At his press conference yesterday, Barack Obama declared that he will not agree to spending cuts in exchange for raising the federal debt limit, accusing Republicans of taking the economy hostage. Obama declared:
Republicans in Congress have two choices here: They can act responsibly, and pay America’s bills; or they can act irresponsibly, and put America through another economic crisis. But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy. The financial well-being of the American people is not leverage to be used.
Give the president this much: he is absolutely shameless. Just two weeks ago, Obama used “the financial well-being of the American people” as “leverage” to force Republicans to break their no tax pledge. In the fiscal cliff stand-off, Obama made clear that was willing to “put America through another economic crisis” and allow a new recession if he did not get his way on taxes. He got his way. Afraid of being blamed for a massive tax increase on every American, Republicans caved — allowing Obama to “collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy.”
Now Obama stands before the country and declares that if Republicans do on the debt limit what he just did on the fiscal cliff, they would be acting “irresponsibly.”
Obama’s bluster is nothing more than a sign of weakness — and evidence that leverage has shifted to Republicans in the debt-limit stand-off. Obama might have been willing to go over the fiscal cliff, but he cannot default. He needs Republicans to raise the debt limit. So he is bluffing — insisting he will not negotiate. He will negotiate. He will make spending concessions. He has to compromise. He has no choice. The consequences are too great.
In the fiscal cliff stand-off, Obama used his leverage — the threat of an economic crisis — without hesitation. Now Republicans have the leverage. Let’s see if they use it, or capitulate once again.