Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Coverage of the debt-ceiling debate has been either ignorant or deceptive

John Lott points to seven myths of the debt ceiling increase debate. I'd recommend that the nation's reporters pay attention because they've been buying into these myths and misleading the public. They're either ignorant or mendacious. The result is the same. For example, did you know that since 1973, the nation's leaders have failed eight times to agree on a debt-ceiling increase and there has not been any default. As Lott points out, the result is that the government has had to stop borrowing and has to cut spending. Failing to raise the debt ceiling will not lead to default because the Constitution requires that U.S. debts be met. And there is no reason why Social Security checks shouldn't go out. There is money to cover the checks and other priority expenditures.

And this week or August 2 are not the true drop-dead dates that Geithner and Obama pretend they are. Remember that Geithner has already given Congress several other drop-dead dates and then kept moving them back. Lott points out there have been many times when debate over the debt limit has extended past the time when the debt limit was reached, the longest lasting three weeks.

So much of what we've been hearing on the debate of the debt-ceiling has been based on these myths. We rarely see analysis that points out the actual history of other debt-ceiling debates or what the options are if no agreement is reached by the time the President says it must be.

As William McGurn writes today, the media loves to frame the ongoing debate as one of the President as the "adult in the room." The President's advisers keep pushing that metaphor and the media keeps using it. And what makes him the adult? His willingness to increase taxes and spending. This discussion is built on a bias supporting the Democrats' positions on spending and taxing.
In this case of the debt-ceiling talks, that context is pretty clear. At its core, it runs like this. First, "keep taxes low" may work as a campaign slogan with the unlettered masses, but it is incompatible with the responsibilities of running a government. Second, when government spends more than it takes in, the answer must consequently be to raise taxes. Conclusion: The politician who prefers to cut spending rather than raise taxes is either irresponsible or a tool of the rich—or some combination of both.
Could it be that Obama hopes to reenact the rejuvenation of Bill Clinton's presidency after the government shutdowns by scaring people over the results of a delay in raising the debt ceiling?

One thing that the House Republicans should have already done is pass a bill mandating the Treasury to pay interest, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, defense, and veterans benefits first if no agreement is made before the debt limit is reached. Then I'd point out to the American people over and over that the resulting situation where most of the federal budget is swallowed up such mandatory spending is the future we're all facing if there is no reform now of entitlements and federal spending.