Paul Greenberg

Barack Obama put it so persuasively in his address the other night that I had to restrain myself from rushing out to apply for still another credit card. Or just accepting the next one to arrive in the mail, as they do with remarkable frequency. It was one heckuva sales job the president did, and as a political appeal, it wasn't bad, either. At least not for one based on the solid theory, oft attributed to that well-known political scientist P.T. Barnum, that there's one born every minute.

As our president explained in terms any fool can understand, if only fools, this whole tangle in Washington over raising the debt limit hasn't really been about whether to curb the federal government's high-spending ways. Not at all, not at all.

Let me explain. Take it from the old house-to-house encyclopedia salesman I was for a few ill-fated weeks one summer between college terms. Or rather let the president explain: All this foofaraw, brouhaha, capital-C Crisis and general consternation in Washington wasn't really about spending but just paying. The question was simply whether the Treasury would be allowed to pay the bills that the government already had racked up across the board in every department at home and abroad. And so save the country's credit rating. It's not about spending at all, you see, not really.

What responsible citizen wouldn't pay his bills, or be against the government's paying its? That's why the debt limit needs to be raised by the close of business today. No more of this hemming and hawing and partisan bickering. Quick. While there's still time to save our credit and avoid higher interest rates. Have your senators and representatives sign right here on the dotted lie before it's too late -- before they leave the used-car lot, or rather the U.S. Capitol. Time's a-wastin'. Been a-wastin'.

It's really quite simple when you think about it. (And even simpler when you don't.) Let's use the kind of homey, around-the-kitchen table metaphor that this president likes to roll out when he displays his best Fireside Chat manner. Let's talk about it in terms of your family finances:

When your credit card maxes out, why sweat and fret? Just extend your credit limit. Or apply for another card and start all over again. It's the American Way, or at least it's the way we got into this mess in the first place. No fuss, no muss, and it's so much more convenient than having to cut back on expenses, on all those little extras that became necessities a long time ago.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.