President Barack Obama’s communications director said we’ve “never” been in danger of defaulting before. That’s not true. Congress has come close to failing to raise the debt ceiling before defaulting more than once in recent years, under both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said that if Congress does not raise the current debt limit — the amount of money that the federal government is allowed to borrow to pay for things such as benefits for entitlement programs and the interest on the national debt — the country will begin to default on its obligations on Aug. 2.
But is this the first time the country has been in “danger” of defaulting, as Pfeiffer claimed?
Hardly. We came close at least three other times, as recently as President George W. Bush’s first term, according to a Congressional Research Service report on the history of the debt limit increases.
The president and House speaker restated familiar positions in their dueling debt ceiling speeches, but they took their points too far at times or made them without enough context.
- Obama described raising the debt ceiling as historically “routine.” It is true that every president, with the exception of Truman, has signed such a bill since the 1940s. But this request is the largest in history, even in inflation-adjusted dollars.
- Boehner claimed Obama is adamantly against “fundamental changes” to entitlement programs. In fact, the president has proposed $650 billion in cuts to the future growth of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Sarah Palin’s much-ridiculed story of Paul Revere isn’t entirely wrong, but it’s badly twisted. Revere didn’t ring bells or fire shots, and he was riding to warn two fellow rebels that the British were coming to arrest them — not to warn the British “that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms.”