With the debt ceiling debate and continued discussions about the Affordable Care Act, both sides are trying to set a public narrative. My Politics colleague Jason Vines offers an example of the type of posturing we can expect with his recent gotcha post pointing out that as a senator, Barack Obama hypocritically voted against raising the debt ceiling.
Of course there is more to the then-senator's position and subsequent vote than Jason would have you believe. The point Obama was making was that our increasing national debt is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Not acting on this problem was a "failure of leadership," according to Obama.
And true to his word the president has overseen the first decrease in government spending since 1961. Additionally Barack Obama has the second lowest increase in the national debt of any president over the past 30 years. Were it not for the nihilism of congressional Republicans that number, too, could have been much lower as the president offered many opportunities to increase government revenue. Instead this president has been saddled with the four lowest government revenue producing years out of the past 62 years.
It should also be noted that there was no meat to the senator's opposition. The bill passed when it could have been easily filibustered. A rookie senator grandstanding is hardly comparable to actually shutting down the government.
Having said that, it was a silly vote to cast. A mistake he has clearly learned from.
Of course if we really want to set hypocrisy as the measuring stick for how these debates are to be judged there is plenty of incongruent rhetoric coming from the right as well.
- Republicans have blocked nearly every offer from the president to increase revenue -- revenue that could have made a vote over raising the debt ceiling non-existent.
- 104 of the current Republicans threatening to vote against raising the debt ceiling now previously voted to raise the debt ceiling under George W. Bush.
- Conservative media celebrates the shutdown as a way to shrink the government yet they complain about every government function that has been shuttered.
- Republicans claim the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is too expensive yet the only solution they have offered would be more costly.
- Conservative media is up in arms when it is suggested that the tactics of the current Republicans controlled house are tantamount to terrorism yet when conservative media icons like Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck suggest Barack Obama and other democrats are terrorists they are silent.
- Republicans say the ACA is unpopular yet they passed on background checks, increasing taxes on the rich, and immigration reform all of which have much higher support than their only legislative priority -- repealing the ACA.
- Conservatives media touts the shutdown as a "slim down" yet, in the end, all Republicans have done is created a jobs bank for government employees while simultaneously increasing the bill for taxpayers.
- Republican legislators have consistently voted for less funding for programs they are now arguing that we must fully pay for via piecemeal funding.
- Republican legislators say we need to cut the budget yet they have supported bills that increase spending without any corresponding budget cuts.
It's fine to say that Obama doesn't have a leg to stand per raising the debt ceiling, However, that doesn't mean Republican legislators do either. In the end the decision to raise the debt ceiling should be about what is best for the country. Pretending that the president's voting record is a valuable part of that discussion is partisan hackery that shows just how serious Republicans are about addressing the countries problems.