If compromise was a dirty word for Republicans, particularly Tea Party fomenters, it wasn’t for President Barack Obama, and without his concessions, the nation would have plummeted into an unprecedented default.
In perhaps the understatement of the year, Obama, speaking in the Rose Garden after Congress voted to approve a deficit reduction to avert a default on Tuesday, said, “It was a long and contentious debate, and I want to thank the American people for keeping up the pressure on their elected officials to put politics aside and work together for the good of the country.”
That compromise, he continued, will guarantee more than $2 trillion in deficit reduction, which will allow the government to keep making key investments in education and research towards new jobs. “This is, however, just the first step,” Obama said. “This means making some adjustments to protect health care programs like Medicare…it also means reforming our tax code so that the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations pay their fair share.”
Millions of Americans must have emitted a silent cheer when he announced the elimination of taxpayer subsidies to oil and gas companies and tax loopholes that help billionaires pay lower taxes than teachers and nurses.
“We can’t balance the budget on the backs of the very people who have borne the biggest brunt of this recession,” Obama said.
Even so, everyone’s going to have to chip in, he added.
Pundits on the left began bemoaning the deal, predicting a loss of jobs as the spending cuts are decided by a special bipartisan commission in the second phase of the compromise. Likewise, Rep. Charles Rangel wasted no time voicing his concern about the deal.
“Never before did we see such partisanship in the process and final outcome of passing legislation to raise our nation’s debt ceiling,” he said in statement to the press. “I find it appalling that the Republicans held the president and the American people hostage in order to achieve their ideological goals. This is not the way to govern.
“I voted against the debt ceiling bill because I believe that we must address the federal deficit with a balanced approach,” Rangel explained. “While this law will make almost $2.5 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years, it does not ask the wealthy corporations or individuals to make any sacrifice. Yet, the proposed cuts will adversely impact those who are most vulnerable: the individuals who depend on some assistance from the federal government at their greatest time of need.”
Furthermore, he added, the law does not create jobs. “Instead, it will result in more layoffs at a time when there are already 25 million unemployed people who are looking for jobs. We should be enacting legislation that creates jobs, not destroys them.”
However, Obama promised that in the coming months he will “continue…to fight for what the American people care most about: new jobs, higher wages and faster economic growth.”
Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane Williams expressed his displeasure with the bill. “While I am grateful that it appears we will avoid our nation’s first-ever financial default,” he began in press statement, “I am deeply dissatisfied with the debt compromise deal that Congress is poised to pass.
Sadly, the budget problems we are having in Washington are a reflection of the problems that exist in Albany and here in the city. The rich and moneyed interests have been allowed to convince too many Americans that having them pay more would be a tax on everyone, despite the fact that 98 percent of us would not be affected.
“By strategically replacing ‘rich’ with ‘job creator,’ the Republican right has duped the American public into giving up on shared sacrifice in this deal,” Williams added. “In this sense, President Obama and congressional Democrats have so far failed. It seems that the nation has to learn yet again that trickle down economics does not work.
“My only hope from this agreement is that the joint committee, which will be recommending new deficit reductions, leads to more equitable reforms that ensure all Americans, not just the middle and lower classes, share the burden.”
Obama shared Williams’ concern, noting, “It’s pretty likely that the uncertainty surrounding the raising of the debt ceiling for both businesses and consumers has been unsettling, and just one more impediment to the full recovery that we need.”
There is much work to be done, Obama declared, but many Americans would just like to have some work.