President Barack Obama
Speaker John Boehner
The White House and Capitol Hill–at a historic budget standstill!
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
As the debt ceiling debate rages on in the nation’s capital, there appears to be no apparent end in sight. Will August 2nd (budget D-Day), come and go without resolution? The President, the Speaker of the House and the leaders in the House and Senate are all issuing brief statements about the process, but there’s no light at the end of the budget tunnel.
While President Barack Obama is pursuing a last-ditch plan to raise the U.S. debt ceiling in a meaningful way, so that the present economic predicament does on re-occur–to prevent a default that many believe could plunge global financial markets into chaos–Speaker John Boehner seemed trapped between a proverbial rock and a hard place. (Some say between the tea party and reality). And while the President is focused on a comprehensive, long-term deficit reduction deal, talks about the debt are at a standstill with just a few days before the federal government will be in default, unable to pay its bills.
There have been many instances in the past where presidents have call for raising the debt ceiling, and those instances had barely showed up on the media or the public radar. (The past four presidents have all gotten the green light–without a fight–to raise the nation’s debt–former presidents Reagan, H.W. Bush, Clinton and G.W. Bush). However, throughout his term in office, President Obama has had to undergo an array of double standards: from his place of birth, to his school transcript; from his religion to his residential real estate transaction to disrespectful disruptions during his state-of-the-union address; and the distractions keep coming.
Now, it is the debt ceiling. Historically, the party that is not in the White House has always treated the presidency with the respect it deserves, but this president has been shadowed by scurrilous accusations, shenanigans and innuendoes from day one. It is as though the GOP and others are not interested in allowing him to be the president–an office for which he campaigned and won decisively. As one of the Southern GOP Senators stated publicly, “We want this to be a one-term presidency.
In modern times, President Obama has shown a remarkable amount of statesmanship in reaching out to the GOP in order to facilitate compromise. For the most part, most of his efforts have fallen on deaf GOP ears. In an open letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Blair Taylor, president of the Los Angeles Urban League stated in part, “In times of crisis, great leaders lead. And in our nation under our current system of government, great leaders must also compromise. Nowhere is this more true than in times of crisis. Don’t allow the village to be burned to the ground so that you can later assert some false principle to the ashes of our financial system. No one will reward you then for burning the village to save it.”
Last Monday in a last ditch effort, the President took to the nation’s air waves seeking the people’s help in reaching a workable resolution to the crisis. In part, he said, “…For the last decade, we’ve spent more money than we take in. In the year 2000, the government had a budget surplus. But instead of using it to pay off our debt, the money was spent on trillions of dollars in new tax cuts, while two wars and an expensive prescription drug program were simply added to our nation’s credit card.
“As a result, the deficit was on track to top $1 trillion the year I took office. To make matters worse, the recession meant that there was less money coming in, and it required us to spend even more — on tax cuts for middle-class families to spur the economy; on unemployment insurance; on aid to states so we could prevent more teachers and firefighters and police officers from being laid off. These emergency steps also added to the deficit…”
In his response to the President’s speech, Speaker Boehner made it clear that he had had enough of “business as usual,” but that he could not hand President Obama the “blank check” that he had been requesting for so long. Speaker Boehner also added: ‘The President Wouldn’t Take Yes For An Answer.’
Those generalities are what prompted others to chime in with their responses to the entire fiasco in Washington that is masquerading as a debate.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus stated, “It is clear that the unemployment numbers throughout the country require effective legislation and tangible action to address the crisis. To address the unemployment crisis and the need for job creation solutions in underserved communities, the CBC has called upon the private and public sectors to immediately remedy the crisis by going into communities with legitimate, immediate employment opportunities for the underserved.”
U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (CA-33) released the following statement: “President Obama is fighting to protect middle class families, preserve Social Security and Medicare, and is tackling these problems now and not down the road. At every turn, he has lead and confronted the challenges before the nation, while his Republican negotiating partners have walked away from talks or put forth ideas that harm the middle class and reward corporate elites. An agreement must be reached now and President Obama continues to show the nation that he has the toughness and willingness to lead us forward responsibly. The President is right — all Americans must call on their elected representatives and demand an end to this hostage taking by the Republican leadership. We need a path forward and President Obama is showing us the way.”
After a meeting with the President, Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League had this to say, “This past week, NAACP President Ben Jealous and I forcefully entered the debt ceiling debate during a meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office. During our meeting, we made it clear that as a final deal is hammered out to raise the debt ceiling and prevent the nation from defaulting on August 2nd, no steps should be taken that will shred the social safety net — the last line of economic defense for millions of working class and middle class Americans. With African American unemployment at 16.2 percent and the jobless rate for Hispanics also in double digits at 11.6 percent, it would be unconscionable to cut Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare benefits, education, job training or housing services now, especially while businesses and wealthy Americans are protected from any tax increase.”
At the end of his urgent plea to all of America, President Obama said, “History is scattered with the stories of those who held fast to rigid ideologies and refused to listen to those who disagreed. But those are not the Americans we remember. We remember the Americans who put country above self, and set personal grievances aside for the greater good. We remember the Americans who held this country together during its most difficult hours; who put aside pride and party to form a more perfect union.”