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Obama calls shutdown ‘a Republican default tax’

"This is not normal," said Obama. "It's not supposed to be this way." He called GOP tactics "extortion."
/ Source: MSNBC TV

"This is not normal," said Obama. "It's not supposed to be this way." He called GOP tactics "extortion."

President Barack Obama talks about the continuing budget battle on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, in the Brady Press Room of the White House in Washington. (Photo by Martinez Monsivais/AP)

President Obama was clear in his weekly address on Saturday morning about who owns what. He spoke protectively about “our economy.” He talked firmly about “your government.”

He laid the blame for the suffering of many Americans onto what he called–twice–”this Republican shutdown.” And he stuck a shiv into his opponents by describing the shutdown’s economic effect as “a Republican default tax.”

An increasing number of Americans share his view that the GOP is responsible for the continuing standoff. While support for Obamacare has been rising recently, approval of Congress in general–and the GOP in particular–is plummeting.

Obama implied a distinction between “reasonable” Republicans and, well, the rest of their party.

The president noted some hopeful signs. He said he’d met with Republicans and Democrats from both houses of Congress in the past few days “in an effort to reopen your government and remove the dangers of default from our economy.”

“It’s a positive development that House Republicans have agreed on the need to avoid the economic consequences of not meeting our country’s commitments,” he said. “Because once the debt ceiling is raised, and the shutdown is over, there’s a lot we can accomplish together”–creating more jobs and further cutting the deficit, for example.

In the meantime, though, the shutdown is causing real hardships, Obama said–and he specifically mentioned the example of small-business owners, the kind of American archetype that used to be reliably Republican.

“I met with some really innovative small-business owners on Friday who’ve already lost contracts, lost customers, and put hiring on hold–because the pain of this Republican shutdown has trickled down to their bottom lines. It’s hurting the very citizens that our government exists to serve. That’s why a growing number of reasonable Republicans say it should end now.”

Earlier this week Obama rejected an offer from GOP leaders that would have lifted the debt ceiling–for perhaps six weeks.

“It wouldn’t be wise, as some suggest, to just kick the debt ceiling can down the road for a couple months, and flirt with a first-ever intentional default right in the middle of the holiday shopping season,” he explained on Saturday.  ”Because damage to America’s sterling credit rating wouldn’t just cause global markets to go haywire; it would become more expensive for everyone in America to borrow money.”

“Students paying for college. Newlyweds buying a home. It would amount to a new tax–a Republican default tax–on every family and business in America.”

In last week’s address the president said, “I won’t pay a ransom,” and he again used the image of a political shakedown.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s not supposed to be this way. Manufacturing crises to extract massive concessions isn’t how our democracy works, and we have to stop it. Politics is a battle of ideas, but you advance those ideas through elections and legislation–not extortion.”

“I want you to remember: this is not normal,” the president said. “Our government is closed for the first time in 17 years. A political party is risking default for the first time since the 1700s. This is not normal. That’s why we have to put a stop to it. Not only because it’s dangerous, but because it saps everyone’s faith in our extraordinary system of self-government. And that hurts us all.”

“It inflicts real pain on real people.”

Obama thanked “all the neighbors and local business owners who’ve shown acts of kindness to these Americans who serve their country.”

He ended by saying, “This country works better when we work together.” But he left no doubt that if America isn’t working properly right now, you know who to blame.