Time to compromise on debt limits

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 16, 2011

No matter what you’ve heard about no Social Security checks, no VA checks, or no healthcare, fear not. One way or another the United States’ debt ceiling will be raised before the Aug. 2 deadline.

There are four options on the table that could get the country through the crisis. The negotiators should choose one that is more than a band-aid approach.

The government – and that includes the president and Congress, past and present – have maxed out their credit cards at $14.29 trillion.

One proposal is a short-term deal that Obama has already said he will refuse to sign, even if it brings down his presidency.

Another deal raises the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion and offsets the debt with spending cuts. Politically, it’s a relatively easy fix.

The third approach is a long deal that would reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 or 12 years and include major reforms of Medicare, Social Security and, potentially, the U.S. tax system. Retirement ages could go up, as well as seniors’ contributions to Medicare. The president favors a long-term approach, but Democrats don’t want to appear to cut benefits and Republicans don’t want anything that resembles tax increases.

The fourth gets us out of a crisis, requires no immediate spending cuts or tax increases, but a commission to look at reform.

It’s time for those at the negotiating table to take the broader view.

Just raising the debt ceiling doesn’t protect America’s credit rating. Indeed, Moody’s Investors Services said this week that an increase in the deficit without cuts would likely lead them to change America’s AAA rating from “stable” to “negative.” Standard and Poor’s said there’s a 1-in-2 chance it’ll downgrade the county’s rating in the next 90 days.

To date, we’ve enjoyed the good rating and the lifestyles it creates because as a nation, we paid our bills on time.

There are clear signs that Republicans realize there’s no way around increasing the debt ceiling in the immediate future. They’d like to do it in the way that’s most detrimental to Obama’s reelection bid.

What we really need are not Democrats refusing to yield on benefits, or Tea Party-scared Republicans who refuse to give any on the revenue side, but statesmen who’ll do what’s right for the long-term and let the chips fall where they may.