Obama Storms Out of Debt Negotiations


Budget negotiations between the President and Congressional leaders ended abruptly last night when an angry President Obama “stormed out of the room,” according to a Republican aide.

As quoted by Fox News, the aide says Obama declared, “I’ve reached my limit.  This may bring my presidency down, but I won’t yield on this.”

“This,” of course, refers to making modest spending cuts without giving the President higher taxes in return.  How modest are these spending cuts?  Andrew Stiles of National Review relates House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s account of the Obama meltdown:

Cantor expressed a growing frustration over the rapidly dwindling spending cuts believed to have been agreed to in the Biden negotiations, having gone from about $2 trillion in savings to less than $1.4 trillion over the course of several days.

[…] The Majority Leader recounted that toward the end of the discussions President Obama instructed negotiators to “get in the mode” because a final decision would have to be made by Friday. Cantor said he told the president that the two sides remain so far apart at this point that he doubted they could get to $2.5 trillion in cuts (to match the debt increase requested by the administration, enough to get through the 2012 election) given the time available. President Obama has said he will not sign any increase to the debt ceiling less than that amount, and Cantor had previously insisted that the House would vote no more than one time to increase the debt limit. Cantor said he was willing to abandon his position in order to allow some kind of short-term measure to increase the debt limit and reassure credit markets while negotiations continue, and asked the president if he would be willing to consider this option.

At this point, Cantor explained, the president became “very agitated” and said he had “sat here long enough,” that “Ronald Reagan wouldn’t sit here like this” and “something’s got to give.” Obama then told Republicans they either needed to compromise on their insistence on a dollar for dollar ratio of spending cuts to debt increase or agree to a “grand bargain” including massive tax increases. Before walking out of the room, Cantor said, the president told him: “Eric, don’t call my bluff. I’m going to the American people with this.” He then “shoved back” and said “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Of course, since everyone in the room was a partisan, the Democrats have their own version of the event.  According to The Hill, “Democrats immediately disputed the GOP account, saying Obama had sought to end a meeting when Cantor interrupted him to get a final word.”  Oh, that’s totally different, then.  Obama’s walkout suddenly becomes understandable.  Nobody gets the last word over His Royal Majesty.

Remember when Christopher Buckley wrote that he was voting for Obama because of his “first-class temperament?”  Was this the kind of behavior he envisioned?

If I may gently chide Mr. Stiles, and most other sources writing about these negotiations, the $2.5 trillion or $1.4 trillion in cuts we are talking about would take place over ten years.  No one should ever relay these proposed spending cut numbers without including that detail. 

I know it’s easy to forget, and it’s a pain to keep typing “over ten years” every time you relay the numbers, but it’s important to remind readers that the awesome lightning bolts of fiscal restraint blasting out of Vice President Joe Biden’s “deficit reduction” group are only 10% as large as they appear to be.  If we’re going to talk about “$2.4 trillion in cuts,” we must also speak of a $300 trillion budget, or whatever ten years’ worth of irresponsible federal spending would add up to. 

If we’re going to assume a ten year span when we talk about spending cuts, we should present all other relevant figures in ten year totals as well.  Of course, we don’t know what the government will spend over the next ten years.  We don’t even have a budget for this year yet.  We only know for certain that spending will increase, inexorably, forever.

We’re not talking about slashing $3.7 trillion in never budgeted 2011 federal spending, which will vomit $1.6 trillion onto the national debt this year, down to a more manageable – but still insolvent! – $2.3 trillion.  The Democrats are down to offering $1.4 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade.  That works out to $140 billion in cuts per year, which would reduce the deficit by eight percent. 

Obama’s temper tantrum was inspired by Democrat intransigence on tax increases.  The specific tax they keep bleating about is the “Bush tax cut for the rich,” the top marginal rate, which they want to increase by 4% on people who earn over $200,000 per year, or couples that earn over $250,000, who they refer to as “millionaires.”  Under the most optimistic estimates, which generally underestimate the negative impact of higher taxes on economic activity, this tax hike would bring in about $700 billion over the next 10 years.  That works out to $70 billion per year, which is 4% of the deficit.

Combine those spending cuts and tax increases, and you get a 12% reduction in the deficit.  At the end of the next decade, the national debt would be fifteen trillion dollars higher.  That’s more than double what it is now.

That’s why Obama melted down and fled the room last night.  That’s the ground he wants to plant his flag on.  That’s why he’s willing to jeopardize, according to his own damn words, Social Security checks for seniors and payroll for the military.  He wants a $30 trillion national debt in 2020, and he won’t budge an inch.  He’ll “risk his presidency” (of course it’s all about him!  To hell with the country!) over his hunger to grab an extra $70 billion a year in taxes, and simultaneously throw another $1.5 trillion in debt on our children.

Tell me again why we should give this petulant and immature man sole authority to raise the national debt whenever he wants to, with no more obligation in return than to “propose” some kind of fraudulent “plan” for corresponding spending cuts that don’t actually have to be implemented.