Obama says old folks, sick, troops will face chopping block if GOP doesn’t OK bigger debt

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama ended his first term by slashing at the GOP’s motives, rejecting any significant spending curbs, and listing the Americans he intends to deny funds to during the pending clash over the nation’s fast-growing $16.4 trillion debt.

“If congressional Republicans refuse to pay Americans’ bills on time, Social Security checks and veterans’ benefits will be delayed,” he said during a Monday morning press conference, during which he denounced GOP calls for spending curbs, and instead demanded greater taxes.

While slamming the GOP’s push against deficit spending, Obama listed off groups whose funding he can stop if the GOP doesn’t agree to drop its calls for cuts in exchange for a hike to the debt ceiling.

If America breaches the debt ceiling, “[w]e might not be able to pay our troops, or honor our contracts with small business owners,” Obama said. “Food inspectors, air-traffic controllers, specialists who track down loose nuclear materials, wouldn’t get their pay checks,” he said.

But reaching the debt ceiling without a hike doesn’t actually stop the president from honoring the government’s commitments to those group.

In fact, if the executive can’t borrow more money to fund the annual $1 trillion deficit — or roughly 30 cents on each dollar spent by the federal government — it can still pay part of its weekly bills with weekly tax revenues, once interest-payments are paid first.

This day-to-day, no-borrowing process would not prevent Obama from paying any sub-group all or part of their salaries or benefits, but does give him the ability to decide which sub-groups don’t get paid, in full or part.

That power allows him to increase pressure on the GOP by threatening or increasing financial pain felt by influential groups.

Obama’s mention of Social Security and veterans showed how he might use that power in the emerging debt-ceiling clash, in which the GOP is calling for long-term spending curbs.

Obama’s no-negotiations stance was accompanied by repeated demands for higher taxes, plus more spending, for Republicans to boost the administration’s credit limit without restrictions, and by unprecedentedly hostile rhetoric directed at Republicans.

Amid arguments over the debt ceiling, Obama insisted Republicans “will not collect a ransom in exchange for not trashing America’s economy.”

Republicans are attempting to curb spending by using the debt ceiling as “a gun at the head of the American people,” he claimed.

Republicans “are suspicious about government’s commitments, for example, to make sure that senior citizens have decent health-care as they get older,” Obama said.

“They have suspicions about Social Security. They have suspicions about whether government should make sure that kids in poverty are getting enough to eat or whether we should be spending money on medical research,” he claimed.

The Obama administration’s current spending plans will double the nation’s debt to $20 trillion by 2017. That averages out to a debt of roughly $125,000 for every working-age American.

However, Republicans are afraid to compromise because GOP activists routinely try to “demonize me,” Obama claimed.

Obama’s relentless criticism of the GOP contrasts’ with Obama’s call for bipartisan solutions during his Jan. 20, 2009 inauguration speech.

“On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord … we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics … the time has come to set aside childish things,” he declared.

He coupled today’s uncompromising language with repeated claims that he is wiling to compromise and be reasonable. “I don’t think anybody would consider my position to be unreasonable here,” he asserted.

Obama repeatedly compared the raising of the debt ceiling beyond the current level of $16.4 trillion to people paying their bills.

“The issue here is whether America pays its bills — we are not a deadbeat nation,” he said. Not raising the debt ceiling, he said, is similar to restaurant-goers “leav[ing] without paying the check.”

Raising the debt ceiling to allow even more borrowing “is simply allowing the country to pay for spending that Congress has already committed to.. these are bill that have already been racked up, we, we need to pay for them,” he said.

Obama also reiterated his often-used talking points, calling for “responsibility” and for tax increases to ensure “a multimillion investor [won’t] pay less in tax rates than a secretary.”

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