What Everyone Was Thinking of the Debt Debate?

Tuesday, August 2, AD 2011

A Pew/WaPo poll over the weekend asked people to give the one word they believed best described the then-still-ongoing debate in congress over the debt ceiling and budget cutting issue. The results are:

The disgust was shared by Democrats, Republicans and Independents, and people reported that their impressions of both Obama and the Republican congressional leadership had worsened (from their already low levels.)

That no one is impressed with the specter of a bunch grown men and women squabbling endlessly is probably unsurprising — if we saw what congress was up to more often we’d probably have this reaction frequently. However, it seems to me that there are two things which make this go-round particularly bad.

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20 Responses to What Everyone Was Thinking of the Debt Debate?

  • Is this different than it was in the Ratification debates, or in the debates leading up to the Civil War, or the debates of the Greqt Depression, or civil rights debates in the 1950s, or the welfare debates of the 1990s?

    A people needs time to debate and argue. Leadership rises in the midst of the argument. anything else leads to tyranny.

    I’m unconcerned. This is as it should be. It is messy and, at times, unpleasant but, while Putin style leadership is solid and reliable and Pelosi… Um, I meant “Chinese” one party rule is debate free, the Republic absolutely requires sibling squabbling to function.

    Frankly, we would be better off if Americans understood how messy democracy is. But THAT could only be accomplished with civics education and we don’t do that anymore.

  • Since when do we live in a ‘democracy’? The word is not mentioned in the Declaration or Constitution. As for the “debate,” agree that the sausage-making is unappealing but necessary for so-called “consensus.”

    In the end, however, all principles were sacrificed for a mushy compromise that satisfied neither the right or left. As political theater, it was passably entertaining but predictable in the 11th hour ‘deal’ that emerged. Rarely did the rhetoric rise above mediocrity and often sunk to the banal.

    No one ever asked the simple question: If we are cutting the budget then why do we need to borrow more money? Logic that escapes all but those who know neither the emperor nor his loyal minions are naked.

  • Is this different than it was in the Ratification debates, or in the debates leading up to the Civil War, or the debates of the Greqt Depression

    Well, hopefully things won’t get as bad as in each of those cases.

  • Mr. Green, I know full and well that our system of government is a “republic,” but, in contemporary usage, our form of government is articulated as a “democratic republic.” We can go back and forth with semantics if you like but I suspect you know what I mean.

  • Mr. Veg, of course I do and so stipulate. However, far as I know, true democracy has never been tried, nor has true Christianity.

  • I’m with you. Every time a people get close to democracy, everything goes to hell in a hand basket. California is probably as close as any place in the US has gotten and their referendums have utterly decimated their economy and their social fabric. When a society walks too far down that road, heads acquire a mysterious capacity to come popping off.

  • I think the American people are wrong. John Boehner behaved in a dignified, wise, and patient manner. Barack Obama, on the other hand, was petulant, incredibly foolish, and in general, behaved like a spoiled teenager who’s parents took away some of her allowance for crashing the car.

    The truth is, Americans in general are also acting like spoiled children, here. We act as if money grows on trees, as if we can spend trillions of dollars we don’t have, and send the bill to our kids. Let’s not pretend this is someone else’s fault.

  • For what it is worth, while it is true that our system of government is a constitutional federal republic, I don’t think that the use of the term “democracy” as shorthand is particularly misleading. In fact, technically a democracy can be defined to include both direct democracies (which actually are employed all the time, just not for actual governments) and indirect democracies (i.e., republics).

    In any case I agree with prior comments regarding the deficiencies of direct democracies. While no system is perfect, the US system has overall served fairly well. I would suggest three constitutional shortcomings, however, that simply were not properly anticipated by the Framers.

    First, I do not think the Framers ever anticipated the use of Congress’s commerce clause powers as a warrant for pretty much any type of federal intervention that a current Congress might prefer. Many blame the federal courts for this, but I actually think the expansive understanding of that clause is hard to avoid given the language.

    Second, the 14th Amendment’s extention of property and liberty rights vis-a-vis the states was poorly expressed. The federal courts basically had to legislate via guess and speculation to place some flesh on a skeleton.

    Finally, the Framers never anticipated the power they were giving to the so-called “least powerful branch.” IMO this is because they did not anticipate Marbury v Madison and its implications. This is not to suggest that M v M was wrongly decided — I don’t think it was (I think it is the only logical outcome given our constututional scheme) — it is just to point out that the result of not anticipating the potential power of federal courts was insufficient remedial checks against the judicial branch. While Congress has jurisdictional limitation and impeachment powers, these instruments are too blunt to effectively counter judicial activism.

    Just my two cents.

  • Hello, it’s me again. I agree with you on our lack of quality leadership. I think I like Plato’s(?, maybe it was Aristotle…) take on this, that our political leaders shouldn’t desire the position, but should take the position reluctantly at the request of the people because they chose him/her to be a good leader. There is way too much moral hazard (skewed incentives) when politicians want to be politicians, but that’s not what I want to get into…

    You say… “Their preferred solution of taxing only the rich while spending like crazy simply won’t work as our nation’s demographics become incapable of supporting the kind of entitlement programs we already have, and even if they were to have the courage to tell the American people the truth (that their vision can only be supported in the long term by raising taxes on the middle class) the American people do not seem to like the idea.

    I think what matters here are real goods (and services) and the employment-to-population ratio. Do we have the real goods to support the population? and how many people are working to provide the population with those real goods (and services)? Taxes and spending (in this case) are just a means to allocate real goods and services. Taxes take away my ability to command them and spending (that goes into my pocket) give me more ability to command them.

    I think if we keep things the way they are now, fewer people will work to support the aging population who will continue to command the resources given to them by the entitlement programs, which means less overall resources for those who are working and more for the aging, unless we manage to grow the economy at a rate that grows both. The only way we would need to tax the working population more is if our deficit were so large it was causing high inflation. I think you know my views from our debates on this.

    The burden that will fall on the working class is not higher taxes but a smaller “slice of the pie” than previous generations were able to command, unless we can grow the economy. So, essentially, our decision is one of ‘How much do we allocate to the aging?’ and ‘how much do we allocate to the working population?’. That’s not an easy decision, but one that government will make actively or passively.

    However, all generations are suffering from lower than possible output right now because we refuse to employ all of our available resources despite our ability to.

    I also don’t agree with your assessment that the left simply wants to tax the rich and spend like crazy. They do want to tax the rich more, but they to are looking to reduce the deficit and have agreed to cuts in entitlements. My perception is that they would like to see a more equitable distribution of wealth. Is that what you are against? If you aren’t, then how do you propose we make it more equitable without taxing the rich more?

    That being said, I agree with your assessment of our politicians. I think we certainly need more courage, honesty, and humility in Washington from both parties.

  • yes it was a full throated debate– as it should be– I’m personally glad they don’t all just go along with each other—and I don’t agree with all those negative terms given as the response of the public– I don’t mean that I don’t think people said that–I am sure they did — I think people pretty much define everything the way the media has presented it to them. The media tells us for some extended time that we are depressed sad and lonely and then asks how many of you are depressed sad and lonely, followed by “the sky is falling 85 percent of Americans are sad and depressed and lonely”!

  • Democracy should be a pressure valve not a way to actually run government.

  • What do you mean?

  • When the American people vote for divided government, which they usually do, they can expect the debates that ensue to be full-throated and often unedifying. Politics is not a college debate with applause for all concerned at the end. Big issues are never resolved in the political arena without a huge amount of struggle, and that is precisely what we are seeing now. People outside the arena often will call for people to agree on a solution and work together. This is said usually because most people have the charming conviction that all reasonable people would naturally agree with their ideas if voices were lowered and sweet reasonableness were the order of the day. This of course is a delusion, and why most people find close observation of the legislative process unsettling.

  • “The United States can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that. So there is zero probability of default” said Greenspan on yesterday’s NBC’s Meet the Press

    I’ve been at this “insanity” long enough to remember that Greenspan was on the wrong side of the run-up to the S&L crisis. Then, I was mildly surprised at his retooling as guru/Fed Chmn. Now, this.

    I ‘heart’ it. Give the Congress, Obama, Geithner, the Bernank, etc. more power to ruin us.

    B’ruck Omama can phone President-for-Life Mugabe and ask him to email the PDF file SOP on printing up hyperinflation.

  • I’ve been at this “insanity” long enough to remember that Greenspan was on the wrong side of the run-up to the S&L crisis. Then, I was mildly surprised at his retooling as guru/Fed Chmn. Now, this.

    No. You. Don’t. Dr. Greenspan was the proprietor of a consulting firm in New York from 1954 to 1987. He was an advisor to Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign in 1968 and chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors for a period of two years and change (1974-77). His modest forays into public life antedated the corrosion of the loan portfolios of savings banks. At the time he assumed office as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, fully a third of the country’s savings banks were distressed. The supervisory staff of the Federal Reserve Board is responsible for examination of a selection of commercial banks. Savings banks were not and are not a part of their portfolio.

    The Federal Home Loan Bank Board was responsible for supervising savings banks. Edwin Gray was the chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. He tried for years without success to interest both Congress and the press in the deteriorating condition of Federal Savings & Loans. What was Greenspan supposed to have done?

  • A.D.: I was referring to Congressional Committee testimony that Mr. G. offered as a privately compensated consultant in support of the bankrupt S&L’s being granted lending authority to lend on commercial real estate developments, ADC lending we call it. That massive insured deposit funded boondoggle magnified the costs of the FSLIC/RTC clean up by a factor of 10 or 20 times.

    You did not have to type so much. You previously provided full evidence of your ignorance.

  • Dial it down T. Shaw. Personal insults never strengthen a person’s argument.

  • I apologize. But, . . . He jumped me.

    It is frustrating. This country is rushing to ruin and we have to endure and answer data mining ideologues in Never Land 24/7 repeating liberal talking points . . .

  • My regrets.

    Dr. Greenspan offered congressional testimony on 27 February 1985 in favor of allowing savings banks to make direct investments in real estate projects. He also wrote memoranda to the Federal Home Loan Bank Board around the same time recommending that the practice be allowed. (The Board ignored him). He also wrote a letter to the board requesting for a client a waiver of their prohibition on direct investments. The client was Charles Keating’s bank. (The Board ignored that too).

    Dr. Greenspan testified in front of congressional committees 68 times between January of 1977 and July of 1987. Two appearances concerned savings banks, one on the effects of inflation and the other on regulatory questions.

  • A.D.: Thanks for helping me out here.

    Dr. Greenspan’s endorsement of the S&Ls’ magnifying their losses (covered by the US taxpayers) by twenty times over (to $200 billion, plus never-ending interest expenses – estimated now $500 billion and counting) was much more intelligent than this latest exemplar of brilliance:

    “The United States can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that. So there is zero probability of default” said Greenspan on yesterday’s NBC’s Meet the Press

    PS: Had the FHLBB seized insolvent S&L’s when they were insolvent (negative net interest margin from 6% APR, 30 year mortgages funded by 10% short term deposits), the FSLIC fund would have been quickly depleted and the taxpayer would have been on the hook for say $20 billion. Even a progressive must agree that a $20 billion loss is preferable to a $200 billion loss.

    Pursuant to Greenspan’s (and McCain’s and Cong. Wright’s, and et alles’) advice the costs to resolve brain dead S&L’s were magnified. The taxpayers’ losses were NOT from direct investments (that was way before Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall). They were defaulted commercial real estate (CRE) loans and acquisition, development and construction (ADC) loans advanced to build billions of square feet of excess/surplus commercial real estate space that were never rented, never sold and never repaid. Prior to that S&L’s could only make loans on one-to-four family residential with mortgages as collateral. FSLIC-insured deposits provided the relatively unlimited liquidity. A similar dynamic was extra liquidity provided by FNMA/FHLMC secondary market guaranties ($2.7 trillion guarantied, plus $1.8 trillion they hold) from 1999 to 2007.

    Capt. Nathan Brittles, “Never apologize. It’s a sign of weakness.”

The Budget Deal, or Why Elections Have Consequences

Monday, April 11, AD 2011

Unsurprisingly the last minute budget deal was the talk of much of the blogosphere over the weekend.  Some think it’s a big Republican victory.  Others are less inclined to see this as something to celebrate, to say the least.  Ed Morrissey strikes a more middle-ground approach, but says something that I think we should all keep in mind.

We’ll see who won in September, but Republicans have achieved one major accomplishment.  Not only did they force the first actual reductions in government spending in ages, but they have changed the political paradigm from whether to cut to how much and where to cut.  That’s a pretty impressive victory for a party that only controls one chamber of Congress.

To me we’re in round two of a twelve round heavyweight fight.  The real battles will be over the FY 2012 budget and the 2012 elections.  This was but a skirmish.

As for me, I agree with Gabriel Malor at Ace (linked above) that this is a good first step.  I completely understand the frustration some have expressed, especially over the inability to de-fund Murder Inc, aka Planned Parenthood.  But the fact remains that the Republicans control only one of the three democratic elements of the budget battle.*

* Slight tangential note, but I do think the talking point that Republicans only control one-half of one chamber to be a bit overdone.  First of all it’s more than half, and if we’re going to be consistent then we should say the Republicans have almost half of another chamberthe Senate.  After all, Republicans have a greater share of votes in the House than Democrats do in the Senate.  Moreover, because it lacks a filibuster rule, majority control in the House – even a small majority – is more significant than majority control in the Senate.  The minority is all but powerless in the House, less so in the Senate, especially if it has at least 41 votes.

The Republicans won big in the 2010 elections, but the Democrats won just as big as 2006 and 2008.  Therefore we are at a stalemate.  It was unreasonable to think that with control of just the House that Republicans could have completely reversed the tide of the previous two years.  At best it seemed that the Republicans could at least put a halt to further advances for Obama’s agenda, and so the relatively puny amount of real spending cuts is not an insignificant victory.

The Planned Parenthood de-funding is another matter.  Could Republican leadership have done more than merely secure an up-or-down vote on it?  Perhaps, but I just don’t see it.  It would have satisfied our sense of outrage if they had huffed and puffed and threatened to go the mattresses on it, but they would likely have been as successful in achieving their ultimate aim as we are in blowing hot air on a blog.

And again, elections have consequences.  Rick Santorum was defeated in his re-election bid in 2006, and many pro-lifers seemed to be gleeful at his defeat.  Santorum had the temerity to endorse Arlen Specter in the 2004 Republican primary in Pennsylvania, and so many suggested that one act over-rode anything else he may have done as a Senator.  He was replaced by Bob Casey, Jr., a “pro-life” Democrat who has proven that the apple falls very far from the tree.  While his dad was the defendant in the Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v. Casey (my selection for the worst Supreme Court decision of all-time) and was a true defender of the unborn, the son has been a bit of a weasel where life issues are concerned, and has not indicated one way or the other whether he would vote to de-fund Planned Parenthood.  I predict he won’t, and yet the purists who celebrated Santorum’s defeat will bemoan the Republican Party’s unwillingness to do anything with regards to this matter.

We have a very long way to go, and it was unlikely that anything of consequence would be settled in the recent budget battle.  I just can’t wait for September.

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11 Responses to The Budget Deal, or Why Elections Have Consequences

  • Other than thinking that it’s important to emphasize that the Republicans only control one chamber of Congress, and Dems control the other, that’s more because so many people think Republicans control “all of congress.” (it’s been pushed by the folks who don’t want blame for congress’ screw ups)

    It’s sad, but it seems to be very true: pro-life democratic pols don’t exist when the going gets though. Pro-life republicans are a bit more likely, and get more likely the more conservative they are; RINOs aren’t any better than dems, and they weaken the republican side.

    I think that the mourning about not cutting PP is a little early, since the budget hasn’t been submitted yet– we’ll see.

  • As a liberal, I don’t have a big problem with any of the cuts that have been announced so far or in the earlier CRs. I think it shows that savings can be found when both sides get serious.

    Of course, the PP amendment was as phony from day one as it was unconstitutional.

  • Of course, the PP amendment was as phony from day one as it was unconstitutional.

    How on Earth was it unconstitutional?

  • How on Earth was it unconstitutional?

    Once again, the GOP has taken the pro-life rank and file for a ride. Congress can’t ban a particular organization by name from bidding on federal contracts. (Article I, sec. 9).

    The GOP knew this and wrote the amendment to be rhetorical, not legislative. They could have at least tried something that might legally stand up like the proposed Maryland Big Box Retailer Medicaid Recovery bill. — written to apply to Wal-Mart without actually naming it.

    But why take the trouble when you are not serious?

  • Okay, there was a very profound and insightful conservative commentary on the President atfter Paul Zummo’s 11:24 post. I had copied it and sent it to some friends as an example of conservative thought and opinion. Now that the Moderator have deleted it, I need to recall it from my friends and let them know thinking conservatives really don’t share these views.

    This is cutting into my time for setting up the union hall for tonight’s kielbasa and kraut social.

  • Once again, the GOP has taken the pro-life rank and file for a ride. Congress can’t ban a particular organization by name from bidding on federal contracts. (Article I, sec. 9).

    Umm, there is nothing remotely in Article 1, Section 9 that touches upon this issue. Next time you want to blow smoke, try running it by someone else.

  • The bill of attainder argument is total rubbish Kurt. The same worthless argument was raised in the cutting off of funding for Acorn and rejected by the Second Circuit last year.


    The idea that Congress cannot decide not to fund a particular organization because such a funding decision is a bill of attainder is simply ludicrous.

  • Bill of Attainder? That’s what Kurt was getting at? It’s so ridiculous that it didn’t even occur to me that he was referring to that provision. I know leftists like to stretch the meaning of the Constitution, but man that’s not even in the ballpark.

  • Okay, there was a very profound and insightful conservative commentary on the President atfter Paul Zummo’s 11:24 post. I had copied it and sent it to some friends as an example of conservative thought and opinion. Now that the Moderator have deleted it, I need to recall it from my friends and let them know thinking conservatives really don’t share these views.

    I hesitate to dictate how someone spends their non-kielbasa and kraut time, but one solution would be not to send out “Oh my gosh, would you believe how crazy these guys are?!?!” emails… 😉

  • For those who don’t have one of those cool pocket constitutions. (Mine, sadly, cannot co-exist with a toddler who knows how to climb chairs, and move them.)

    Allow me to agree that removing funding from an organization does not equal either issuing a legal statement that they are wrong without a trial, nor to imprisonment without trial, nor is Planned Parenthood a ship or port or business of a specific state. (Just to cover all grounds.)

    Darwin- my goodness! What kind of crazy suggestion is that? Next thing you know, you’ll suggest that Wikipedia isn’t a better reference than original texts!

  • “Once again, the GOP has taken the pro-life rank and file for a ride. ”

    The old tired lie straight from the devils mouth. Meanwhile his fellow Democraps vote 0-100 against pro-life legislation..