Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

January 7, 2013

Take the hostage

(Continued)

We've hit the debt limit of $16.4 trillion, and it will need to be extended in a couple of months. When $16.4 trillion in debt isn't enough, you've clearly got a problem. The president always says that we need a "balanced approach" to address it. In the cliff deal, he got one part of the balance.

He increased income-tax rates on the oft-invoked "millionaires and billionaires," and even all the way down to $400,000-aires. In fact, thanks to the expiration of the payroll tax cut, the deal raised taxes on 77 percent of Americans, according to the Tax Policy Center. Finally, people making $40,000 a year will pay their "fair share"! The Tax Policy Center calculates that about half the additional revenue from the deal over the next year will come from households making less than $200,000.

So the tax increases - both on the rich and on the middle class - have been gloriously written into law. What about the spending cuts that the president has said in the past should be a disproportionate share of any budget solution? He's not the least bit interested in those, except as a rhetorical device. Which is why Republicans are always in the position of trying to force him to accept some sort of spending discipline.

In a better, more rational world, the debt limit wouldn't be a tool of budgetary policy. But it is one of the few must-pass pieces of legislation that Republicans can use to force spending cuts, and it obviously relates directly to our budget problem. If the president doesn't want the debate over it to go nerve-wrackingly down to the wire, he can set out a serious offer, now.

Of course, he's doing the opposite. His refusal to negotiate isn't sustainable, but he'll spend precious time trying to sustain it. He'll finally agree to talk, and then get Republicans to back off whatever their maximal position is - because Republicans will again fear being blamed if there's no agreement. Another Band-Aid will be applied to the debt, until next time.

In the Age of Obama, the new budget crisis always follows the last.

(c) 2012 by King Features Syndicate

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