Growing national debt: Obama’s problem, Toomey’s solution

President Obama seems to have finessed the fight over the budget for the last half of the 2011 fiscal year. His next battle will be trying to get Congress to approve raising the national debt ceiling from the currently authorized $14.3 trillion, which the federal government will bump up against as early as next month.

One problem for the President is that just five years ago Senator Barack Obama voted against raising a much lower debt ceiling and stated, “The fact that we’re here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure…..Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.”

Now President Obama is saying he made a mistake in opposing the increase in the debt ceiling back in 2006. Did he also make a mistake saying that to even debate raising the debt ceiling “is a sign of leadership failure”?

Pennsylvania’s new U.S. Senator Pat Toomey has already announced that he will vote against increasing the debt ceiling, and he is the lead sponsor of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would prohibit federal expenditures from exceeding income, and cap federal spending at 18% of gross domestic product. Senator Toomey’s proposed balanced-budget amendment has the support of all Republican U.S. Senators, though adoption by the required 2/3 vote by the Congress and 3/4 of the state legislatures seems beyond implausible.

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Even the Republicans are unable to propose a balanced budget for the 2012 fiscal year. Their plan introduced in the House of Representatives which they control would add an additional $995 billion to the national debt. President Obama’s proposed budget would add an additional $1.1 trillion to the national debt in the 2012 fiscal year.

But Senator Toomey’s balanced budget amendment may be good politics, and puts the Democrats on the spot. What’s the Democratic alternative to a balanced budget amendment, that can also promise a halt in the growth of the national debt? Can Democrats sell the argument that we can keep running big deficits now that increase the national debt, because some future administration will get serious about reducing deficits and debt?

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