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Friday, September 27, 2013

Gail Collins, "Congress Cracks Up": Does America Have a "Debt Problem and a Failure of Leadership"?

Threaten the full faith and credit of the US by refusing to raise the debt ceiling? Yes, I know, US debt is on the path to becoming unsustainable. As stated by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office earlier this month with regard to America's financial future (

"Between 2009 and 2012, the federal government recorded the largest budget deficits relative to the size of the economy since 1946, causing federal debt to soar. Federal debt held by the public is now about 73 percent of the economy’s annual output, or gross domestic product (GDP). That percentage is higher than at any point in U.S. history except a brief period around World War II, and it is twice the percentage at the end of 2007. If current laws generally remained in place, federal debt held by the public would decline slightly relative to GDP over the next several years, CBO projects. After that, however, growing deficits would ultimately push debt back above its current high level. CBO projects that federal debt held by the public would reach 100 percent of GDP in 2038, 25 years from now, even without accounting for the harmful effects that growing debt would have on the economy (see the figure below). Moreover, debt would be on an upward path relative to the size of the economy, a trend that could not be sustained indefinitely."

But threaten a crack-up of the none-too-strong economy with such a measure? Who would be foolish enough to engage in such brinkmanship?

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Congress Cracks Up" (, Gail Collins chastises US House Republicans for engaging in such dangerous games. Collins writes:

"So, what do you think is wrong with these people? Thanks to gerrymandered Congressional districts and the Tea Party, we do seem to have a surprising number of elected officials who actually don’t believe that raising the debt limit so the government can pay its bills is a good plan."

But consider Senator Obama’s Floor Speech on March 20, 2006, before he voted against raising the debt ceiling:

"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that 'the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better."

As we were told in January 2011 by Andrew McCarthy in his National Review column "The Corner" (, regarding this declaration by Senator Obama:

"At the time, Senator Obama was urging Congress not to tolerate an increase that would bring the debt ceiling to $9 trillion. Under President Obama, the debt ceiling has been raised to $14.3 trillion. Even without counting most unfunded liabilities, the national debt is now calculated to be nearing $14.1 trillion."

Well, we are no longer in 2006, when US national debt was nearing $9 trillion. We are no longer in 2011, when US national debt was some $14 trillion. Rather, we are now late into 2013, and US national debt is just a whisker under $17 trillion.

Does "America have a debt problem and a failure of leadership"? Do "Americans deserve better"? How about some answers, Gail.

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