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January 17, 2013


Martin Schram

America is rolling toward another presidential inaugural week with many folks thinking everything in Washington sucks — and in fact, they do have a point.

But at least we’ve finally figured out what’s causing the “giant sucking sound” that Texas billionaire Ross Perot used to say he could hear inside the Beltway. It’s caused by two huge leadership vacuums at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

We saw it with our own ears, just this past Monday.

At a news conference at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., President Barack Obama said congressional Republicans will rain economic hell down upon all Americans and transform the country into “a deadbeat nation” if they successfully block the once-ritualistic raising of the debt ceiling that permits the government to pay its existing bills. Republicans vow to oppose raising the debt ceiling unless Democrats agree to dollar-for-dollar spending cuts matching each new debt-ceiling dollar.

Hear the president:

“If congressional Republicans refuse to pay America’s bills on time, Social Security checks and veterans’ benefits will be delayed. We might not be able to pay our troops, or honor our contracts with small business owners. Food inspectors, air traffic controllers, specialists who track down loose nuclear material wouldn’t get their paychecks. ... Markets could go haywire. Interest rates would spike for anybody who borrows money — every homeowner with a mortgage, every student with a college loan, every small business owner who wants to grow and hire.”

Meanwhile, 16 blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue, members of Congress who oppose another routine raising of the debt ceiling were explaining why. As you listen, you’ll have to admit their argument rings as eloquently as Obama’s.

Hear one senator:

“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. ... This rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy, robbing our cities and states of critical investments in infrastructure like bridges, ports and levees; robbing our families and our children of critical investments in education and health-care reform; robbing our seniors of the retirement and health security they have counted on. Every dollar we pay in interest is a dollar that is not going to investment in America’s priorities. ... I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.”

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