The truth of course is that it’s Congress that has incurred the debts, not the president. The only reason the president appears to be in the position of being the one seeking the increase is that any sitting administration (its Treasury Department) is the one that actually has to pay the bills. That’s a pretty sweet deal for Congress. They run up the bills, and then, when the president asks them for the money to pay off the bills that they incurred, they say no!
Obama, in my memory, never once pointed this out in 2011, but he has already done so this time around: “I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they’ve already racked up through the laws that they passed,” he said on New Year’s night, after the House passed the cliff bill.
He needs to bang this home with an intensity like it’s October in a presidential campaign. First and foremost, he has to get the business world on his side, such that they’re willing at least privately to come down on the Republicans like a ton of bricks. In 2011, these titans had to hedge their positions because most of them were hoping a Republican president would be elected the next year. But Obama is in the captain’s chair for four more years. There’s no political point to such hedging now.
Second, he should use the State of the Union to drive home the absurdity of the situation, and the outrageousness of it.