wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost2

Most Read: Opinions

direct signup

Today’s Opinions poll

Should Congress deal with the immigration crisis -- tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors at the border -- before its August recess?

Submit
Next
Review your answers and share
Post Partisan
Posted at 03:27 PM ET, 04/21/2011

Raising the debt ceiling: prognosis ‘negative’


Tom Toles has sketched a hilarious cartoon that may run in the coming days showing a building (the debt ceiling) on fire. Clinging to the outside of the building on a high floor is a man (the economy). Down below, President Obama and an elephant (the GOP, natch) are dressed as firemen and appear to be holding one of those round safety-net thingies to catch people jumping from burning buildings. But it’s actually a wooden negotiating table. Staring at the two characters below, the economy doesn’t look too certain his chances. Since I’m a nerd, it made me literally LOL, because in one neat frame Toles captures the insanity in which the United States finds itself.

Other signs of the insanity burst into view yesterday on multiple fronts that add to my concern that the economy is going to hit that wooden table.

The new Post-ABC News poll shows that 78 percent of Americans don’t want Medicare touched and 69 percent of them don’t want Medicaid touched. These are two of the main drivers of the nation’s long-term debt. But these results are more startling when you look at the cross tabs of who is opposed to cuts to either Medicare or Medicaid (listed respectively).

Republicans          72 percent, 55 percent

Independents        74 percent, 66 percent

Tea Party          69 percent, 56 percent

This tracks with results in the McClatchy-Marist poll (page 20) released on Monday that showed 80 percent of Americans opposing cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Their cross tabs are almost identical to those above.

Republicans        73 percent

Independents      75 percent

Tea Party        70 percent

That’s a problem, since Obama said that everything is “on the table” and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) takes Medicare down the “Path” to benefit-cutting block grants that folks clearly don’t want.

More of a problem for the Republicans, really. Another problem for them is the number of Americans who want the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire. In the McClatchy survey, 64 percent of registered voters favored increasing taxes for those earning more than $250,000. The Post poll shows support for this from 72 percent of all respondents — with 54 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of Independents and 58 percent of Tea Partyers agreeing.

Ryan learned this first-hand during a town hall meeting yesterday when his assertion that his plan does “tax the top” earners was met with boos.

And now we have House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) ramping up his demands for raising the debt ceiling. What’s scary is that the same folks who don’t want government to touch their Medicare are the same ones who don’t want the debt limit increased. The Post story on the bind that new members, such as Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), are in with the impending vote illustrates this well.

Time is running out to keep the economy from hitting that wooden table. But with Congress in recess until May 2, and the the $14.3 trillion national debt ceiling slated to be reached around May 16, and a multi-year plan for reducing the debt due to the president by the end of June, and with a drop-dead deadline of July 8 before national default, my outlook on avoiding financial calamity is the same as the Standard & Poor’s view on the future creditworthiness of the United States: negative.

By  |  03:27 PM ET, 04/21/2011

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company