Tuesday, August 2, 2011

More Congressional Drama, Please

This week I have found myself increasingly out-of-sync with the hysterical reaction to the Debt Ceiling negotiations going on in the U.S. Congress and playing out as end-of-the-world in the 24-hour news cycle and in the blogosphere.

You bunch of wusses.

I say give us more of these clash-of-titans public negotiations, not less! Our elected representatives in our constitutional republic are hashing out the big existential questions of the size and role of government, through the prism of two hugely different worldviews, right in front of our eyes instead of making back room deals.

It's clarifying! It's enlightening. It's educational. How many average voters know the ins and outs of the debt ceiling and the national debt this week compared to six months ago. That's a good thing!

And yet, judging from the coverage, many of you want to shield your eyes and cry horror! at the sausage making of the key legislation that governs how much debt we incur for ourselves and our progeny. No! Watch and listen. Learn and evaluate. We are big boys and girls who can stand to watch some highly charged debate on the big issues of our time and not cringe in terror, can't we?

What did we learn? That there are big scary issues that our government needs to address head on? Yes! That our two political parties disagree with each other? Yes! That legislating budgets is hard work? Yes!

Bottom line: our politically divided government took on a controversial major issue involving trillions of dollars and the future of our nation and hashed out a negotiated compromise that will be voted on and passed into law. That is a win for democracy, not a disaster.

As to the coverage of this necessary governing process, that's another story. Pathetic.

Let me just address a few of the many many many distortions in the coverage / analysis of this debate.

1. We've raised the debt ceiling many times, for both Democrat and Republican presidents, and never had this type of debate before.

True. And how has that worked out for us? The national debt continues to grow under both parties to its present unsustainable $14.3 Trillion dollar level. It's time to have debate about just continuing to raise our own credit limit.

2. The Congress should have just given President Obama a "clean" debt ceiling increase like he asked for.

No. The newly elected GOP majority told Obama back in January that he was not getting a clean bill. They told him that any increase in the debt ceiling had to be tied to spending reforms. And geesh it took the President and the Democrats a long time to get the point that the GOP was now serious about debt reform.

He could perhaps have gotten a clean bill if these big debt reform issues were hashed instead in the process of approving annual budgets. But, unfortunately, the Democrats who controlled the Congress since 2007 have abandoned their important obligation to produce an annual budget. In 2010, controlling both the House and the Senate, the Democrats chose not to submit a budget at all so as to not have it as an election issue. In the absence of annual budget negotiations, the debt ceiling bill became the battle ground.

3. The Republicans are - take your pick - radicals, extremists, terrorists, Hobbits.

Baloney. The Republicans - including the 87 freshman coming off of the recent 2010 election that gave control of the House to the GOP - are duly elected representatives of their districts. They are not rubber stamps for the President. They are there with a vote to do the right thing for their district and for our country. They are excercising their best judgement and are doing what they were elected to do in that historic change of the House control - control spending!

To call duly elected Congressmen "terrorists" - as Vice President Joe Biden alledgedly did today - crosses the line of civility and is reprehensible. Stop it, Democrats.

On the other hand, if you want to call the Tea Party freshman "hobbits" - as Sen. John McCain delusionally did on the floor of the Senate - go ahead. Hobbits were the heroes of the Lord of the Rings trilogy - underdogs taking the fight right to the heart of Mordor and saving Middle Earth. A fine symbol for the Tea Party.

Rather than call the Tea Party freshman "despicable" and "economic terrorists" I would extend them kudos. Do you think we would be having the larger conversation about our debt that the nation has been engaged in for the last few weeks without them? Hell no. Without them, the establishment would have done what they always do - make the easy deals that extend our debt into further insolvency.

4. The Tea Party were "hostage takers" who threatened to blow up our economy by defaulting on the debt.

Hostage takers is loaded and extreme language. In the absence of a traditional budget process - which again the Democrats have abandoned, they found leverage in the debt ceiling increase to have the discussion on debt.

Legitimate leverage. The debt ceiling is itelf a law, passed by Congress. Would you take the position that the Congress has to pass an increase in the ceiling with no debate and no conditions - as asked for by the President? No. They are, in my opinion, obligated each time to debate whether that increase is justified and to address any needed reforms. If not, then what is the point of the debt ceiling in the first place? Without debate and reform the debt ceiling is just a continuous lie.

Also, the GOP never threatened a default on the debt. That is a lie. A misrepresentation. The only one in this debate who threatened a default on the debt was President Obama.

Suppose the worst case, that an increase in the debt ceiling did not pass and the US was not able to borrow more money. What then? Well, we would go on a cash-only basis. Three numbers would then come in to play: 1) The treasury takes in $200B in cash in tax receipts each month, 2) we pay out $307B each month and 3) the service on the debt is $29B a month.

In that case, the Treasury would pay out the debt service of $29B first and there would be no default! None. No US debt holders would not be paid. Social Security and Medicare would get paid. Other things would not get paid, like Executive Branch departments. There would be an argument over what. But we would not default on our debt. For President Obama to say publicly that we might was irresponsible.

None of that is going to happen, though, because our process worked and they reached a deal.

By the way, every American should have learned through this process that we borrow $100 billion of the $300 billion we spend each month! That is staggering, and unsustainable! That is why we need to have this debate.

5. The deal was held up by "Republican intransigence" and Tea Party radicals who always just say no.

That's partisan B.S. There must have been a sale at the Democratic wordsmith store on the phrase "republican intransigence", but it's not the truth. The truth is that both sides were dug in to positions that reflect their party's worldview. If you don't believe me, you must have missed President Obama storming out of the debt negotiations and saying this about tax increases:


I will not yield sounds pretty intransigent to me. But the mainstream press could only see intransigence on one side, and their partisans picked that up and echoed it endlessly. Pathetic.

The GOP led House passed a budget this year. They passed a Cut/Cap/Balance bill that called for a debt ceiling increase. They passed the Boehner bill calling for an increase. And tonight they passed the compromise bill calling for a debt ceiling increase. They have done the legislator's job of legislating. As of this writing tonight, the Democrat led Senate has passed none of those. Nothing at all. And yet, the national press hammers out the meme day after day that it's the Republicans who are "intransigent". Nonsense. It's an upside down bizarro world where the body that passes bills is intransigent and the party that passes nothing is the grownups. You couldn't get a better insight into our corrupt and partisan press.

I could go on and on and on. But, you get the point.

This vigorous and even rancorous public debate by our elected representatives on the big issue of our day - our national debt - was good for our country. More public debate, not less, please!


  1. I'm not paying this a lot of attention because it's the noise of an increasingly untrustworthy media desperate to rattle up business for itself, not reality. But wasn't it Obama who made the "hostage" threat? Wasn't it Obama who threatened the helpless old folks who'd start starving immediately that he'd have to cut off their Social Security checks?

    And where is Social Security classified as a tax, subject to the whims of Congresscritters or a Glorious Revolutionary Liar, such was we have? It's supposedly a trust fund. It isn't, but that's how it was sold. This means the Political gambiters can't mess with it.

    Why is this neither news nor debate??????

  2. Yes. President Obama made the first and only hostage threat, saying that he didn't know if they could make payments if they didn't raise the debt ceiling. That's not true, and he should not have said it in public just to scare people and spook the markets as bargaining leverage. Irresponsible.

    What that threat of not being able to pay August's Social Security checks proved is:

    1. There is no money in the "Trust Fund", or else they would be able to pay next month's checks with cash. Only worthless IOUs in there.

    2. We are BORROWING to pay next month's checks. If that's not the definition of insolvency I don't know what is.

    Thank you, Tom for commenting here often. I appreciate your viewpoint.