Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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January 7, 2013

Take the hostage

The budget crisis is over. Long live the budget crisis.

Now that the fiscal cliff has been resolved, we're on to the fight over raising the debt ceiling. President Barack Obama wants no part of it. Huffing and stomping his feet immediately after Congress passed his tax increases to avoid the cliff, he insisted that there is no way he'll negotiate over the debt ceiling. That would be so inappropriate.

Cue the hostage-taking analogies, the talk of extremism, the lamentations over a broken Washington. But why is the president outraged that someone would use the leverage of an impending event that everyone wants to avoid and that would damage the economy to his negotiating advantage? It's precisely how he won on the cliff.

No one called him a hostage taker when he didn't immediately accept the House Republican extension of all the Bush tax cuts, and instead insisted on forcing a choice between higher tax rates on the wealthy or going off the cliff.

He got his way. Not because Republicans wanted to raise taxes. But because taxes would go up for everyone on Jan. 1, and very few people (and no Republicans) wanted that to happen. Obama used every ounce of his leverage to raise taxes on as many people as he could - and succeeded. Congratulations.

Now that the leverage may work the other way, Obama wants an end to all this crazy talk of negotiating things and compromising.

"I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they've already racked up," the president bristled.

He has apparently been an innocent bystander while the national debt increased by 60 percent since he took office. It's just his rotten luck to have to preside over such a profligate country.

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