"We're not Greece. We're not Portugal," President Obama insisted at today's press conference. If we were in such great shape, though, the president probably wouldn't have to be running around making those kinds of distinctions. The president's press conferences are getting to be so frequent that they're becoming less newsworthy, and more formulaic.
Yet again today, Mr. Obama called for "a balanced approach that includes some revenue," or, what in plain English, are tax increases. While insisting doggedly on those tax increases, he accused Republicans of "ideologically rigid positions" and a "my way or the highway" approach.
The president used the word "Armageddon" to refer to a failure to raise the debt ceiling.
"It's important for the American people that everybody in this town sets politics aside," the president said, clearly eying the political benefits that would accrue to him if Republicans "set politics aside" long enough to agree to tax increases that would alienate their base.
The president himself, far from setting politics aside, unloaded on his usual targets: "oil companies," "drug companies," "millionaires and billionaires," "corporate jet owners." At one point, he suggested that the debt and deficit issues could be resolved by "some modest adjustments to get out house in order." At another point, he suggested, "we simply need to make the tough choices and be willing to take on our bases."
A Republican plan to reduce the deficit and debt without tax increases, he suggested, "would require cutting Social Security and Medicare substantially" and would also result in "students accumulating thousands of dollars more in student loan debt every year." Those were not the kind of tough choices or modest adjustments he favors.
Bottom line? My judgment just from the president's tone is that there's an increasing likelihood we are headed for something like the McConnell debt limit proposal, explained here by Keith Hennessey with admirable clarity. One risk of such an approach for Republicans is they can get blamed during the campaign by Obama for being obstructionist on debt/deficit reduction. But the Republicans can always say, hey, we voted for the Ryan plan and for the balance budget amendment, we were just trying to obstruct the president's trillion dollar tax increase. Another risk is that it's unconstitutional, as Shannen Coffin argues here.