07/11/2011 12:44 pm ET Updated Sep 10, 2011

Obama's Ultimatum: What the President Should Say to America, and Republicans

I am a Democrat.  But more importantly, I am an American.  And as President of the United States of America, I have put the economic needs of our entire nation ahead of the political agenda of my party.  At times of great urgency, that is what great leaders do.

Your government has spent money, like it or not.   And now, the bills are due.  Our fundamental solvency and credibility depends on keeping our promises and paying those debts.

The private sector is, in fact, recovering.  Corporate profits and CEO bonuses have once again reached record highs.  And big businesses are sitting on billions, by some accounts, trillions of unspent capital.  They're piling up profits and not creating jobs.  No one is blaming them for that.  But at a time of anemic economic growth and opportunity for the rest of us, government must be the spender of last resort.  This is, in fact, why our Founding Fathers gave government the power to levy taxes and borrow money --- recognizing the important role of government, especially in trying economic times.

So at a time when government spending is needed more than ever, the fact that we're even talking about spending cuts as a condition of raising the debt ceiling is a massive victory for the Republican ideology.  When the economy is good, they want to cut spending and cut taxes.  When the economy is bad, they also want to cut spending and cut taxes.  And so far, they've gotten their way.

To avoid the disastrous calamity that both sides of the aisle agree would result from our nation defaulting on its debts, I have compromised.  Angering many in my own party, stirring the ire of many who voted for me, I have been willing to negotiate over $2 trillion in cuts to government programs that I and many working Americans know are vital.  But I have done this because Republicans have left our nation with no other options -- they are holding our economic future hostage in order to advance their long-held anti-government, pro-big business agenda.

Fine.  I came to the table.  I was willing to compromise, to work out a deal.  But I should have known there's no negotiating with ideological terrorists.  In addition to the historic cuts Republicans want to extract in exchange for their vote on the debt ceiling, they are refusing any tax increases on the richest of the richest of the rich.  To be clear -- no one is blaming big business or the rich for their success.  But we all know that for too long the rules of the game have been rigged to favor the few over the many -- and even now, 88% of the gains from our sputtering economic recovery have gone not to wages and benefits for average working people but into the pockets of Wall Street.  Just as businesses in the past were successful because of government highways and electric grids, big businesses today are successful largely because of the extraordinary measures you the taxpayer took to rescue the private sector.  Now, at a time when ordinary taxpayers are still struggling, it is noble and honorable to ask CEOs and big business to pay more.

The great conservative hero Ronald Reagan raised taxes 11 times during his presidency not because he wanted to but because he knew he had to.  Today, over three-quarters of Americans agree that we should raise taxes on the richest of the rich -- and oppose the kinds of drastic cuts to Medicare and Social Security that Republicans are proposing instead.  But it appears Republicans are willing to blow up our entire economy and endanger our collective future rather than negotiate in good faith a set of incremental tax increases on millionaires and billionaires as part of a deal that mostly includes the sorts of spending cuts they favor.

They have left me with no choice.  As Commander in Chief, I refuse to let our nation be threatened and terrorized -- whether from abroad or from within.  The Republicans have two options:  Accept a deal that includes a set of fair tax increases on millionaires and billionaires, or willfully violate the Constitution and force the United States to default on its debt for the first time in history.  The choice is theirs.  Unfortunately, the consequences will be borne by all of us.