The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Living On The Debt Ceiling

Posted on | July 24, 2011 | 8 Comments

by Smitty

If you’ve been reading blogs for the last couple of years, there is an air of predictability as the political theater moves forward.
Via BlogProf, we have the weekly GOP address, where Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) lays everything out in smooth, even tones:

Also trying to sound reasonable, and failing, we have Elizabeth Drew in the New York Review of Books: “What Were They Thinking?” If you want a target for a lengthy fisk, this article affords nearly five thousand words of cherry-picked, reasonably toned finger pointing. A few introductory points:

The President argued that it’s critical to make cuts that will “get our fiscal house in order,” so that the American people and the politicians would accept the idea of new programs leading to growth and more jobs. But there are numerous indications that the public is ready for such programs now, and serious analysts see no reason why he should not also be taking such steps now, even if this increases the deficit in the short run. But that would be at odds with Obama’s current self-portrayal. People who are looking for work, or worried about their unemployment insurance, or getting their kids to college, may not be impressed with the argument that they must be patient while the President adjusts his fiscal image in time for the 2012 election.

So, calling the good President’s bluff, what cuts? There remain substantial differences between three crucial items here: sound waves emitted by the Presidential mouth, budgetary plans available for public scrutiny, and historical events. If we had a dollar for every swell sounding platitude departing the President, the whole country could retire outright. Perhaps his lack of real-world business experience is an impediment.

The Republicans, with Alice in Wonderland logic, termed any elimination of a tax break a tax increase. Moreover, the breaks included in the tax code were there because they had been sponsored by an important member of Congress, or supported by a powerful lobby on behalf of one interest or another. After the President, in a press conference in late June, inveighed against tax breaks for corporate jets, the industry quickly insisted that such a change would cost jobs.

Alice, you see, was actually a plumber in disguise. If the market is a pipe, and economy is some working fluid, then taxation is an orifice that may have some utility, unless it Progressively becomes a clenched sphincter:

Emphasis mine in this next bit:

The Tea Party’s strength was larger than its numbers—about eighty in the House and as few as four in the Senate—because the entire House Republican freshman class and some more senior members were sympathetic to its views, and because the ghost of Bob Bennett now haunts many Republicans. Bennett (still alive), a solid conservative three-term senator from Utah, was, astonishingly, rejected for reelection last year by the Utah Republican caucus for having been insufficiently pure in his conservatism. (His vote in 2006 against a constitutional amendment to ban flag-burning was seen as heresy.)

If Bob Bennett could be dumped, no one was safe. Boehner himself was facing a possible primary challenge. Some Tea Party members dug in on the debt ceiling because they, too, feared attacks or challenges, principally from people who would accuse them of not forcing sufficient cuts or of failing to keep their pledge not to raise the debt limit.

Safe from what, precisely? We have a population, from which is drawn a subset of citizens to trudge into Congress and make laws. The 2010 election (and, one prays, the 2012 election as well) formed a strong, Constitutional signal about the will of the people: we want responsible government. A President running amok is at least showing signs of being brought to heel. What is unsafe about the Constitutional design working as intended? Not that this is time for high fives, mind you, but we should be cheered that the exceptional notion of liberty and self government at least affords an appearance of working.
Read the whole thing for a peek into a sadly diseased Progressive mindset.
Also in need of help is Adam Liptak at the NYT. “The 14th Amendment, the Debt Ceiling and a Way Out”:

The provision in question, Section 4 of the amendment, was meant to ensure the payment of Union debts after the Civil War and to disavow Confederate ones. But it was written in broader terms.

“The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payments of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion,” the critical sentence says, “shall not be questioned.”

The Supreme Court has said in passing that those words have outlived the historical moment that gave rise to them.

“While this provision was undoubtedly inspired by the desire to put beyond question the obligations of the government issued during the Civil War,” Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote for the court in 1935, “its language indicates a broader connotation.”

In recent weeks, law professors have been trying to puzzle out the meaning and relevance of the provision. Some have joined Mr. Clinton in saying that it allows Mr. Obama to ignore the debt ceiling. Others say it applies only to Congress and only to outright default on existing debts. Still others say that the president may do what he wants in an emergency, with or without the authority of the 14th Amendment.

This is the usual idiotic argument of staring so closely at single clauses as to see whatever you want in them, at the expense of the broader scope of the Constitution. How can anyone seriously argue that the Executive branch can ingore Congress’s power of the purse? Maybe the Supreme Court can poke the Congress, if the Congress is so freaked out as to pass wantonly irresponsible legislation. Recent history has shown that the more likely case is that Congress blows off budgeting entirely, and the Federal Reserve waters down the dollar to taste.
Having said all that, the fundamental rock-scissors-paper arrangement of federal power has got to be inviolate, or we’re just another dictatorship.
Finally, Ezra Klein opens his mouth and justifies not having the WaPo cluttering my driveway. “A small deal won’t cut it”, is his title. That’s what she said. Nancy Pelosi, that is. On the topic of the debt ceiling. No double on-tawdry here. Someone has whispered to Excitable Ezra that there is a market filled with ravenous capitalists who are waiting to eat the U.S. credit rating. Possible side effects include Ezra having to get a real job (just kidding) and some of his patrons looking bad for re-election.

And Congress, unfortunately, has made that job a lot harder. A year ago, the market didn’t question our ability to raise the debt ceiling, nor our ability to come to a deficit deal in some reasonable period of time. Standard & Poor’s didn’t even think we should mix the two issues together. “It’s best practice for governments to enact [deficit] reforms … using the broader and longer-term perspective occasioned by debate on the budget proposal as a whole,” wrote the credit-rating agency. Plus, the debt ceiling had to be raised this year, but the deficit was a long-term problem that we had, at the least, “three to five years” to address.

Again, Ezra is either too witless or too cunning to look at the broader picture. The problem isn’t new. The irresponsibility didn’t grow overnight. The overreach is a bi-partisan product of decades of neglect. Ezra: the old days are gone, man: people in office are going to have to face an informed electorate. Finger-pointing, blaming Congress, Bush, Wall Street, rating agencies, &c is just passé. No one wants to hear it. We want to hear how responsible officials are going to make the budget fit the existing tax receipts.

And, from almost 30 years ago, we have this relic of Stacy’s brief flirtation with Brit pop:


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