GOP on the debt ceiling: “Forget what we said, listen to what we’re saying!”

Posted on July 3, 2011


As a blogger/reporter/thinking individual, I love it when I don’t have to really come up with any pithy, sarcastic or salient points on my own to prove an argument.

In this case, regarding the perpetual pissing contest about the debt ceiling going on in Washington between “Our way or no way because all we care about it making Obama look bad so we can run him out of office next year” Republicans and “Other than no tax increases just tell us what you want and we’ll gladly cave” Democrats, all I have to do is show verbatim Republican quotes.

Let’s start with a Republican in *FAVOR* of raising the debt ceiling in order to preserve America’s credit rating, and to save the economy entirely … the Patron Saint of Revisionist Historian Republicans, Ronald Reagan (who raised taxes 11 times during his administration, by the way) in his letter to then-Majority Leader, Republican Howard Baker:

I ask for your help and support, and that of your colleagues, in the passage of an increase in the limit on the public debt. The United states could be forced to default on its obligations for the first time in its history.

This country now possesses the strongest credit in the world. The full consequence of a default–or even the serious prospect of default–by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate….The risks, the costs, the disruptions, and the incalculable damage lead me to but one conclusion: the Senate must pass this legislation before the Congress adjourns.” — Ronald Reagan, November 16, 1983.

And then we have Texas Republican Representative John Cornyn, today:

Giving the president has the authority to ignore the ceiling because it is unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment is crazy talk! We ought to sit down and work together, and it shouldn’t take the form of counter-productive press conferences like the president gave last week, where he was essentially the schoolmarm.” — John Cornyn, July 3, 2011

We have Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, essentially demanding that the debt ceiling be raised for the sake of job creation. Of course, this was about nine months ago, before debt ceiling talks were recurring front-page news.

That would be a financial disaster, not only for our country but for the worldwide economy. Remember, the American people on election day said, ‘we want to cut spending and we want to create jobs.’ And you can’t create jobs if you default on the federal debt.” – John Boehner, October 11, 2010

We have David Stockman, Ronald Reagan’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget from 1981 to 1985 – heralded by Republicans up until November 2010 as “one of the greatest economic strategists who ever lived” saying that the GOP’s unbridled refusal to raise taxes directly led to the current runaway debt train:

The debt explosion has resulted not from big spending by the Democrats, but instead the Republican Party’s embrace, about three decades ago, of the insidious doctrine that deficits don’t matter if they result from tax cuts.” — David Stockman, November 2010

And then we have current Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell:

There will be no tax increases in connection with raising the debt ceiling. It is simply not acceptable for discussion. There is no solution to be found on the road to tax increases.” — Mitch McConnell, July 1, 2011 (during one of those press conferences that Cornyn said are completely counter-productive).

We have Ronald Reagan’s Deputy U.S. Treasury Secretary Bruce Bartlett:

In short, by the broadest measure of the tax rate, the current level is unusually low and has been for some time. Revenues were 14.9 percent of G.D.P. in both 2009 and 2010. Yet if one listens to Republicans, one would think that taxes have never been higher, that an excessive tax burden is the most important constraint holding back economic growth and that a big tax cut is exactly what the economy needs to get growing again.” – Bruce Bartlett, June 29, 2011

But here comes Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (who reportedly has as much as $500,000 personally invested in a fund that takes a leveraged short position against U.S. Treasury obligations. The fund would almost certainly gain profit if the U.S. debt ceiling is not increased) and his position that any deal that includes both spending cuts and tax increases is “a waste of time.”

As it stands, the Democrats continue to insist that any deal must include tax increases.  There is not support in the House for a tax increase, and I don’t believe now is the time to raise taxes in light of our current economic situation. The Democrats should stop wasting our time with talk about tax increases on people who already pay far too much. It’s just not going to happen.” — Eric  Cantor, Jun 21, 2011

And then there’s Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl; Mister “You lead, I’ll follow as long as I don’t actually ever have to *DO* anything” himself, and his position that the sensible, bi-partisan approach to resolving the debt crisis is “just too much work.”

I can say with a high degree of confidence that tax measures will not be part of the debt deal because it would be too complicated to deal with that at the same time that we’re dealing with the debt ceiling.” — Jon Kyl, May 17, 2011

What’s really amusing is how Boehner, McConnell, Cantor and Kyl who are so staunchly indignant and resolute against any debt ceiling increase that includes any tax increase whatsoever, all had a thoroughly different viewpoint when George W. Bush raised the debt ceiling five times (with Republicans in Congress voting a total of 19 times to increase the debt limit under Bush):

  • June 2002: Congress approves a $450 billion increase, raising the debt limit to $6.4 trillion. McConnell, Boehner, and Cantor voted “yea”, Kyl voted “nay.”
  • May 2003: Congress approves a $900 billion increase, raising the debt limit to $7.384 trillion. All four voted in favor with no demand for spending cuts.
  • November 2004: Congress approves an $800 billion increase, raising the debt limit to $8.1 trillion. All four voted in favor with no demand for spending cuts.
  • March 2006: Congress approves a $781 billion increase, raising the debt limit to $8.965 trillion. All four voted in favor with no demand for spending cuts.
  • September 2007: Congress approves an $850 billion increase, raising the debt limit to $9.815 trillion. All four voted in favor with no demand for spending cuts.

And who can forget that golden moment in political history, when then-Vice President Dick Cheney said, “I think it’s clear that Ronald Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.”

As Bruce Bartlett said in an editorial he wrote for back in November 2009, “The human capacity for self-delusion never ceases to amaze me, so it shouldn’t surprise me that so many Republicans seem to genuinely believe that they are the party of fiscal responsibility. Perhaps at one time they were, but those days are long gone.”

It’s a popular misconception that Republicans are concerned about our nation’s debt problem. But that’s not really their root concern. It’s the collective management of our resourcesthey are opposed to, because this puts power in the hands of the American people instead of the hands of the federal government’s current owners – corporations. This ain’t rocket science folks, its simple, follow-the-money, conflict-of-interest, bought-and-paid-for corporate advocacy with ideological trappings.

If you step back and watch the proceedings, and all the press conferences, and all the arguments, and all the sniping, you can clearly see that the Republicans in Congress today have lined the middle class up in front of a firing squad.  Trouble is, the guys with the rifles are standing in a circle.