Boehner really isn’t asking for that much to raise debt ceiling

May 10, 2011

On  its face, House Speaker John Boehner’s demand for perhaps more than $2 trillion in spending cuts may look like a dangerous escalation in the political battle over raising the federal debt ceiling by a similar amount. But the reductions would be over 10 years, they’d be in line with several budget proposals, and they would represent only a modest down payment on austerity.

A group of Wall Street executives and other business leaders  listening to Boehner on Monday evening in Manhattan seemed unenthusiastic. They would almost certainly prefer to disentangle the issue of expanding the federal borrowing authority — and thus avoid even the whiff of possible default — from how best to deal with America’s long-term deficit and debt problems. After all, both parties have agreed on a budget that requires more borrowing next year. That is the White House position, too. “To hold one hostage to the other remains extremely unwise,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporters today on Air Force One as Obama flew to Texas.

But, thankfully, politics keeps pushing the two issues together. The powerful Tea Party wing of the GOP wants party leaders to get something substantial in return for enabling more Treasury borrowing. That might include some or all of congressional approval of a balanced budget requirement, a legislative cap on future federal spending, and deep budget cuts. Boehner’s speech certainly gave the impression he’s on the same page. “The cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in debt authority the president is given,” he said.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner may want as much as $2 trillion in new borrowing capacity through 2012. It’s not a small number, but matching that with cuts over 10 years is manageable. President Barack Obama’s debt commission called for $2.2 trillion over a decade, while his own recent budget proposal contemplates reductions almost as large. And if defense cuts are in the mix, as Boehner implied, it all could be done without touching Medicare and Social Security outlays.

Of course Democrats want to see increases in tax revenue as well as spending cuts. The elements of the Republicans’ three-part package, meanwhile, would force greater fiscal discipline on this and future administrations. Failure to do a deal could lead to a series of repetitive fights over temporary, even monthly, debt limit increases up until the 2012 elections. That won’t suit Wall Streeters, so they should hope Boehner’s equation can accommodate a compromise.

 

3 comments

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Boehner doesn’t have the power to say that there will be no new taxes. All the Democrats have to do is absolutely nothing and the Bush-era tax cuts will run out next year. Face it you rich republicans, your taxes go up next year!! Boehner will never block the increase in the debt ceiling, the entire US economy would collapse. I know the republicans are jealous of and hate the Democrats but not enough to ruin the whole country. Mark Montgomery NYC, NY boboberg@nyc.rr.com

Posted by LegalizeDrugs | Report as abusive

I guess the Speaker needs to teach. Clinton learned it, I suspect Obama understands it, now the new crop of Tea Party Republicans who Boehner needs to control will get a lesson from the bond vigilantes.

Posted by PCScipio | Report as abusive

Just remember that this is the same Republican Party that wants to gut medicare and honestly believes that private companies will rein in healthcare costs. These are the people that brought us the Iraq war. Do we really want them back in the driver’s seat? Maybe we do. Maybe we haven’t had enough economic distress, social stagnation and loss of American lives in stupid wars to feel the great sense of satisfaction that they obviously feel for themselves. Oh yes, give it to us, GOP, give us your brilliant ideas and your wonderful future of bread lines and sixth-grade education for all!

Posted by DanRains | Report as abusive