Now’s Not the Time to Rule Out Spending Cuts & Reforms |

Here are a few things to keep in mind – and to keep handy – for when President Obama speaks with business executives at the Business Roundtable later this morning.

First up – this graphic, a reminder of how every major effort to deal with the deficit over the last 30 years has been tied to debt limit legislation:

The Associated Press says the president will be “cautioning Republicans not to precipitate a government shutdown or an unprecedented debt default” – which is odd since the White House hasn’t taken its threat to shut down the government off the table. And the president and administration officials are the ones saying they “won’t negotiate” over spending cuts and reforms, instead demanding a “clean” debt limit increase – even though using debt limit bills for deficit reduction has a long, bipartisan history.

Second -- this staggering chart from the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) latest report, which underscores the importance of acting now to rein in our debt and deficits:

Unprecedented levels of government spending – and four straight years of trillion-dollar deficits – under the Obama administration contributed to a shocking increase in government debt. And “[t]he aging of the baby-boom generation, rising health-care costs, and Obamacare are ‘expected to steadily boost the government’s spending’” even more in the years ahead, explains Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) office.

Maybe worse: the CBO notes that its forecast “does not factor in ‘the harm that growing debt would cause to the economy’,” says Jim Pethokoukis at AEI. “[W]hen you take into account stuff like how deficits might ‘crowd out’ investment in factories and computers and how people might respond to changes in after-tax wages, you find the debt is much, much larger…”

The CBO report is basic proof that now is not the time for the president to rule out needed spending cuts and reforms.

Third – this fact sheet on the spending cuts and reforms that have been coupled with previous debt limit bills.

For example, debt limit legislation signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 included a series of small business regulatory relief proposals. The 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit reduction bill included a debt limit increase. And so on. Both parties recognized the problem and worked together on solutions.

And fourth – this quote from then-Senator Obama on raising the debt limit, when he had a vote on it:

“Mr. President, I rise today to talk about America’s debt problem. 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. Over the past five years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion. That is  ‘trillion’ with a ‘T.’ That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers…

“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. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.” – Senator Barack Obama, March 16, 2006

Those comments were more than $8 trillion in debt ago.

Republicans who want to use debt limit legislation to tackle Washington’s spending problem and strengthen our economy are following a trail well-worn by both parties. “The president and his party should be honest with the American people about the fiscal challenges we face,” said Speaker Boehner, “and demonstrate the courage necessary to work in a bipartisan way to solve our spending problem.”