The arrival of budget season has brought debt panic back to the Beltway. But President Obama threw cold water on the matter last week, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that the United States does not face “immediate crisis in terms of debt.” And this morning, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) essentially told ABC’s Martha Raddatz he agrees with Obama, calling the debt crisis “looming,” but not “immediate.”
“We do not have an immediate debt crisis,” Boehner said on ABC News’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” “But we all know that we have one looming. And we have — one looming — because we have entitlement programs that are not sustainable in their current form. They’re gonna go bankrupt.” [...]
“[President Obama's] point, as he went on to say in that interview, is that we don’t — we don’t really need to do anything at this point. And I would argue that we do need to do something,” said the House speaker.
Debt is already projected to remain at or below its current share of the economy for the next decade, and it’s good that Boehner is standing in agreement with the president on that point.
Unfortunately, the budget the House Republicans just released does not reflect this realization. It cuts all spending that isn’t Medicare, Social Security, or the military down to near-historic lows over the next ten years. America’s economy remains in the doldrums, leaving the unemployment rate at 7.7 percent (it has never been that high for that long since the Great Depression) and all the real-world evidence we have indicates that austerity in depressions cripples economic growth. If everyone agrees the debt crisis is not immediate, then job growth and economic revival should be topping deficit reduction on the country’s list of priorities.
Nor is there a great deal of evidence to back up Boehner’s distinction between an “immediate” and “looming” debt crisis. The long-term projections of mounting debt he and other D.C. lawmakers rely on are in fact riddled with dramatic assumptions and uncertainties about the future behavior of both Congress and the economy.