The buck stops at the White House


Our nation was subjected to an unnecessary circus—the acrimonious debt ceiling debate and a messy deal which resulted in a deep slide in the stock market that was also precipitated by the S&P credit downgrade of the United States, a first in our nation’s history.

This circus and the resulting economic chaos were entirely preventable if only we had a capable President as the ringmaster.  A circus troupe of members of Congress, including the Tea Party, took the debate in their hands, framed the national dialog and produced a deal that pleased no one, while the President was reduced to being a bewildered spectator who took to the airwaves occasionally to blame and name call. As President Truman said, the buck stops in the Oval Office.

An astute President would have seized on the many opportunities available since 2009 to raise the debt ceiling and lead the way with a plan to grow the job market and tax revenues in the short term, while still offering a credible long term proposal to address the debt. A shrewd President would have negotiated the debt ceiling increase in December 2010 using the extension of the Bush tax cuts as the bargaining chip. When a reporter asked him on Dec 7, 2010, why he would put off the debt ceiling increase when he would have no leverage over the GOP and agree to the Bush tax cut extensions now,  Obama did not even comprehend the question!

Our nation’s woes are largely because investors, job creators and consumers are on a “confidence deficit” that a capable President is in charge.  We are now reduced to receiving a scolding from China, our largest debtor.

The White House has started a drum beat of demonizing the Tea Party for all our woes.  While I vehemently disagree with the Tea Party’s short sighted demand to cut spending now, our democracy allows them the right to market their ideas and be heard of as a part of the debate.

We had this circus play before in 1995 with Newt Gingrich and the then fiery freshman GOP members shutting the government down.  However, the ringmaster of that day—President Clinton—commanded the national dialog with the strength of his ideas, specificity of plans and ability to sell them, and reined in the Republicans without compromising public priorities like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, and the environment. We went on to have the largest economic expansion in a generation.

The real deficit that is hurting us and our standing in the world is the leadership deficit in the White House.

Rameysh Ramdas, an SF Bay Area professional, writes as a hobby.

The extremist Republican party of today is to blame

Critics of the President say the buck stops at the White House. But it is patently clear that the debt ceiling debacle is a direct result of wrong-headed Republican ideology, the fiscal ignorance of members of financial and budgetary committees, and GOP tactics that disregard the consequences to the country.

First some facts: The debt ceiling is periodically and routinely raised by Congress to allow the treasury to sell more bonds to meet spending obligations that have already been voted and approved by current and past Congresses. In refusing to raise the debt ceiling the Republicans effectively wrote the checks but refused to pay them when they became due. It is not just unethical but unpatriotic to do so. Past budget battles are ot analogous to the current situation.

In the spirit of compromise President Obama offered significant spending cuts in return for very modest tax increases on the wealthiest 1% of Americans and reductions in tax loopholes. But the GOP  walked away from negotiations. The reason for such intransigence can be attributed to the fact that 235 members of the house of representatives and 41 senators—overwhelmingly Republican—have signed Grover Norquist’s No Tax pledge for fear of primary battles funded  by Norquist’s think tank Americans for Prosperity. Shadowy interest groups and uninformed Tea Party freshmen  drive the GOP today.

In early 2009, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell declared that his goal was to make Obama a one-term president. The GOP has bluntly implemented this goal by obstruction and delay. More than 60% of administration appointees have been put on legislative hold—one of the highest in history. Even when the financial system was falling apart there were less than three Republican senators prepared to approved TARP-2( the second tranche of the Troubled Asset Relief Program).  The debt ceiling is just the latest hostage.

The rise of the Tea Party which took 20% of the house seats in 2010 mid-terms has pushed the GOP fiscal agenda to an intolerable and illogical extreme. On July 19, 2011 Rep Joe Walsh (IL-8), just back from a debt ceiling vote, could not answer correctly when asked the size of the U.S. economy. When pressed, he blurted out $3 trillion, where the real number is ~$15 trillion. Such ignorance may be okay for an average voter but not for an elected representative who is voting on relevant legislation. This is the quality of candidates fielded by the Tea Party who decide whether the largest economy on the planet is going to pay its bills. Elections have consequences and the people who elected the extremist GOP need to take note.

Mani Subramani works in the semi-conductor industry in Silicon Valley.