The Debt Ceiling War: Cut, Cap, Balance versus Cut, Tax, Spend

RANCHO SANTA FE, Ca., July 20, 2011 – The debt ceiling debate has forced a third party to emerge in American politics.  We have the “The Party of No” (a.k.a. the Republicans), “The Party of Don’t Know” (a.k.a. the Democrats), and “The Party of Do Nothing” (a.k.a. the Executive Branch of our government).  At the moment, The Party of Do Nothing is leading the pack and providing life-support for The Party of Don’t Know.  It’s all in the marketing.

We no longer have effective leadership in Washington, D.C.  That lost art has given way to image consultants, speech writers, public opinion polls, and political strategists.

In that world, The Party of No is lagging far behind.  Its marketing prowess is relatively archaic.  In my book, The Right is Wrong, I repeatedly reference examples of the Republican Party’s political ineptitude in its own National Platform.  This is yet one more illustration of the problem.

The Republican Party is ruled by fear.  In the case of the debt ceiling debate, the Party is being held hostage by the echo of “No new taxes.”  You’d think that they would have learned their lesson, but apparently, the Party’s leadership is slow.

In the past, the Republican Party has supported raising the debt ceiling on many an occasion.   However, its fear of a TEA Party reprisal has paralyzed its ability to think.  Thus, it has chosen to defend its reputation as The Party of No.

Of course, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D – TX) thinks there may be another reason.  She wasted time on the floor of the House the other day with a not-so-veiled query as to why the evil Republicans might be resistant to raising the debt ceiling at this time.  This is why she’s the epitome of The Party of Don’t Know; she doesn’t seem to have a clue as to why the Republicans are resistant.  She just chooses to continue her tiresome reprise of Haley Joel Osment’s role in The Sixth Sense.  To wit:  “I see racists.”

The Party of Don’t Know has been living a charmed life.  It’s every bit as truculent as The Party of No, but it has always escaped the blame.  That’s because, rather than be ruled by fear, the Democratic Party has learned to rule by fear.

As I said in my book, The Left isn’t Right, orchestrating group-directed fear is central to the “oppressed minority” strategy that the Democratic Party deploys in its National Platform.  To the sick, they say, “Republicans want to kill you.”  To the elderly, “Republicans want you to die.”  To the poor, “Republicans want to drive you deeper into debt so their rich friends can fly around in private jets.”  This is fear-mongering at its finest!

Unfortunately, The Party of Don’t Know never has a solution.  It knows that Medicare/Medicaid is going bankrupt; it knows that Social Security is going bankrupt; it knows that the country is going bankrupt; but it never has a plan to remedy these situations beyond the Pollyannish retort of “tax the rich … they don’t pay their fair share!”

Then, there’s the perpetual drone of Minority Leader Pelosi starting her weekly press conference with the phrase “XXX days since the Republicans have taken over control of the House of Representatives … and still no jobs bill.”  Just add 365+ days to that total and you have the number of days since the Democrats have submitted a budget that could have addressed the debt ceiling issue.

Of course, Senate Majority Leader Reid is on record as saying, “There’s no need to have a Democratic budget, in my opinion.”  Perhaps it’s because The Party of Don’t Know doesn’t know how to create a feasible one.  Could that have contributed in some small way to our current debt crisis?

Correspondingly, many Democrats (including their leadership) have been as resolute in opposing any consideration of modifying entitlement programs as the Republicans have been in opposing any new taxes.  Yet, they have avoided the stigma of being considered unreasonably obstinate.  That’s because they’ve received great ground cover from the President.

President Obama has been exceptional at providing sound bites that obscure the real issues and shift the blame away from his Party.  Does he know that Medicare/Medicaid is going bankrupt; that Social Security is going bankrupt; and that the country is going bankrupt as well?  Sure!  Has he known these things for a long time?  Absolutely!  Has he done anything about them in a timely manner since taking office?  Yes!  He’s blamed President Bush.

Aside from that, The Party of Do Nothing has … well … done nothing.  At some point, the President needs to take responsibility for what is accomplished during his term.  Can you imagine an America in which we demanded that the torch be passed on the first day in office?

Does it really matter who created the problem?  Perhaps if this Administration spent as much time fixing the problems as it does fixing the blame, we wouldn’t always be managing a “crisis” (read “Fix the Problem … Not the Blame” in The National Platform of Common Sense).  Besides, if one actually pays attention to Articles I and II of the Constitution, most of the credit and blame should be directed at Congress.  It’s just more difficult to point a finger at a group than it is to point it at an individual … particularly when you may have been a member of the group and your Party may have been in control of the group in the years leading up to your election.

However, the President is beginning to move away from singularly blaming President Bush and tackling the challenge of pinning the blame on Republicans in general.  He tries to appear to be “above the fray” by briefly stating that members of his Party are resistant to considering any modification of entitlements, but then he brings the hammer down long and hard on the Republicans for their stubborn resistance to taxing “millionaires and billionaires” to reduce the debt.

Of course, a little math tells us that if we applied a 100 percent tax to the incomes of the upper one percent of American taxpayers and confiscated all of their assets, we’d essentially only buy a year’s worth of relief.  That’s barely enough time for the President to get re-elected!

The reality is that we have been aware of the impending breach of the debt ceiling for quite some time.  Was it addressed in the President’s State of the Union Address?  No.  Was it effectively addressed in the budget he submitted to Congress?  No.

As a brief aside, the President’s budget was able to deliver on his campaign promise of working hard to establish a bipartisan accord.  It was defeated by a vote of 97 – 0 in the Senate.  Finally, something upon which everyone agreed!  But then, I digress.

Deftly applying the core strategy of The Party of Do Nothing, the President chose not to join the debate until the eleventh hour.  As former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel once said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”  As a corollary, it’s apparently even better if you can help foster the crisis.

By executing the strategy of The Party of Do Nothing, the President has been able to position himself as “the adult in the room.”  He’s the only one who is willing to make concessions to save the day for the American people.

This approach accomplishes several things.  First, it makes the President look presidential … as if he’s really leading.  Second, it allows him to manifest a condescending attitude toward The Party of No.  Third, it allows him to posture himself as a mature individual who will gently scold his own incalcitrant Party and teach them to “know better.”  Fourth, since he’s offered no definitive solution of his own, it allows him to claim victory no matter what agreement is reached.  Basically, he gets to assert that whatever deal gets brokered was his idea … unless it ultimately goes south.  Then, it will be someone else’s mistake.

The President is right about one thing.  The deal will get done by August 2nd.  We will avert an economic disaster.  Oh, not the one you’re thinking about.  I’m talking about a real economic disaster!

President Obama is celebrating his 50th birthday on August 4th.  There’s still time to get him a present!  In the alternative, you could just attend one of the two birthday events that are being held in his honor in Chicago.

On August 3rd, the President will board Air Force One, which costs about $181 thousand an hour to operate, to fly to Chicago to celebrate his birthday.  Now, you might ask, “Why not save some money and ‘go Green’ by staying in Washington, D.C. to celebrate it with his family?”  It’s because there are two major fund-raising events being held in Chicago in honor of the President.

The first event is a dinner with the President.  If middle-class Americans can scrape together a few dollars, they can attend.  The price range is between $10,000 and $38,500 per ticket.  Management has asked that you please park your private jets in the back of the building.

If the price is still a bit steep for the bourgeois, it’s your lucky day!  The second event that evening is a concert.  Ticket prices top out at only $10,000 to make it affordable to all Americans.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to have to drill a few more oil wells to rub elbows with the common man who will be attending those events.

The good news is that the debt ceiling crisis needs to be resolved no later than August 2nd.  There’s real money at stake with regard to the President’s $1 billion re-election fund goal.  If there’s one way to break a deadlock on the Hill, common sense says that this would be it.


T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years.


This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, The Common Sense Czar, in the Communities Section of The Washington Times.