President Obama has taken an admirable stand for fiscal austerity, and blasted attempts to yet again raise the debt ceiling, which currently stands at $14.3 trillion (with a T) - or roughly the GDP of the United States. Said the president:
The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that “the buck stops here.” Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.
Just kidding. That was Senator Obama in 2006, when debt was apparently a far larger problem - even though the ceiling was only(!) $9 trillion at the time.
After an attempt at ObamaCare repeal, the first major legislative battle of the 112th Congress, sworn in Wednesday, will likely take place over the debt ceiling, which was last raised in February 2010. The Treasury Department expects the national debt to meet its current limit some time in the first half of 2011.
Asked about the massive disconnect between Obama's passionate 2006 statement and his impending support for raising the debt limit this year, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Wednesday that Obama only voted against the measure in 2006 because he knew his vote wouldn't count (the final tally was 52-48 for the measure).
MSNBC talking heads have been parroting that line as well. Subbing for Rachel Maddow on Monday, Nation editor Chris Hayes told David Frum, who brought up Obama's 2006 position, that Obama's vote "was essentially…meaningless," according to a Nexis transcript.
In the very next segment, another MSNBC host, Lawrence O'Donnell, repeated the canard: "Obama cast one of those convenient votes against it in the Senate because he knew it was going to pass," O'Donnell told Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Tex., when he brought up the president's 2006 position.
But remember, MSNBC is not a mouthpiece for this administration.
While MSNBC defended Obama's about-face on the issue, the networks avoided it completely. The only time Obama's 2006 vote came up in the past week, according to a Nexis search, was on ABC, when Sen.-elect Rand Paul mentioned it.
Neither did the networks mention Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid's 2006 statement that legislators "should explain why they think more debt is good for the economy." With a Republican in the White House, here's what Reid had to say:
How can the Republican majority in this Congress explain to their constituents that trillions of dollars in new debt is good for our economy? How can they explain that they think it’s fair to force our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren to finance this debt through higher taxes. That’s what it will have to be. Why is it right to increase our nation’s dependence on foreign creditors?
They should explain this. Maybe they can convince the public they’re right. I doubt it. Because most Americans know that increasing debt is the last thing we should be doing. After all, I repeat, the Baby Boomers are about to retire. Under the circumstances, any credible economist would tell you we should be reducing debt, not increasing it.Democrats won’t be making argument to supper this legalization, which will weaken our country. Weaken our county.
Sadly, we've come to expect hypocrisy from our politicians. With the party in the White Hosue switched, expect roles in Congress to be completely reversed. Indeed, in 2006, no Senate Democrats voted to raise the debt limit, and only two sitting Republicans voted against it.
But shouldn't the media at least be discussing the massive double standard at work here? And when Senate Republicans start invoking the "symbolic vote" line, will the media treat it with the same kid gloves (where it's addressed at all) that they're giving Obama's about-face? I'm not holding my breath.
*****UPDATE: Here's then-Senator Joe Biden speaking on the issue in 2006 (h/t Erick Erickson):
But as the rest of the world copes with the waves of U.S. debt, we are now all in the same leaky boat. There is just so much of our debt other nations want to hold. The more of it they accumulate, the closer we are to the day when they will not want any more. When that happens, slowly or rapidly, our interest rates will go up, the value of their U.S. bonds will drop, and we will all have big problems. We need both more awareness, and more understanding, of this fundamental threat to our economic well being and the global economy. … The President’s budget plans will bring that number to $11.8 trillion at the end of the next 5 years. This is a record of utter disregard for our Nation’s financial future. It is a record of indifference to the price our children and grandchildren will pay to redeem our debt when it comes due. History will not judge this record kindly. My vote against the debt limit increase cannot change the fact that we have incurred this debt already, and will no doubt incur more. It is a statement that I refuse to be associated with the policies that brought us to this point.