Over and again Republican propaganda outlets have cited (Senator) Obama's vote against raising the debt ceiling as proof of his duplicity or hypocrisy. When he was a Senator, they assert, he voted against Bush and the Republicans raising the debt ceiling, so what they want to do now is no different.
It is different, very different.
If Bush and the Republicans had not passed a massive tax cut, then launched a completely unnecessary war in Iraq, there would have been no need for a debt ceiling hike.
This is not an irrelevant historical out. Clinton ran surpluses and paid down the debt the last two years of his term. Articles from the time warn about the effects of vanishing US debt on global finance.
Discussions of a tax cut were focused on trying to balance the debt rundown or slow it down. As MMT (Modern Monetary Theory) demonstrates, government debt is the crucial component of finance and many state economic systems in the fiat currency systems that dominate the global economy. Bush took these arguments as an excuse to "return money to the taxpayers" to a wholly reckless degree.
Obama ran for Senate on a platform that both denounced Bush's reckless tax cut and his needless war. Voting down a debt ceiling hike put on the record Obama's point in his campaign that elections have consequences: the 2002, 2004 elections giving majorities to Republicans and electing a Republican President being the case in point. He ran for president in 2008 making these points over and again. He has worked to reverse Bush's reckless tax cuts as much as he could, and he has worked to end the unfunded, endless war Bush left him.
The collapse of the economy in 2008 due to Republican gutting of regulatory funding and personnel just hammered the point home about the consequences of electing Republican majorities and presidents.
And now, what's different?
Obama was stuck with cleaning up the Republican mess. This is not an excuse, it's reality. And that mess was a lot bigger than nearly anyone thought at the time, or than most realize even now.
First that's a 3 trillion dollar or more tar pit of engagement in the Middle East. Obama will finally be able to bring that to an end sometime in 2014. The ongoing costs and mounting costs of veteran and dependents care, however, will, if other wars are any measure, last a century or more. The interest on the unfunded expenditures--this was the first ever American war in which the Republican president and Republican ruling party did not raise taxes (instead they cut them)--all expenditures of which were unfunded, amounts to tens of billions of dollars in interest due now and for decades in the future.
Second was a multi-trillion dollar, 10 year long experiment of massive tax cuts for the top 1%, promised by Bush and Republicans to create such a boom in jobs and new revenues that it would more than pay for itself. This experiment was paid for with borrowed money, and failed by every measure to produce anything even close to the promised payoff. Instead, the concentration of wealth it produced has crippled the American growth machine. Until this misdistribution is corrected, the US will underperform economically, and hence, the damage inflicted by Republican policies will drag on.
Third, Republican gutting regulatory agencies of fraud investigators and funds threw open the door to massive losses in the private sector, all of which the Republican President loaded onto the government in the TARP program. These trillions of dollars in loans, grants, and assumptions of liabilities have by no means been paid off despite claims to the contrary. While TARP's 800 billion or so in funds may be largely repaid, there are huge liabilities that have been assumed by the taxpayers. These liabilities require active government involvement to prevent them from coming due if private firms misbehave again and fail again. Insurance against such defaults and fraud are starting to rise along with chances of fraud and consequent defaults. As foreclosures start to rise again, expect defaults and the knock on effects on credit default swaps and other derivatives to increase.
The Republican shutdown is raising the likelihood that while the government cat is locked away, the rats on Wall Street will run wild again as they did when Bush and the Republicans had a lock on all branches of government. At one point after 9-11, Bush gutted the FBI fraud investigation division, reducing it to 9 investigators. It has taken Obama and the Democrats years to recover the hundreds of years of investigative experience and institutional memory the Republicans flushed away. But even more unsettling and unprecedented is that all this is happening while markets are working increasingly in the dark. Nearly all government statistics have shut down. Commodity trades are largely being made without knowledge of current supplies and prices. At some point, working in the dark will spark a panic, or it will let fraud build up so much that when the lights come on again, then the markets will panic.
Fourth, the states, first under Democrats panicked by the Republican economic collapse of 2008 then even more so, and unnecessarily so, under Republicans after 2010, cut expenditures and jobs. This has cost the economy enormously and increased the federal deficit as a consequence as well. Many of the Republican governors and legislators cut taxes for the wealthy, increasing the distortion of wealth distribution even more, and further crippling tax collections for both state and federal levels. While tax collection has gone up in absolute terms, it has not increased all that much relatively to what it normally would have and should have. Meanwhile, all the unnecessary unemployment vastly increased both unemployment insurance costs and drove millions out of the employment market altogether. The prolonged unemployment also drove down wages, and with lower wages, drove down federal income tax collection.
I stop here only because I run out of time to list even more massive, and totally unnecessary, costs Republicans have piled on Obama and the American people. This is largely their deficit of their making. And most of Obama's deficit was run up trying to fix their damage.
That Republicans now insist on inflicting further damage from more cuts in spending and more cuts in taxes while keeping government shut down and the markets hostage to raising the debt ceiling to a level reflecting commitments they already voted on and passed, is truly outrageous. Elections do have consequences. We are paying for, and will long be paying for, the consequences of the 2000, 2002, and 2004 elections. Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling in 2006 (not to shut down government, mind you) to make that point.
The stance Republicans take now is not so principled. They won the majority of seats in one half of Congress with a minority of votes, and now they insist that all the other elections for Senate and President are null and void, and without consequence. They both shirk their responsibility for the deficits they piled up, and the interest on that debt now due. They deny their policies caused this mess, and deny that they want to make the mess worse with still more wrong-headed policy.
Their votes against raising the debt ceiling are for reasons entirely unlike those which prompted then Senator Obama to vote against raising the ceiling. Obama voted to remind Republicans of their follies and their responsibility for the debt.
They are responsible for this debt, not Democrats, don't forget. If we had simply stayed the Clinton surplus course, we would have half the national debt we have now. We would have almost no deficit at all. (If Clinton's full tax rates applied now as they did in 2000.) And don't forget, in 2008 when the Republicans managed to collapse the economy with their idiocy, Senator Obama voted for the steps needed to save the US.
President Obama bent over backwards during his first term to try, vainly to work with Republicans. He unwisely compromised with them in 2011. Only now, faced with radical unreason and refusal to accept his re-election by a clear majority, has Obama finally said enough. Only now, with the validity of majority election and of Senate powers being denied in whole has Reid stood up to Republican House intransigence. He has yet to kill the Senate Republican minority filibuster powers despite outrageous abuse of it.
Republicans vote to deny elections by majorities; that is, their stance is against democratic election, not for it. They vote to deny that elections have consequences.
This is not a vote like Obama's 2006 Senate vote meant to remind voters of how we got these deficits and that elections for responsible Senators have consequences for better government. Republicans deny government shutdown hurts Americans, and thus their vote is a vote against government itself.
When push came to shove, Obama voted to save America even if it meant he and Democrats had to pay for Republican folly. Republicans deny paying for their debt will destroy America's credit with the rest of the world. They deny their responsibility for governing. And they are willing to destroy us and democratic majority rule to get their (minority) way.
Republicans are voting to destroy this nation and government for, by and of the people, not save it. This is NOT equivalent to what Obama did in 2006; it is exactly the opposite.