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Jane Ahlin, Published July 24 2011

Ahlin: Shame on politicians who put dogma over fixing debt

It’s hard to talk Armageddon with folks who think it’s a good thing. However, that’s the conversation President Barack Obama and many prominent (suddenly alarmed) Republicans have been trying to have with congressional tea partiers – those members of the House of Representatives who not only scoff at economic experts predicting catastrophic fallout if the debt ceiling is not raised but who also act downright gleeful at the notion of a complete American economic meltdown. (Woo-hoo! If the nation spirals into depression, Obama won’t be re-elected: Mission accomplished.)

Forget American credibility; forget history; and, most importantly, forget their responsibilities as elected leaders. Their ideological purity makes them feel so special that they don’t care. So what if their dogma dementia threatens us all? So what if their legacy is undercutting the good faith and credit of the United States of America?

Here’s a quiz:

1) Which president was handed a federal budget in the black and a CBO forecast of a $5.6 trillion surplus over 10 years?

a. Jimmy Carter

b. Bill Clinton

c. George W. Bush

2) Under George W. Bush, the public debt increased from 33 percent of GDP to 40 percent of GDP. Under which president was debt increased from 26 percent to 40 percent?

a. John Kennedy

b. Bill Clinton

c. Ronald Reagan

3) Which newspaper titled a 2009 article “Bush on jobs: the worst track record on record?”

a. The New York Times

b. The Washington Post

c. The Wall Street Journal

4) How many of the seven times George W. Bush asked Congress to raise the debt ceiling did Republicans refuse to do so unless a balanced budget amendment and spending cuts were included?

a. 4

b. 2

c. 0

5) Name two groups that joined a letter asking Congress to raise the debt ceiling, a letter that said: “A great nation – like a great company – has to be relied upon to pay its debts. This is a Main Street not Wall Street issue. Treasury securities influence the cost of financing not just for companies but more importantly for mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, and student debt. A default would risk both disarray in those markets and a host of unintended consequences.”

a. ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center

b. AAUW and League of Women Voters

c. U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable

6) A month before firing the treasury secretary (who had objected to new tax cuts he believed would set the country up for a fiscal crisis), what vice president said, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter. We won the midterms. This is our due.”

a. Dan Quayle in the G.H.W. Bush administration

b. Al Gore in the Clinton administration

c. Dick Cheney in the George W. Bush administration

The answer to each and every quiz question is “c.”

In an article earlier this month titled “Shame on them,” the well-respected, financially conservative newspaper The Economist wrote: “The sticking point is not on the spending side. It is because the vast majority of Republicans driven on by the wilder-eyed members of their party and the cacophony of conservative media are clinging to the position that not a single cent of deficit reduction must come from a higher tax take. This is economically illiterate and disgracefully cynical.”

Ahlin writes a Sunday column for The Forum.