Unemployment Numbers Raise Stakes for Debt Ceiling Summit

Bush understood that good policy had to trump bad politics.

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Friday’s unemployment numbers--the highest since December 2010--have upped the ante on the need for serious deficit reduction to help spur economic growth. With the White House set for more debt limit negotiations with Republicans Sunday, it seems all of Washington is waiting to see what happens.

[See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]

Those of us who served in the Bush 41 administration understand better than most how high the stakes are right now. The 1990 budget deal cost our man the presidency. But it also laid the foundation for a decade of prosperity in the 1990s--something for which President Bush gets very little credit. Cutting that deal in 1990 was the right thing to do, despite the high personal cost George Bush paid for it. And George Bush knew it.

One liberal commentator said this week on TV that the deficit is not a moral issue, it’s only an economic one. Today’s unemployment numbers put the lie to that argument. As our economy becomes more and more sluggish, and as unemployment remains stubbornly high, the cost in human suffering for many families continues to climb. Every time an American loses his job, a family goes into crisis.

[Check out political cartoons about the budget and deficit.]

Saddling our children with more debt and an unsustainably large government--not to mention Social Security and Medicare programs headed toward bankruptcy--is more than just an economic issue. It’s an issue of doing the right thing. This budget deal is not about this cut or that cut. It’s about being fair, it’s about treating your political opponents with respect, and it’s about being responsible for the good of all. George Bush understood that he was involved in something bigger than himself, and his own political future. He understood that doing what was right morally was far more important than doing what was best for his own political interest.

This weekend, we’ll see if President Obama understands that too.

  • Check out editorial cartoons about President Obama.
  • Slide Show: 6 Consequences if the Debt Ceiling Isn't Raised
  • Slide Show: 6 Ways to Raise the Debt Ceiling