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After the Debt Ceiling Fiasco

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Posted on Jul 25, 2011
White House / Pete Souza

By E.J. Dionne, Jr.

Hours before the negotiations on the debt limit between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner collapsed, political reporters received a missive from Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign that served as a reminder of how irrelevant this kerfuffle might feel next year.

The headline read, “Romney for President Launches New Web Video: Obama Isn’t Working: Where are the Jobs?” 

The video spoke to the difficulties that new college graduates are having finding work in a brutal job market. This bit of campaign propaganda went straight at the core of Obama’s political base—young Americans who volunteered for him by the tens of thousands in 2008 and powered him to victory in state after state. If joblessness disillusions enough of them, the president will be in trouble.

Romney’s exercise was a passing bit of politics unlikely to make many waves in an environment obsessed with debt and fears of default. But it was hugely instructive.

The Romney message was more in touch with what voters are worried about than the spectacular show of dysfunction Washington politicians are putting on. Consider a Gallup Poll released last week. Asked what was the most important problem facing the country, 31 percent of Americans said the economy and an additional 27 percent specifically said unemployment and jobs, for a total of 58 percent. Only 16 percent listed the deficit or the debt.


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While the president was snared in a trap set by the Republicans over the debt ceiling, Romney was out there campaigning on the electorate’s animating issue. It’s a nice division of labor for the GOP. Obama is caught up in the tea party’s priorities. Romney isn’t. It’s upside-down politics.

None of this takes away from the fact that Obama was right to be angry at the collapse of his talks with Boehner. He was entirely justified in calling out House Republicans for refusing to accept what would have been an excellent deal from their own point of view. Obama went far more than half way to accommodate conservatives with a deal that tilted heavily toward spending cuts. As the president himself said, if the deal he offered was “unbalanced,” it was unbalanced on the side of not including enough tax revenues. This would have made Obama’s own supporters very unhappy.

By rejecting this way out, House Republicans have shown they simply cannot govern. When control of government is divided between two parties, each party has to give some ground. But Boehner’s GOP majority includes dozens of members who don’t even think that defaulting on our debt is a problem, and do believe they can eventually get what they want if they keep saying “no” to every other alternative.

This is a recipe for catastrophe, which is what we are getting perilously close to now. It is a clear demonstration that this House majority does not take its responsibilities seriously. Too many of its members seem to forget that they are no longer outsiders free to protest, and proclaim their purity. They are part of the government of the United States. The fact that they are not willing to act that way now threatens the nation’s economy.

Which brings us back to Romney. To this point, he has been free to run more of a general election race than a primary campaign. He can talk about jobs while Obama is grappling with how to run a government paralyzed by the tea party.

But this breakdown in Washington is too big an issue for Republican primary voters to ignore. If Rick Perry, Texas’ right-wing governor, enters the race as expected, he will appeal to the tea party rejectionists and try to cast Romney as some sort of moderate—a very dangerous thing to be among Republican primary voters these days. Will Romney have the courage to insist that the radicalism represented by the tea party is not authentic conservatism, not the path to a Republican victory, and not a formula for effective government? I’m not holding my breath, but this crisis calls for a period of reckoning inside the GOP. The presidential primary campaign is the obvious moment for it to happen.

In the meantime, Obama should watch that Romney ad on jobs several times. By letting the congressional Republicans set his agenda, he’s gotten away from the one issue most likely to determine his fate in 2012. He should remember that the day after this debt crisis is settled, the Republicans’ question will be: Where are the jobs?

E.J. Dionne’s e-mail address is ejdionne(at)
© 2011, Washington Post Writers Group

Correction: A previous version of this column said “this House majority does take its responsibilities seriously. ...” Clearly it is the opinion of the author that “this House majority does not take its responsibilities seriously. ...”

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By prosefights, July 27, 2011 at 6:13 am Link to this comment

Future electricity generation costs and availability may cause job problems? 

Standard of living is directly realted to power consumed, I read.

Altenergy may not cut it.

Tuesday July 26, 2011 10:31

Hello Mr Thompson,

I assume you are David E. Thompson, PhD Sandia Park who participated in the recent PNM electric IRP.

Question you may be able to answer is:

Where technical experts included to comment on availability and cost of natural gas in the years 2015 through 2026?

Reason I ask is New York Times reporter Ian Urbina is sounding alarms on natural gas.

Here are some quotes from Insiders Sound an Alarm Amid a Natural Gas Rush

Natural gas companies have been placing enormous bets on the wells they are drilling, saying they will deliver big profits and provide a vast new source of energy for the United States.

But the gas may not be as easy and cheap to extract from shale formations deep underground as the companies are saying, according to hundreds of industry e-mails and internal documents and an analysis of data from thousands of wells. ...

But if natural gas ultimately proves more expensive to extract from the ground than has been predicted, landowners, investors and lenders could see their investments falter, while consumers will pay a price in higher electricity and home heating bills.

Please ack if you receive this email.



China’s demand for the coal, uranium and other minerals that Mongolia has in abundance — but has so far barely touched — is gargantuan and growing. China, which surpassed the United States as the world’s biggest energy user in 2009, needs to find enormous quantities of new fuel to meet what, according to the International Energy Agency, will be a 75 percent increase in its energy needs by 2035.

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By the worm, July 26, 2011 at 11:08 am Link to this comment


Because their desires are nor represented by either ‘plan’.

We have two competing Republican plans: one put forward by Obama, another
by Boehner.

Of course, few people are raising their voice to ‘support’ Obama and his
Republican plan.

If Obama wants to be supported, he should support the people who voted him
into office.

Til then, he cannot count on ‘support’ .... Until we have a Democrat in the White
House, we have no one to ‘support’.

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By Marian Griffith, July 26, 2011 at 4:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

—To set the record straight SS is not an entitlement program, we all pay into it.  SS also has nothing to do with deficits—

There is nothing surprising about that really. Social security is a savings account with trillions of dollars in it, and the richest promille of the country believes all that money belongs in their overseas tax shelters where they can use it to fund the high financy chicaneries, instead of in the hands of the people who put the mony in the account in the first place and who do nothing more creative with it than buy food they need to survive.

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By Lafayette, July 26, 2011 at 1:14 am Link to this comment


RL:  … the economy didn’t crash because of the spending of the public sector - it crashed because of the profoundly unethical practices of the finance industry in the PRIVATE SECTOR - that is the fact

Well put.

There is a great malaise in this country and it is misplaced. Far too many people on this blog think it is all Obama’s fault. What plagues America today has its origins that go way back, to the first half of the last century when a Russian immigrant wrote a wildly popular book called The Fountainhead. Later Ayn Rand (well ensconced as a Hollywood screenwriter) would publish her more theoretical work that formed an ideological basis for Individualism. As a refugee of Russia, her intent was to undermine socialist dogma that preached the supremacy of the proletariat.

We are way beyond those classic political cleavages of the mid-20th century.  But Ayn Rand’s doctrine of Individualist Supremacy is will embedded in the American winner-take-all psyche. It is the foundation of the hubris that led Greenspan to prone in the 1960s the ultimate idiocy that since markets were constituted of intelligent individuals, they would automatically correct themselves.

That is, “Nothing could go wrong”. Go wrong. Go wrong. Go wrong. (But it did all go wrong.)

We are still suffering from the consequence of that fallacy, which drove repeated Replicant administrations to neuter Federal Market Oversight institutions and agencies that are responsible for making markets truly free. Free of manipulation by too few market actors. Free of dangers to unsuspecting consumers (meaning the larger part of this nation’s Consumers). Free of dangers to those employed in various industries. And all this by neutering the oversight agencies by suspending their regulatory powers.

The Mess came about under the guise of a policy that Governments Should Never Interfere in Markets (GSNiM). Of course governments should interfere when what is at stake is not the well-being of the market actors but that of consumers and workers. There must be a good balance between the two and not just the predominance of one or the other.

If the US is the epitome of freedom-of-action, meaning non-interference of the state in the free choice of one’s actions, then France (and much of Europe) is the opposite with its straightjacket rules that limit such freedoms. I’ve seen both – sometimes both a right and sometimes both are wrong. There is no simple answer and the simplest of all (GSNiM) is the most wrong. Why?

Because it leaves too much power to corporations to tweak and twist markets to correspond with their profit objective needs. Let’s not blame them for seeking profits, that’s the essence of business. But to warp markets to their own specific needs is not only harmful but criminal – because it leads to the Income Disparity that is flagrant in America and is detrimental to the well-being of all.

Ayn Rand might well disagree. A shame she is not here to defend her fanciful notion of Objective Individualism. The exchange would have been pure delight.

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By RenZo, July 25, 2011 at 8:12 pm Link to this comment

This whole fake crisis is being used by the people with great amounts of money to make more money. Banksters and Congresspeople (Senators, House members, Democrats and Republicans alike) are going to profit big time from this show.

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By RayLan, July 25, 2011 at 6:51 pm Link to this comment

All the so-called Senate/House can do is serve up red herrings - a veritable feast of disingenousness and fallacy. They need to jot this down on their cocktail napkins - the economy didn’t crash because of the spending of the public sector - it crashed because of the profoundly unethical practices of the finance industry in the PRIVATE SECTOR - that is the fact - until that fact is addressed - no jobs no upswing of AMERICAN economy. Shake up the piggy capitalists from their lethargy of denial.

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By Hulk2008, July 25, 2011 at 6:50 pm Link to this comment

John Boehner was able to deliver a phony rebuttal to the President - without crying or cracking a smile. 

His was a speech filled with exaggeration, obfuscation, and pettifog.  He labeled “Cut Cap and Balance” as “bipartisan” though only 5 votes came from non-Republicans (Senate and the President have not addressed the bill).
He claimed to solve the debt crisis - knowing full well that: 1. the Senate will NOT pass it with the required 2/3 majority, 2. the Constitution CANNOT be amended in a week’s time before August 2, 3. required 2/3 of the States cannot ratify it via legislation in a week.  And he bragged he had gone as far as he could and the Act was balanced even though NO revenue options of ANY kind were included and his “solution” would only last until Xmas. 
    True, the tax code should be revised removing ALL loopholes and special treatment for ALL - all citizens should be required to pay for their services and benefits instead of only 40% (most of whom have a median income of $59,500 NOT those making over $250K).  But the sheer complexity cannot be overcome in a week. 
    The poor and the middle class did not cause the economic crisis - that was the bankers and wheeler dealers on Wall St. - those who hope to rape and pillage again.
    If the ultra-wealthy really generate jobs, why did they fail during W’s tax cut era?  Why have they failed since the extension last winter? Why are the W era job numbers so anemic compared to the so-called high tax era of Clinton?

    Q. E. D.

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By Morpheus, July 25, 2011 at 5:34 pm Link to this comment

This is almost funny. Our government can’t fix our real problems (like jobs), so they make the debt ceiling into this big crisis. Our government is just a reflection of the ignorant people that put up with them.  Kind of like NAZI Germany. The people where stupid to follow Hitler and they paid dearly for it. You deserve what you get, so stop complaining, you’ve earned it.

OsiXs (Common Sense 3.1)

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By diamond, July 25, 2011 at 3:24 pm Link to this comment

The fact of the matter is, the Republicans would throw America to the wolves if they thought they could score any political point for doing it, off Obama in particular and the Democrats in general. Their hatred and partisanship know no bounds and have become as irrational as partisanship and hatred always become. And nothing about this situation is new: they closed the government down when Clinton was president but they appear to have forgotten that after that national near death experience, Clinton won the election. I believe that was because the American voter was so amazed and disgusted with the behavior of the Republicans. As usual, the Republicans have learned nothing from the experience and are thinking with their balls, as they always do. To call Obama’s reasoned and non-partisan approach to what is a national emergency ‘allowing the Tea Party’ to set his agenda is sickening in its deceit and inaccuracy. What can you say about the morals of people who refuse to raise taxes for the superich but who want to take money away from medicare and social security - in other words away from the most vulnerable people in American society? You can say that they have no morals - not that it’s news to me.

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By Memory Stick, July 25, 2011 at 3:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When the Democrats controlled all 3 branches of Gov their first priority was to push through a law that mandates that every citizen buy “health insurance” without the Obama promise of a “public option”.

There’s priorities for ya!

Most people don’t even know that in 2014 they will have to file proof of insurance with their taxes.


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By Tex Shelters, July 25, 2011 at 3:03 pm Link to this comment

I have been wondering for some time now what Obama was planning on doing about jobs. He has ignored progressive and even conservative economists (among others) who argue that more money used to create jobs is needed and the way out of long term deficits is putting people back to work.

I looked at the Romney ad, easy to find on a search, and it will fool most Americans. It’s well done and the story about Romney’s success as a businessman are exaggerated as is his success as governor. The voice on the ad is horrible, however. Let’s hope the voice over kills it; it’s creepy and breathy sounding.

Tex Shelters

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By Wade D House, July 25, 2011 at 2:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Problem one: There is no two party system. Just a single party and it is working just as it was designed to, perfectly. Reps do bad, we vote in dems for change. But they only hold rep gains or expand them. We vote rep’s bsck in, they cause more trouble. We vote dem’s in again for change, they don’t do anything but hold corp./rep. gains or expand them. We are being played like chumps. Time to get off that wagon. We are like a tennis ball between them. And all the time they are laughing and getting richer. New stats out show dem’s are now getting more than twice as much income from corporations as rep’s. Do you really think they are going to change and do the right thing?
At the True Democracy Party, we are not fooled, and we don’t wait on change, We Make Change Happen!

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By gerard, July 25, 2011 at 11:07 am Link to this comment

Dionne quote: “Asked what was the most important problem facing the country, 31 percent of Americans said the economy and an additional 27 percent specifically said unemployment and jobs, for a total of 58 percent. Only 16 percent listed the deficit or the debt.”
  NOTE:  War isn’t even at issue!

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By ocjim, July 25, 2011 at 10:36 am Link to this comment

California Ray’s tiresome medley only underscores how pathetically inept voters are in voting and our system is in solving problems, giving rewards to the most cynical party, the Republican, and inspiring cowardice in the other.

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By California Ray, July 25, 2011 at 9:27 am Link to this comment

After the Bush v Gore Fiasco
After the Nuremberg Principles Fiasco
After the Geneva Convention Fiasco
After the Torture Convention Fiasco
After the War Crimes Act of 1996 Fiasco
After the Hurricane Katrina Fiasco
After the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 Fiasco
After the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 Fiasco
After the Middle East Peace Process Fiasco
After the Debt-Ceiling Fiasco . . . .

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By Laire, July 25, 2011 at 9:27 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Somebody needs to tell the Repubs that their wealthy buddies aren’t producing jobs. Job producing isn’t the responsibility of the President. It’s up to Congress to pass legislation that will discourage sending jobs overseas, that will give tax credits to the wealthy corporations ONLY for producing jobs, and tax all the crap they import from China.

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By Dr Bones, July 25, 2011 at 8:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Just think not half a year ago, Boehner and Mr. O extended Bush tax cut for billionaires and millionaires.  We all knew these two corporate clowns would be going after SS and Medicare.

To set the record straight SS is not an entitlement program, we all pay into it.  SS also has nothing to do with deficits.

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By thethirdman, July 25, 2011 at 8:08 am Link to this comment

Bachmann in 2012!!!!  I want America’s outside to mirror its schizophrenic inside.

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By RayLan, July 25, 2011 at 6:30 am Link to this comment

It’s understandable that Obama is conceding selling off the futures of seniors and the disabled - if he doesn’t the Repub might…might…yell at him.

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By the worm, July 25, 2011 at 5:34 am Link to this comment

Let’s treat this like we did when we were kids and played board games, like

Here are three clues:

1 Saturday, Boehner tells the Republican Party and the Tea Party to stick

2 Last week, Obama tells the talking heads he’s going to “go against his own

3 This spring, Tim Geithner told his European audience that the President and
the Republicans were ‘on the same page’.

Wait ! Wait ! Don’t tell me !

Yes. As the saying goes: “We all know how this will end.”

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By Dr Bones, July 25, 2011 at 3:07 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. O is a fool.  What did he think would happen when he agreed to extend Bush tax cut for billionaires and millionaires last December?  Had he done nothing, they would have expired.

Mr. O is the one who tied raiding SS and Medicare into a rise of the deficit limit.  And this is just a big F-you to all working Americans who paid into the system.

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By ardee, July 25, 2011 at 2:25 am Link to this comment

It seems rather obvious that our two party system is not working.

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