House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is finally saying something sensible about the debt ceiling.
Speaking to reporters in Washington after a meeting Wednesday with President Barack Obama, the Ohio Republican argued that he wants to avoid a political battle over whether to extend Uncle Sam’s credit limit, saying “this really needs to be done in the next month if we’re serious about no brinksmanship, no rattling investors.”
He has no choice but to at least appear conciliatory because he is being pressured by Wall Street executives who are increasingly concerned that the U.S. government might default on its debt for the first time in its history. Whatever the reason, it appears as though things are moving in the right direction. That’s provided that Boehner can bring the rest of his caucus on board, which of course is not guaranteed. For weeks, Bohner has said he wants “trillions” in spending cuts in exchange for supporting raising the debt ceiling. Tea Party supporters demanded no less.
One thing that the Ohio Republicans has going for him is human nature. Three years or so into the worst economic slowdown since the Great Depression, austerity continues to take its toll on the psyche of the American people. All Boehner has to do is look at his home state to verify this point.
Gov. John Kasich’s (R) popularity has sunk after he pushed through legislation controversial restrictions the rights of government workers to bargain collectively. His poll numbers are so bad that they make it easier for Obama to carry the key battleground state of Ohio in the 2012 election.
“Already at 35-54 approval-disapproval in March, Kasich has slipped a bit to 33-56, tying him with Florida’s Rick Scott for the most reviled governor in the country,” according to Public Policy Polling. “The bad news continues for Kasich, as 55% of voters want to repeal Senate Bill 5, which curtailed public employees’ collective bargaining rights. Only 35% would vote to let the law stand. Even 27% of Republicans would give the law a thumb’s down.”
Austerity is becoming a tougher sell as governments at all levels continue to collect more taxes than they expected. Fiscal conservatives counter that these improvements, while welcome, are too modest to make a serious dent in the national debt. Wrenching decisions, unfortunately, need to be made.
For instance, the Chester-Upland School District, located in a poor community outside of Philadelphia, is considering shedding 40% of its teachers next school year to cover a budget shortfall. Parent Myeshia Foster, the mother of an eighth grader and a 10th grader, told the Philadelphia Inquirer: “How is our district going to survive?. There is barely any support staff as it is, and they barely have enough teachers as it is. Are the kids going to be teaching themselves?”
Foster’s point underscores the debate that’s going on over the debt ceiling over the role of government in our lives, a question which there is no easy answer. Depending on who is asked, the nation’s fiscal woes are either a Sword of Damocles ready to drop on the heads of the American people or an iceberg that will crash onto our shores. Regardless, it’s a serious problem that needs to be taken seriously.