WASHINGTON — In his new book about the nation's fiscal problems, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn says he would rather work with Democrats in Congress than Chinese communists “who will one day force our hand” if government spending is not controlled.
The senator's book, “The Debt Bomb: A Bold Plan to Stop Washington from Bankrupting America,” was released Tuesday. It warns of an economic collapse due to the U.S. government's mounting debt and
Coburn, R-Muskogee, blames Democrats and Republicans for the current fiscal situation and for not reaching a comprehensive debt deal last year.
He says President Barack Obama's refusal last year to embrace the recommendations of his bipartisan debt commission — on which Coburn served — was “one of the greatest failures of presidential leadership in American history.” And he says the president “derailed” the work of a bipartisan group of six senators trying to resuscitate the commission's plan.
Coburn says Republicans “embarked on an orgy of pork-barrel spending and expanded the welfare state” when they controlled the U.S. House and former President George W. Bush was in office. Republican adherence to an outside group's no-tax pledge, Coburn says, is preventing serious talk of tax reform and deficit reduction.
“Those of us on the right have to realize the days of using tax purity pledges as a license to borrow and spend beyond our means are over,” Coburn says in the book.
Though many in and out of Washington have warned that international investors could lose faith in U.S. government treasuries if spending is not reined in, Coburn speaks in stark terms about the stakes, hypothesizing in the book about the power China, the largest outside holder of U.S. debt, would have over the country in the event of a financial crisis.
“In a very real sense, the threat from borrowing from countries like China is greater than the threat of war with China. … Sooner rather than later, a major fund or government will just decide one day that buying U.S. debt is a bad bet. And with one gust of wind, the house of cards will come crashing down,'' Coburn says.
A report by the Congressional Research Service discusses this debt in different terms.
“Many analysts argue that China's holdings of U.S. debt give it little leverage over the United States, arguing that as long as China continues to peg its currency mostly to the U.S. dollar, it will have few options other than to keep investing in U.S. dollar assets,” the Sept. 26 report stated. “Any attempt by China to sell a large portion of its dollar holdings could reduce the value of its remaining dollar holdings, and any subsequent negative shocks to the U.S. (and global) economy could dampen U.S. demand for Chinese exports.”
Quiet on friendship with Obama
Coburn's book offers no new insights about his friendship with Obama; he says almost in passing that he “connected” with Obama just after they were first elected to the Senate in 2004. And though he says he spoke with the president three times as debate over raising the debt ceiling reached a crisis point last summer, Coburn doesn't reveal the content of their talks.
In multiple passages, Coburn scorns those who would criticize him for negotiating with Democrats on a debt deal, saying he learned during his six years in the U.S. House that “the only thing more dangerous than negotiating with Democrats was negotiating with Republicans.”
He says he doesn't apologize “for trying to form coalitions with unlikely allies. Again, I'd much rather work with Democrats in our government than communists in the Chinese government who will one day force our hand if we don't do this work on our own.”
The book, which offers an overview of Coburn's seven years in the U.S. Senate and behind-the-scenes looks at some conflicts with colleagues, is the second one he has written with his longtime press aide John Hart. The first, “Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders into Insiders,” was released in 2003 and focused on Coburn's six-year service in the U.S. House.