ceiling is about one and only one thing:  raising the amount that we’re allowed to go into debt.  That’s why it’s called “the debt ceiling.”

And if that ceiling isn’t raised by the requisite date, it won’t mean “default,” or a “government shutdown,” or that “America won’t pay its bills.”  What it will mean is that, until such time as the ceiling is raised, the federal government will have to live within its means, spending only that which it actually collects in taxes.

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