Adults in the room

Belittling House Republicans has surpassed golf, gossip and the theater as the favorite pasttime of the Washington, D.C., establishment. Those Republicans must be doing their job.President Obama described them last month as unruly schoolchildren. Democrat Senate majority leader Harry Reid called his counterpart in the House, Republican majority leader Eric Cantor, “childish” and suggested he return to the infamous kids’ table.All the while, media reports have consistently portrayed President Obama as the “adult in the room.”

Where were models of maturity Reid and Obama over the last five years during the debt ceiling’s meteoric rise? When Democrats took over Congress in 2007, the debt ceiling stood at $9 trillion. Today, it’s over $14 trillion.

Democrats never sounded the debt ceiling alarm back then because, philosophically, they want a high debt ceiling to accommodate large debt that gets repaid by high taxes.

Where was the Democrats’ plan to reduce the debt when House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan delivered his comprehensive proposal earlier this year? It was nowhere to be found because there wasn’t one, for the same high-ceiling-debt-taxes reason referenced above.

And why is now the right time to raise taxes when seven months ago wasn’t? Has unemployment or GDP or real estate values or wages improved dramatically so far this year? No. What has changed is Mr. Obama believes he can get some tax hikes through.

The president’s anti-tax rhetoric last December during the Bush tax cuts extension debate did not represent his deepest convictions. It was cover for not being able to do what his ideology and political base wanted.

“Raise taxes during a slow recovery after the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression?” Obama essentially said then. “You can’t raise taxes during a recovery.”

Unless you can.

Barack Obama does not truly want any major cost-saving reforms to health care entitlement programs, a particularly gargantuan budget buster. If he did, he would have included them in his massive health care act of 2010. He did not. He added costly entitlements instead.

And he does not want any significant reduction in the nation’s debt unless it comes from new taxes. If he did, he would have endorsed the recommendations of his own National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform ( He has not. The commission must have been a little too bi-partisan.

It appears there is a bluff to be called, as Mr. Obama mysteriously alluded to last week. House Republicans should call it.

We Americans elected congressional Republicans in convincing landslide fashion last fall. We chose them to be obstinate obstacles to the runaway spending train Messrs. Obama and Reid are conducting.

We want them to force government to live within its means. We want them to be the adults in the room.

Kevin Thompson is a former chief of staff in the Texas House of Representatives. He can be reached by e-mail at

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