Obama v. Rubio

"Deadbeat Nation"

Marco Rubio first used "deadbeat nation," but now Obama has turned it around on him.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

It caught a lot of people's ears just now when Obama said, "We are not a deadbeat nation." What some may not know is that he's referring to Marco Rubio, who used the phrase in a Jan. 6 letter to Obama. That letter is worth a quick review.

Rubio wrote:

As I wrote in The Wall Street Journal in March 2011, I will oppose a debt ceiling increase unless such an authorization is accompanied by a real plan to tackle our debt. Ideally, such a plan would feature both pro-growth elements and spending restraints, including fundamental tax reform, regulatory reform, meaningful cuts to discretionary spending, a balanced-budget amendment, and reforms to save Social Security and Medicare.

If we had done this in mid-2011 when we last debated the debt ceiling, we could have set America on a path to economic growth and prosperity. This would have led to more jobs and, in turn, to more duly employed taxpayers generating more growth-driven revenue to help us pay down our debt. Instead, you failed to lead, punted the tough decisions and, in doing so, our credit rating was downgraded for the first time in our history. It's a tragic reality but, on your watch, more and more people have come to believe that America is becoming a deadbeat nation inevitably heading toward a European-style debt crisis.

This of course is dishonest and silly. Note that, while Obama accepts both revenues and cuts, Rubio has no room for revenues. "Fundamental tax reform" means cutting taxes, just as "reform" to Social Security and Medicare means cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Also, I shudder to think what condition this economy would be in if we'd done this in mid-2011. Austerity hurts. I think most Republicans actually know this deep down, although it's not clear in Rubio's case how intelligent he is.

Anyway the phrase "deadbeat nation" is going to have a lot more resonance coming out of Obama's mouth than in Rubio's letter. He has managed to turn the phrase around on the GOP.