Tuesday, July 26, 2011 | 2 a.m.
Republican leaders in the House of Representatives have walked away three times from negotiations with President Barack Obama on raising the federal debt ceiling. On Monday they introduced their own plan, which isn’t likely to get far because it includes measures Obama and Democrats in Congress have already rejected.
Also on Monday, the White House endorsed a plan offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that would raise the debt ceiling and cut more than $2.7 trillion in government spending without touching Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security benefits. Reid’s plan would not increase taxes, and he said the reductions his plan would make have previously been supported by Republicans.
But Republican leaders in Congress immediately dismissed Reid’s plan. They want their own proposal, which offers a short-term increase in the debt ceiling and sidesteps the tough decisions Congress needs to make. It is just more political posturing by the Republicans in their effort to push through their ideology and make the president and the Democrats look bad.
Republican leaders in Congress have refused to negotiate honestly with Obama and the Democrats, and yet some Republicans have laughably claimed they have offered some “middle ground” in the negotiation. As a group, they have yet to seriously consider any real compromise. Instead, they seem to think that a “compromise” would be Democrats agreeing to every Republican demand.
They have tried to claim the moral high ground, portraying themselves as being fiscally responsible. But the Republicans led America into this situation — putting the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich and two wars on the nation’s credit card. Now, they are trying to blame Obama, who has made incredible concessions in an attempt to find a compromise only to be rebuffed.
There is no middle ground in the Republican approach. They want to protect tax cuts for the rich, saying that will help create jobs. But those tax cuts haven’t done that — they’ve only added to the debt. Democrats have called for ending those tax breaks, but Republicans only want to cut spending, which means reducing benefits for the poor, elderly and needy, and that would further exacerbate the economy.
The Republican position is dangerous. If the United States doesn’t raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2, the country will default on some of its debts, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said. A default would mean that some combination of services and government benefits — including Social Security and Medicare — wouldn’t be paid.
A default would also spell trouble in the stock market and the economy. A group of 235 economists, including six Nobel Prize winners, wrote to Congress last month suggesting that the nation would fall into another recession if there is a default. Experts also say people could see interest rates on credit cards, loans and mortgages go up.
People don’t want that, and they don’t want the Republicans’ narrow ideology. Polls show that people support a moderate approach — a mix of budget cuts and tax increases. Republicans should understand that and compromise before the nation is pushed into further economic problems.