Monday, March 21, 2011

64 Senators Write Letter to Obama Urging Action Addressing Deficit, Entitlements

Continuing a now-familiar refrain of the President's seeming unwillingness to lead on the tough issues facing our nation, (see previous posts on Obama's dithering, this blog), 64 Democratic and Republican U.S. Senators urged President Obama in a letter last Friday to deal with the American deficit and entitlement crisis that threatens the nation's economic security, click here, and on which his own blue-ribbon deficit-reduction Commission reported its findings in Dec. 2010, (for Commission's report click here).

The letter, (the full text of which can be seen here), signed by 32 members of the President's own party in the U.S. Senate and joined by 32 of their deficit-hawk Republican colleagues, expresses concern over the drastic fiscal and economic consequences that will result from a failure to act.   Aside from interest on the national debt eventually exceeding all other expenditures of the federal government, such consequences include drastic necessitated cuts in social security and other programs the legislators-- and the numbers-- say will be inevitable in the absence of serious entitlement, tax and spending reform, (even if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unbelievably thinks "there is no crisis," see here).

Neither the Republican nor Democrat Senate leaders personally signed the letter, meaning that if push comes to shove, the Republicans need only peel away just a couple more Democrat votes to have a super-majority capable of overriding a Presidential veto on any legislation that reaches his desk, (assuming the President can be persuaded to get involved in what has long been considered the "third rail" of American politics, that surrounding "entitlement reform"). 

Indeed, such "entitlement" programs-- about which any talk of reform has traditionally evoked a visceral emotional response in the electorate-- has traditionally meant that addressing such matters has been considered an almost sure way of committing political suicide. 

These days however, the burgeoning national debt and excessive and continual budget deficits of Washington have combined to result in an openness, and indeed, demand on the part of a plurality of voters for such issues to be addressed prior to the devastating economic results of failure to act predicted by the Deficit Commission's report, (as well as other institutions like the Federal reserve and the opinion of most economists). 

In this light, although it may well be many of the Democratic Senators signed the letter as a desperate act of political self-preservation due to the potential effects of inaction on their imminent 2012 re-election campaigns during a time of growing public concern with the ballooning national debt caused by national economic woes and rampant deficit spending on everything from Tarp to new federal programs like Obamacare, it still marks a change in the political winds that, in our view, is long overdue.

And while we have written at length on the President's tendency for prevarication and procrastination when dealing with important issues which may have a political price to pay-- choosing instead a "you-go-first" attitude that defers tough political decisions to the legislative or judicial branches-- this seems just one more piece of evidence in support of that thesis, (albeit a significant one).

Like the President's stance (or lack thereof) on almost every other domestic and foreign policy issue, including Iran nukes, Tax cuts, Libya, traditional marriage, Guantanamo-- which the President, in spite of announcing resumption of military trials for terrorist suspects being held there, see here, has now and almost immediately muddied the waters on even that, see here-- this tendency is now on full display and likely to only increase the split in the Democrat party going into the 2012 elections absent strong executive leadership from President Obama.

This can only increase the chances of catastrophic losses for the Democrats in 2012, already presaged by demographic factors which strongly favor Republicans, (who only need to defend 10 Senate seats to the Democrats 23).

Fortunately, it also increases the chances the President will now take action on these critical matters facing the nation.

For the country's sake, let's hope the President gets the message from his Democratic colleagues. jp

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