When President George W. Bush began his second term with a proposal to reform Social Security by creating the first real “lock box” that would allow taxpayers to bequeath any accumulated contributions remaining in their FICA accounts at their death, to their heirs, even his own Republican Party allies in Congress refused to negotiate.
But at yesterday’s news conference, President Barack Obama seemed to treat all entitlement benefits, if not all government programs, as permanent, vested property rights, if not for beneficiaries, then for perpetual big government, in his answer to one reporter’s question:
Q: Will you negotiate with House Republicans on the debt ceiling?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Oh, Brianna, you know the answer to his question. No, we’re not going to negotiate for Congress to pay bills that it has accrued.
Of course, given the unilateral surrenders by the GOP after October’s 18-day government shutdown, on last week’s Ryan-Murray budget and guarantees of no more government shutdowns going forward, it is quite understandable that President Obama would demand another unconditional surrender on the necessary raising of the debt limit early next year.
But his stated reason for refusing “to negotiate for Congress to pay bills that it has accrued” treats all government spending anticipated by current law the same as government debt owed to bond holders and government contractors. Such a position is a natural follow-up to his persistent and threatening misuse of the word “default” to intimidate Republicans from enforcing their “Boehner Rule” that insisted on new spending cuts each time the debt ceiling is raised that equal the amount of any increase in the debt limit.
After his deal with Senate Budget Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) was consummated last week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) insisted that Democrats would have to agree to some budget or policy compromise to secure a raise in the debt limit. Significantly, neither he nor Speaker John Boehner have mentioned the latter’s eponymous “rule” that led to the sequester spending cuts imposed as a result of the failure of debt limit negotiations when it was last raised in 2012.
All presidents, since the debt limit law was first passed early in the 20th century, before Obama, have negotiated with Congressional leaders from the opposing party when they have been in control of at least one house of Congress. And given that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will soon log marathon-length miles walking from her office to press conferences to announce the latest Obamacare-mandate delays, one could argue that Ted Cruz Republicans continue to “win” the last government shutdown.
But the only negotiations, if any, will be between Obama and himself:
But to consider all promised entitlement benefits under current law to be “accrued” bills that must be paid, even if it means borrowing from great-great-grandchildren in perpetuity, would ensure a fast track for the United States to a Greece-like debt crisis.
This is the political position of the Democratic Party. Any government program that it manages to enact into law when it has its periodic, temporary super-majorities, can never be ended nor their funding reduced. For them, it is always, more, more and more.
This has been our history. Since the demobilization after WWII, there has been no serious retraction of non-defense government programs, large and small, except for the modest reductions in welfare spending as a result of the Clinton-Gingrich work requirements. Which President Obama reversed via executive fiat two years ago.
What President Obama declared yesterday is the exact opposite of what a humbled President Bill Clinton declared after Republicans took the House in the first mid-term election after his Inauguration:
The era of Big Government is not only not over, it is permanent.
The only negotiations the GOP can hope to win are those waged by voters in polling places in the elections of 2014 and 2016.