How do you define deadbeat?
President Barack Obama made this case Monday for Congress to again raise the debt ceiling: “The issue here is whether or not America pays its bills. We are not a deadbeat nation.”
Unfortunately, that assertion from the president’s last first-term news conference also sounds woefully detached from balance-sheet reality.
On President Obama’s watch, we have generated the first four trillion-dollar-plus federal deficits in U.S. history. The previous peak, set the year before he was sworn in, was a mere $455 billion.
Spending increasingly beyond our means while digging ever deeper into the financial red (our national debt is a record $16.44 trillion and climbing) evidently doesn’t meet the president’s definition of a “deadbeat.”
Yet it does accurately describe a chronic debtor.
Meanwhile, in fairness to individual deadbeats, unlike Washington, they can’t simply print more money — legally, anyway — to cover their escalating tabs while simultaneously boosting their credit lines.
Nevertheless, President Obama persisted in miscasting himself as a champion of fiscal responsibility during Monday’s news conference:
“I just want to repeat — because I think sometimes the American people, understandably, aren’t following all the debates here in Washington — raising the debt ceiling does not authorize us to spend more. All it does is say that America will pay its bills. And we are not a deadbeat nation.”
So if “raising the debt ceiling does not authorize us to spend more,” why should Congress raise it?
Because raising the debt ceiling — again — beats the heck out of risking a default by the U.S. government.
But as unsustainable spending rises, so do the risks it imposes. The president, along with his Democratic allies on Capitol Hill, should stop rejecting Republican demands for overdue spending restraint as a condition of yet another debt-ceiling hike.
And despite President Obama’s “we are not a deadbeat nation” mantra, repeatedly raising the debt ceiling to pay our way is no way to restore America’s deteriorating bottom-line credibility.