Functional and Dysfunctional Government: Two Examples

Jeff Alworth

This is intemperate and impolitic, but a few hours after writing it to friends in an email, I still don't see anything inaccurate. Impolitic times...

The David Wu situation is a useful example of how a healthy society regulates corruption. A politician commits a crime. Eventually, the local papers find out about it, and despite the fair amount of blowback they'll get, they publish the story. (The Guardian's work on Murdoch in England is another example.) The politician digs in, but pressure from his own party--particularly threats of Congressional investigations by his party's leader--convinces him it's time to go. He resigns. It's an unattractive incident, but that's what a functioning system looks like.

Here's what a dysfunction looks like. The Republican Party identifies a procedural issue that, if messed with, will debilitate the US economy. There are a lot of these things in government. Part of governing means routinely managing fiscal issues--it's a basic feature of competent governance, and one of the things that separates the US from, say, Liberia. So the GOP find this issue with the debt ceiling, a stupid law that allows politicians to decry profligate spending--but which no Congress has ever seriously considered not adjusting. Since 1962, they've done so 69 times. This time the Republicans say, nope, we're taking a hostage. If you don't pay the ransom, the economy gets it. What ransom do they seek? One of two: 1) using the hostage to extract a massive payout in the form of growth-crippling cuts from Obama, one that will seriously damage the economy and his re-election hopes, or 2) nuking the economy for the same purpose.

As the subsequent events demonstrate, the on-the-record "reasons" are pure BS. Boehner and McConnell claim "debt" is the problem--never mind that these debts are already owed. Obama agrees, offers insane cuts, including to Social Security and Medicare, which will enervate his base. Boehner balks. Turns out his thugs are more insane than he realizes. Many are more interested in the nuclear option than he realized. He's Harvey Keitel in Reservoir Dogs and doesn't realize until he's in the jewelry shop that Mr. Blonde is a lunatic who is happy to randomly open fire. So, no deal. More excuses: the deal now has to include no tax increases. Dems agree. Reid offers a 100% cut proposal. No dice: Misters McConnell and Boehner would rather torture Obama and Reid like Blonde and Pink torture the cop. (A few Republicans even admit publicly that this is an opportunity to damage the Dems in 2012.) They say the only deal is one that expires in six months--the sole line in the sand Obama has ever drawn. Finally, the Dems protest. The GOP call them recalcitrant.

Okay, fine. Sometimes there are bad people in politics. Wu, for example, or Murdoch. What is supposed to happen now is that the media report the facts--minus, say, the Reservoir Dogs allusions--that one party is a terrorist outfit holding the US economy hostage for reasons even that party is too incoherent to explain. That bit is confusing, admittedly. But nevermind--the facts that are clear are enough to indict the terrorist party: it's a manufactured "crisis" that one party is using for political advantage, despite the incredible damage it may do to the country. In no way are GOP actions defensible--and reasonable people should regard them as acting against American interests. But no. Slack-jawed reporters, unable to break free from an ethos that must defend both sides of any argument, no matter how absurd, find themselves following Mr Blonde along, reporting that the tortured cop is indeed being rather recalcitrant. Indeed, that cop may well threaten the economy if he doesn't submit to Mr Blonde. If only the cop would submit--why won't he submit!

There is no profanity sufficient to express my disgust.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    First lets start with “these debts are already owed”. Yes we do currently have debts that are owed. These are the bondholders (both interest and principle), and federal pensions. These two debt types are protected under the 14th amendment, and must be paid first. But not all spending is “already owed”, spending changes all the time from year to year, and there is no guarantee of continued spending. Although congress has authorized spending on these items, it has not authorized the borrowing of money to pay for that spending. Not all authorized spending necessary has to be actually spent, and until the 1974 impoundment control act, presidents could at any time for any reason they wanted not spend money that they were authorized to spend. Being allowed to do spend doesn’t necessarily mean you are forced to do it.

    Now let’s talk about that if the debt ceiling is not raised that it “will debilitate the US economy”. This is a reasonable argument that many including Obama have raised. But what would be the end result if it is not raised? It would amount to about a 42% cut in federal spending (as that is the % that is currently borrowed). That’s a very large cut, and a lot of current services would need to be reduced or cut drastically, I think everyone can agree on that. But would it necessarily debilitate the US economy? We currently spend about 3.6Trillion per year (1.4 Trillion deficit), without additional debt from not raising the debt limit, we could only spend $2.2 Trillion. In the year 2000 the federal government was only spending 1.7 trillion. Wouldn’t you say that spending $500 billion more per year than the year 2000 wouldn’t be totally debilitating (after all its not like people were dying in the streets back then! The unemployment rate and economy in some ways was better). Sure you might need to throw away the Medicare part d unfunded prescription drug plan that was added under bush. And you would need to pull back on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But would it really debilitate the US economy?

    Lastly I would like to object to some of the rhetoric of “we're taking a hostage. If you don't pay the ransom, the economy gets it.” Describing the other party as a “terrorist outfit”. I mean how you would like it if someone described obamas policy as “you got to raise the debt limit, or I will withhold social security checks not pay our bond holders, and then the economy gets it”. I don’t believe that is how Obama means it, but all I ask is everyone on both sides tries to avoid calling the other-side names. I mean after Gabrielle Giffords was shot, I was really hoping for a ”new era of civility”.

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        1) Yes debt already issued is owed, the debt ceiling just prevents more debt from being issued.

        2) It depends on what that money is spent on. If it spent paying soldiers to fight wars overseas even you would agree that may not be all that helpful to the local economy right? We did add $800 billion in spending, and according to obamas own figures, the unemployment rate was higher than if we did nothing at all (http://michaelscomments.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/stimulus-vs-unemployment-june2010-dots.gif). I know your going to say "but the economy was worse then what he thought it was", and maybe that’s true, but maybe it isn’t. So I don’t see that going back to almost the Clinton budget would "clearly debilitate the economy", but I also don’t expect you to agree with me on that issue.

        3) Fine then why doesn’t Obama say that the bond holders will get paid first? "The full faith and credit of the united states government". I watched Geithner asked this question directly 4 times in a row, but refused to answer it each time. Wouldn’t just saying that help stop any downgrade of our credit rating?

        Responsible people aren't willing to admit it, because they dont agree with you.

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            I am glad we can agree on that. And I think we can all agree the debt ceiling should be raised. The only difference is should we be required try to fix the long term problems that caused this debt and is caused by the debt, and if so how to do that. Just because I don’t believe in armageddon on Aug 3rd, doesn’t mean that I think we could raise the debt ceiling as long as we solve the long term problems with a balanced budget amendment. The only things that really matter are what the current cuts in FY2012, and the balanced budget amendment. The “caps” that the various plans have over 10 years, are completely meaningless, and the future congresses can just ignore them. The current balanced budget amendment would take 2-3 years at least to ratify, then would have a 5 year time frame before the budget would need to be balanced. If we cant stop borrowing in 8 years we will have lots of problems.

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              A balanced Budget Amendment is a boondoggle.

              Congress sets the budget. Period. All an Amendment would do is force Congress to set the budget... And strip out any flexibility should the nation need to pay for a war or natural disaster.

              I'm not worried if we can't stop borrowing in 8 years. We've bee doing it non-stop for at least since WWII. What we need is some solid ways to collect what is owed in taxes, and to get some national job creation done. A tariff system would do that very nicely. Tightening up the tax code would as well. If we did both, dear FSM, we could leave China in the dust economically... AND we could pay for Medicare For All and join the rest of the civilized world.

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        Nevermind that 42% cut. That's an analysis on a annual basis. A disaster to be sure, but nothing quite like what's going to happen on August 3rd or 4th.

        Ever gone to the ATM and realized that you had three bucks left in your checking account? No ability to pay a single bill, or even buy lunch?

        That's what happens to the U.S. Government within a matter of days. Sure, there will be some more money coming in shortly, but the checking account will be empty.

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          We are constantly receiving Tax money, sometimes more or less, clearly we aren’t going to be in the height of the tax season and get lots of money coming it, but it will be enough to pay our debt, military, social security, and Medicare/Medicaid.

          Furthermore, the government has a lot of assets that it can sell if it really needs temporary immediate cash. We have $400 billion in just gold, not to mention all the federally owned land.

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            Brilliant, let's sell off resources we might need for a necessary crisis to pay for political grandstanding in an entirely avoidable, demagogic manufactured one. No thanks.

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              I agree that selling off resources/assets is a one-time opportunity and probably a poor choice at this time.

              Did you like it when Mr. Obama released some oil from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve? Or was that just "political grandstanding"?

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            it will be enough to pay our debt, military, social security, and Medicare/Medicaid.

            No, it won't. Not through the end of August. By the end of the year? Maybe, if you eliminate all other programs -- and keep in mind that includes a lot of critical stuff, like nuclear plant oversight, TSA staff at airports, etc.

            As for selling government land... Sure. But that won't happen fast, and under your plan, there's no money to pay the land managers, lawyers, and financial people required to do that.

            Like I said, three bucks in the checking account. Ain't enough even to get the suit cleaned for a job interview.

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              First lets talk about social security, in 1996 the social security act was amendment to allow the president to create public debt to pay social security. He can do this by redeeming social security trust fund bonds, to issue debt to the public, as both are “owed” by the government it doesn’t impact the debt limit. So the president can actually borrow money to pay for social security.

              Second we have Tax Income each month of about: $200 billion

              Debt Payments: $29 Billion Active duty military pay: $2.9 Billion Veterans: $2.9 Billion Medicare and Medicaid: $50 Billion

              That leaves $115.2 billion to choose from the following: Defense vendors ($31.7 billion) IRS refunds ($3.9 billion) Food stamps and welfare ($9.3 billion) Unemployment insurance benefits ($12.8 billion) Department of Education ($20.2 billion) Housing and Urban Development ($6.7 billion) Other spending, such as Departmens of Justice, Labor, Commerce, EPA, HHS ($73.6 billion)

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            So, suddenly flooding the markets with a couple billion in precious metals (thus causing gold price to plummet) helps us out... how? Not to mention, who has the money to buy that much gold.

            Same thing with land. The current market shows that there isn't anyone willing to buy land 'just in case'. I'm also assuming you mean selling off BPA lands, and not National Parks...

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    "Being allowed to do spending..." I mean. (I wish there was an edit feature :()

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      Hey, Devin, you are willing to let the U.S. default on its loans for the first time in its history? Are you kidding me??

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        Absolutely not. I believe the loans that we have been given by our Treasury bond holders is a trust that cannot be broken (and I believe the constitution under the 14th amendment requires that). But I also believe that we don’t NEED to raise the debt ceiling to pay both the principle and the interest on our current debt. We do have tax money coming in every month about $200 billion, and it only requires $20 billion to pay both the interest and principle on our debt. And even if we had 0 tax money coming in, we could start selling our $400 billion in gold, or selling off other assets to pay the debt. Even if we don’t raise our debt limit, our current loans/treasury bond holders must be paid. I have no problem raising the debt ceiling if we can fix the problems that causes, and that caused us to get in this mess in the first place, and the best way to do that is with a balanced budget amendment which binds all future congresses after about 8 years, forcing them to balance the budget.

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          According to the US Treasury, tax revenues coming in cover about 40% of what we owe. Not raising the debt limit means that we can't cover these expenses.

          This isn't rocket science. And sell off our gold assets? To what end? Devaluing the US dollar even further? That's senseless.

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            Tax revenues (about $200 billion per month) cover 58% of our currently authorized spending as of the last budget. Treasury bond holders (debt), and federal pensions are the only money that we owe, and are required to pay under the 14th amendment. All other spending, while the president is allowed to spend it, is not owed. Paying those things that we do owe, is only 10% (about $20 Billion per month) of the money that is coming in from taxes.

            Selling off our gold and other assets is just a short term solution to pay treasury bond holders, if there were 0 tax money coming in (which there isnt), as the president is required to pay that. Clearly it is not a long term solution.

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              So we need a short term solution to an entirely manufactured crisis...by selling off our assets?

              I'm sorry, but that's nuts.

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                No I said, "if there were 0 tax money coming in (which there isnt), as the president is required to pay that." We have more then enough money coming in, to not have to sell off our gold.

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                  No, we don't have "more than enough money coming in". We have 40% less than what we need to cover the bills. Selling off gold and other assets won't fix that.

                  This is an entirely manufactured crisis. We're being held hostage by a swarm of ideologues in the Republican Party. They need to be booted out.

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                    I was talking specifically about treasury bond holders (debt), and federal pensions. Of which we do have plenty of money to pay without selling assets.

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          This is a completely avoidable crisis. Raising the debt limit is as Jeff observes, a no brainer. Nevertheless, if Congress doesn't act, it will be up to the Treasury to figure out how to meet our obligations while doing the least damage. At current prices the gold hoard is worth about $1.5T. Selling some of it would be relatively harmless. Printing money is another option, selling it to the Fed or using it to pay bills as they come due (in many ways the effect of such a policy would be like quantitive easing on the part of the Fed). Those are probably better options than not executing the budget (enacted authorizing and appropriations legislation).

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    Yes, it really would debilitate (an understatement, IMHO) the US and global economy. We now have a US economy that is not producing enough jobs because there is not enough private plus public spending (aggregate demand) on goods and services. We should be, short term, borrowing more (at historically low interest rates) to spend more (as infrastructure, research, and human capital investments). Reducing demand still further with these large cuts would be an enormous shock to our economic system. Private demand will not pick up to compensate. Many adjustments would need to be made that would take much time. In thee transition, the collateral damage would overwhelm any possible benefits.

    We need to deal with our long term deficit problems much more thoughtfully.

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      For example, this morning there was a section on OPB's "Think Out Loud" program on safety issues at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. It was mentioned in passing that thousands of layoffs are coming, from clean-up jobs that were funded with stimulus money. The borrowing to raise that money bought a real economic good (the clean-up) that is beneficial and protective including of us downstream. It provided jobs and income that recirculated in the local economy while lowering demands on other public services. That spending should be renewed, but it won't be.

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    A functional democracy will always tolerate idiots for longer than it should. But should a healthy society? I think not. Just as we shouldn't tolerate heroin addicts living in a purple haze on the streets of Portland...Just as we shouldn't tolerate spending $60 million on a jail/substance abuse treatment center that sits vacant.

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    We clearly have one party willing to do anything within their power to move forward with their agenda. The Democratic Party generally isn't willing to do the same.

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      Have you ever heard of Nancy Pelosi?

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        Are you seriously contending that Nancy Pelosi moved forward with an agenda and held the caucus together to move it?

        There's no way you can be serious.

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          I am responding to Joshua's allegation that "We clearly have one party willing to do anything within their power to move forward with their agenda." I do believe that is a perfect description for Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

          The fact they were wildly ineffective doesn't limit the unilateral hegemony of their political leadership.

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            Uh... "wildly ineffective" absolutely limits the unilateral political hegemony of leadership. In fact, you can't have a political hegemony without effectively exercising power.

            Attempts to equate a lock-step, regimented caucus that rarely bolts from leadership (the House GOP) and the metaphorical wrangling of feral cats (the House Dems)is so absolutely ridiculous that it stretches credulity to the brink.

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              They passed Obamacare without a single vote from Senate Republicans. Fully 178 House Republicans (ALL OF THEM) and 34 House Democrats voted against it as well.

              If you don't think that was a lock-step "with us or against us" vote then your partisanship has clouded your vision.

              Bipartisanship was only important to Speaker Pelosi if she couldn't pass her bill without Republican support. That kind of politics leaves a mark that doesn't fade away in one or two election cycles.

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                If you want to compare health care and now, it isn’t hard. It would be like if the house Democrats in 2007 had forced Republicans and senate Blue Dogs to vote for single payer as the price for passing the debt ceiling. They didn’t. Instead they went through the normal sausage making process, bending over backwards to craft legislation that could attract blue dog and Republican votes. Moreover, they were willing to pay the price for that legislation by passing it alone when Republicans refused to participate.

                Republicans had ample opportunity to follow a similar path by forcing debt reduction during the Bush regime. That includes three votes on increasing the debt ceiling when they controlled both houses of congress and the presidency. But that would have required them to be willing to pay the price for their legislation by passing it without bipartisan cover.

                The contrast between debt reduction now and health care reform couldn’t be sharper.

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                  Except for the fact they didn't get any Republican votes, and passed the bill despite a majority of Americans who didn't want it to pass, we agree.

                  The bottom line is that Congress (all of them) have spent more than we taken for much of the last 70 years. The trajectory of that curve has gone vertical if you look at a 70 year chart: it is unsustainable and it represents an unfair burden on future generations. The Tpartiers have taken hostages because NOTHING ELSE HAS WORKED UP UNTIL NOW.

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                    Americans disagreed with "death panels" and other trumped up BS from the GOP spin machine, not the legislation that was passed.

                    If your big concern is really debt, then you should be just as big an advocate for raising taxes as you are cutting spending. That's the only way to truly achieve a sustained debt reduction. The rest of this is just smoke and mirrors.

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                      There are a number of polls taken that show a vast (over 75%) majority approving of every aspect of the health care reform bill. The biggest objections against it was that it didn't go far enough.

                      However, when you start branding it 'Obamacare' and making stuff up like 'Death Panels' then you get negative reactions.

                      It seems, like Carla said, that people like the facts, but not the spin.

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                    The health care reform measure passed with majority votes in congress (super majority in the senate) and the signature of the president. Now it is subject to constitutional review by the Supreme Court. That is the process our founders laid out. To the extent that citizens object to this they elect representatives to write new legislation that revokes the law.

                    Passing contentious legislation is hard and messy. It requires compromise and coalition. That can be frustrating, but it is that process which also grants the legislation legitimacy.

                    The process the Tea Party has embraced is quite different. "Do this or we destroy what you value". The actual legislation is almost an afterthought, no effort is made to explain, justify, or improve it. All that process requires is fanatics with a bomb.

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                      It was ramrodded through with ZERO Republican support. Obamacare, as much as any single issue, is what CREATED the Tea Party. There was zero "compromise and coalition".

                      Hegemonic majorities will always alienate minorities. If that alienation is powerful enough, it will eventually reduce the majority to minority status. This has never been more true than in the U.S. Congress.

                      I didn't have any concern about death panels, and I was adamantly opposed to the healthcare legislation. My wife is a school teacher, and her premiums went up 40%: most private employers are reducing benefits and increasing employee premiums...This is due, in part, to the fact that universal access doesn't come cheaply, and we haven't even expanded the insured pool yet.

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            "The fact they were wildly ineffective doesn't limit the unilateral hegemony of their political leadership"

            Exactly correct! Thank you W. Bruce!

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        More here:

        http://thehill.com/opinion/columnists/cheri-jacobus/89241-pelosi-sends-chill

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      The democratic party's hysterical insistence to push through their agenda on the people of the USA is why 80-90 of them were fired at the midterm elections Joshua. The Democrats providing cover for the people who bought and paid for them on Wall Street and the left's predictable history of bailing them out when they gamble and lose are some of the other reasons we are here today! Please don't respond by trying to paint the GOP as the lap dogs to the wall street or international banksters because all of the evidence (90+% of all of their bribes...I mean campaign contributions went to the likes of Obama/Frank/Dod/Pelosi/Reid/ et. al.) The agenda of the GOP is currently to do whatever they need to do to save this country from the almost unavoidable economic collapse that 5 years of the democrat majority in congress and the incoherent policy directives and dictator and child like temper tantrums by the liar in chief are indisputable evidence that your comment is BS Joshua!

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        Wow, Chester. You have verbatum reproduced the exact same rant that the far left says. The only difference is names. Like, cut & paste level of similarity. Amazing.

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    What strikes me is the nihilism. What exactly is the endgame for Republicans? They’re going to write a bill that totally restructures social security and medicare in the next 3 days, and it’s going to be passed by the Senate and signed by Obama and be a good bill? Even they can’t believe that. I think causing a default is the endgame.

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    For the moment the big money seems to have lost its ability to control the tea party zealots in the House, and can't bring about a deal from that direction that would protect profits in the near term. I believe the big money will now turn--has already turned?--to Obama and the dems and insist that therefore the dems must give in to the t-p demands--in order to protect near-term profits. After all, that's the point in Washington and somebody's gotta do it.

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    Bottom line, the US is currently spending about 40% more than is taken in. that is expected to rise unless serious discussions take place and compromise occurs. Taxes should be raised - across the board. Costs should be cut - across the board.

    Enough of politicizing the situation. A pox on the entire congress for degenrating into a set of groups with firmly entrenched agendas and idealogies that they now feel must be defended. I fear that there now exists the same lack of dialogue and compromise that existed from 1840-1860.

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      Not under the gun of threat to blow up the economy.

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        5 years of the left spending money like a sailor on leave has already blown up the economy Chris! 9%+ Unemployment, 14+ trillion dollar deficit (up almost 5 trillion in 3 years ...gee thanks President Liar!

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          This is a comment that can only stem from delusion. Too much Rush and Glen. The economy was blown up by George Bush and friends, with some some help from Democrats who liked the idea that the monetarists might be right because it made things easier for them.

          Obama gets blamed for trying, although not hard enough, to keep things together long enough to let the economy recover to where it can stand on its own.

          Too bad we all get to reap the results of that spectacular ignorance of how economics on the macro scale actually works.

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      A pox on both their houses? Which party’s leading presidential candidate is rationalizing default? Who is offering concessions, and who is not? Which side’s base is more willing to compromise?

      What I see is one side trying desperately to avert crisis and one side trying desperately to create one.

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        Guess I see it the opposite way. The dems will not put forth a plan. continue to spend more than we bring in and want to build entitlements. I am not defending the republicans. I believe that both partys are more interested in staking out and defending 'positions' than in creating a workable solution.

        The status quo is no solution.

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    Jeff I keep reading in all of these lefthanded articles etc. on this topic and almost everyone of them has used the argument which says:

    "hey the debt ceiling has been raised 69 times ...therefore it's no big deal and thats why we should raise it again"

    That isn't an argument for raising it again ... it's an argument for NOT raising it again. I had high hopes for this piece Jeff when you wrote

    "Part of governing means routinely managing fiscal issues--it's a basic feature of competent governance, and one of the things that separates the US from, say, Liberia"

    because your comment was right on the money ... if managing the fiscal affairs of the country reflect competent governance then mismanaging them demonstrates incompetent management. According to your figures our government has demosntrated it's inability to properly manage the fiscal affairs of this country (i.e. doing their jobs!) 69 times. The government serves the people and not the other way around ... and somehow it's irresponsible for a majority of the house members to all of a sudden want to do their job competently? and if they insist on it then THEY are the bad guys? I think we need to realign the parties with the correct axis's of "right" and "wrong".

    You must have blocked out the results and mandate from the voters which occurred during the midterm elections.. tax, borrow and spend was soundly rejected by voters in almost every state. In other words we the people fired those leaders who demosntrated their incompenence over and over again by spending money we didn't have. The people they gave their jobs too got those jobs based upon their pledge to legislate our affairs in a competent manner no matter what. You don't understand what an elected official having the integrity to not say one thing then do the other because from all indications many of you stand prepared to reward the most prolific liar in the hostory of this nation with your votes once again in 2012.

    The better question we should all be concerned with is why is the POTUS lying to all of us over and over and over again by insisting on calling this random date (the 3rd one he and his neocon lapdog little timmy geithner) have pulled out of their anus as the date we will default on our debt? Which is 100% t true!

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      100% NOT TRUE ...

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      "That isn't an argument for raising it again ... it's an argument for NOT raising it again."

      Wrong. There are a lot of ways to reign in spending--but not when the creditors are at the door. You do it during the budget process. It's like going on a spending binge and then when the bill comes due, finding self-control. Serious countries pay their debts.

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        Well said, Jeff.

        What's especially galling about this is that it's a completely fabricated crisis. The GOP and Tea Party have ginned it up--and now they're holding the economy hostage until they get what they want.

        And what they want is disastrous. The continual slashing of the public sector during an economic recession/depression is only going to force things further downward.

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        agreed jeff but so far after coming to the well 69 times because they didn't have the leadership skills or the basic business acument to understand the impact of their political paybacks, entitlement give aways and complete inability to (as you said) competently govern and conduct the peoples business in a manner acceptable to the people they represent, you are seriously suggesting we all just take a back seat and hope they don't lie to us all again like they have 69 times before? While the left is clearly the biggest offender here they are by no means the only ones. Obama was so serious about reducing the deficit that he jammed through a healthcare plan a majority of us didn't want and that none of us could afford... he proposed a budget (finally) that was only 1.6 Trillion dollars out of round! and it was voted down 97-0! (lets trust that guy again, maybe he will keep the lobbyists out and close gitmo and end the wars he has added to and made worse like he promised when you were stupid enough to vote fopr him the first time!

        It's more like buying a heroin addict his daily fix 69 times and everytime you do it he promises it is the last and everytime he is lying to you. You don't keep enabling him after lying to you 69 times Jeff. You STOP enabling him , hold him accountable and get him into treatment which he won't like and that will be painful. There isn't a non painful way to recapture our national integrity. The president you stuck us with and the irresponsible spending, lying, and bailing out of the l;efts wall street benefactorsa and union overlords are why we are here. Don'ty believe me? ask the equity olders of GM who Obama stole from to give their money to the unions who bought and paid for that shill.

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          Where your analogy fails is in consequences. If your junky doesn't get his fix, then he goes off and steals, gets money from someone else, engages in prostitution, or something similar.

          If the US did not raise the debt ceiling, then it would directly affect 300 million people, and likely have global consequences.

          There is a time and place for reigning in spending. We do it every two years with the budget process.

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        Jeff would that be the 2010/2011 budget that the democrats (in solid majority of the legislature) failed to produce and pass?

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      The central flaw in this argument, one that has been repeated over and over from the Right, is that the 2010 elections provided a "mandate" for the Tea Party agenda.

      Yes, the House flipped from Democratic to Republican. And no, the Senate did not. And many of the most high-profile Tea Party Republicans lost, often dramatically.

      One widely discussed effect of public disenchantment this year was the rise of the Tea Party political movement. In preliminary exit poll results, 41 percent of voters described themselves as supporters of this movement; 21 percent supported it strongly. Thirty-one percent said they opposed the movement; the rest, 24 percent, were "neutral" about it. Still, just 23 percent said they voted to send a message in favor of the Tea Party movement, versus 18 percent against it; 55 percent called the movement "not a factor" in their vote. In nine Senate exit polls where voters were asked whether they were trying to send a pro-Tea Party message with their vote, no more than about one in four voters said they were. Kentucky and Missouri were at the top of that list. In Delaware, voters said they were trying to send a message against the Tea Party.

      http://tinyurl.com/693wgwa

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        are you seriously suggesting that since the tea party fiscal conservatives didn't completely run the table on you guys that the biggest mid term bloodbath in the last 100 years wasn't a mandate or referendum on anything. Good thinking Jeff! (not!)

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          Yeah, he is. And he's right.

          You didn't get a mandate. And if you keep pushing an agenda like this, the "roll" is coming right back at you.

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          Psst! The one under Warren Harding, where the Republicans lost 77 house seats was bigger... Just FYI.

          Also, there were bigger ones under FDR (dems lost 72), Eisenhower's second term (Repubs lost 12 senate seats), and Wilson's first term was comparable (dems lost 61 seats)

          So, unusual, but hardly the 'largest in a century'. Especially seeing how the congress has grown since then.

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    Absolutest positions on the debt ceiling could drag the global economy into the abyss. Failure to pass an increase in the debt ceiling will fall squarely on those who vote against the increase.

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    Jeff, Your first example, the one you label as evidence of a functioning system, is David Wu. I appreciated the statement of Wu's first Campaign Manager - "There are far too many of us on this long journey with David over the last 12 years that kept our mouth shut when we should not have. And ultimately, we bear some responsibility in allowing him to be a member of Congress," said Maria Smithson, who managed Wu's first campaign in 1998. More people on both sides of the isle should be as brave and honest as Ms. Smithson. So, if you stipulate that 12 years is not too long to allow the system to function/self-correct, why the hurry to label example two as "dysfunction"? Seems to me that the election of 2010 indicated that the majority of the citizenry began to send a message to politicians, "Stop spending money we don't have." What you put in purely political terms and blame on only one side may be just the start of the system self-correcting. You seem to only see it as dysfunctional because your team is the one the public chose to blame. And they chose to remove more of your players than they did from the other team. I think most members of Congress and the Administration are guilty of what you accuse only Republicans of doing, playing politics to the detriment of all of us. It is this constant partisan attitude from both sides that most contributes to our dysfunction. I fear that both parties will continue to be egged on to play politics and not give in to the other guys. And, so motivated by their base they will continue to be irresponsible. I hope that this is the start of a serious self correction by the system to bring government back to being the servant of the people rather than the current opposite condition. We all choose to see those things that support our realities. Wouldn't it be nice is instead we chose to work together and weed out all the Wus and big spenders regardless of the "R" or "D" next to their names?

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      Poll after poll says that a substantial majority of the country sees the jobs crisis as the big issue facing the country and less than 10% see long term debt in that light. The defeat of the Ds in 2010 was not a vote for the Ultra program that the House Republican is promoting, it was a plebiscite on the unemployment rate. We don't live in a parliamentary electoral system.

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        Chris,

        I can't argue that the most often cited reason for voting out Democrats last year was the jobs issue. I would not, and did not, phrase my comment in the light of "long term debt." I said i thought people voted against politicians (not just D's) for spending money they did not have. I definitely did not say they were voting for the "Ultra program" you mention. I actually think voters were disgusted at being talked down to and being treated like they were stupid by the elite politicians - just happens more of those talking down to them were D's and therefore they lost more seats. I think the arrogance of many long-term politicians caused a lot of Independents to come to the polls to show their distaste for those who dismissed them as stupid.

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    The end game for the Republicans is pretty straightforward: they believe the Senate Democrats will blink and will pass a six month extension of the debt ceiling.

    I don't agree that the Tea Party Republicans want to destroy the U.S. economy in order to rebuild it. They do not believe that the government will default. They do not believe a default will harm the economy. They believe that there are ways to prioritize payments so that a default does not "really" occur.

    And they do not believe Timothy Geithner. And moving the deadline again yesterday only reinforces their suspicions.

    I am not endorsing these claims, mind you, just stating what I think they are.

    I'm not sure I agree with Jeff that this demonstrates dysfunctional government. instead, it demonstrates what happens when a large number of amateurs with strong ideological commitments are elected to a legislature in the midst of an economic crisis and are suddenly faced with a decision that challenges their core ideological beliefs.

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      Paul, I agree completely with your analysis of those elected by the tea party last year. And they are certainly playing a major role in this drama.

      But I think you let the GOP leadership off the hook: it was they who decided to march up Debt Ceiling Hill and hold the economy for ransom. At any time, McConnell and Boehner could have cut them out of the process and dealt with the Dems. That's not the tea partier's fault.

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    Let me translate this last point: in some respects government is working in the U.S. precisely as we've designed it to work.

    We have a system with lots of checks and balances or "veto points," and we have a system that requires legislation to raise the debt ceiling (I think we are unique in that respect).

    And we have geographically based representation and politically polarized congressional districts.

    The tea party members are overwhelming elected from very safe seats, and they have very little to worry about in 2012 even if the economy goes right over a cliff.

    However, if they compromise, they do have something to worry about--challenges from the right(er) wing of their own party.

    Combine that with an indecisive President and a weakened Democratic Party and voila!

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      Yes, but I'd say other Republicans from pretty safe districts, who are letting themselves be driven by the Tea Party folks out of fear of becoming the next Bob Bennett (primary defeat for Senate in Utah) are even more important in this dynamic -- they are the ones from whom ca. 30-35 votes will be needed to join most Ds to get through this.

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      You didn't mention Republicans. Are they now synonymous with the Tea Party, or just too cowardly to say otherwise?

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        you guys are have the good guys and the bad guys reversed. If we keep doing things your way then there won't be any entitlements for anybody! I know it must be confusing and upsetting to not understand the most basic things about our economy and how it works, just hang on and we will try to save this country from total collapse.

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      I agree with this as far as it goes--but, as the NYT editorial points out today, the GOP are working with "different facts." A political system isn't confined merely to the rules of the House and Senate or to elections--there are lots of players, and one of the most important are the press. In this case, they abandoned their role of informing the public--disinfecting with light--and allow the alternative facts to enjoy a healthy, unilluminated life.

      Wu's crime wasn't enough to get him to leave Congress--someone had to know about it, first.

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    At this juncture the GOP has made its calculation. They are going to push us all over the cliff, and are more afraid of the tea party than they are of mainstream America and the financial ruin they will bring.

    The GOP House is passing an even more radical bill that has no chance of going anywhere. And the GOP senate is set to filibuster any solution from that side of Congress. With all his sophistry Paul Gronke has not calculated the power of the apocalyptic zealotry of the radical right teabaggers. A good share of those people are evangelical end-timers waiting for the rapture anyway. Why should they care what happens to the rest of us? They are America's version of the Taliban, and they are enacting one big suicidal bomb attack that leaves no one unharmed.

    What they may not be realizing is they are creating an opportunity for the President to invoke emergency Constitutional powers and be the hero in this contrived crisis.

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    "The David Wu situation is a useful example of how a healthy society regulates corruption.... It's an unattractive incident, but that's what a functioning system looks like."

    Seriously? That is also case of exactly what a dysfunctional and corrupt system looks like. There was a conspiracy of silence for years and years. It allowed this "unattractive incident" to get us to this point.

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      The accusation came "this spring," according to the Oregonian. That's weeks and weeks, not years and years. If I'm missing something, holler.

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        There are lots of other stories floating around, Jeff. Maybe you should talk to some of the former staff members who resigned en masse.

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        I guess you missed the years of incoherence, ineffectiveness, irrelevance and rumors galore about other "unattractive incidents" (your words, most definitely not mine.)

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          I'm no fan of Wu, but let's be real. Are you sincerely suggesting that we should fire someone based on "rumors galore"? I hope not.

          And frankly, if there was a public sense that all of these things you list were problems with Wu and the district still voted for him, then clearly they believed the alternatives to be worse. Which doesn't exactly bode well for the GOP in CD-1.

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          Second what Carla said. Wu's record has been voted on six times. You may find him a poor legislator and a poor man, but the voters knew that going in. That is, in fact, a great example of a functioning democracy. It doesn't ensure good leadership, it ensures transparent leadership.

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    FB User, I guess you don't let facts get in the way?

    "Sophistry: 1. a subtle, tricky, superficially plausible, but generally fallacious method of reasoning. 2.a false argument; sophism."

    Not sure which part of my argument you think merits that label BUT if you are consoling yourself with the idea that the tea partiers are a narrow bunch of end of days lunatics, you are sadly mistaken (and you are badly underestimating the political threat--as was evident on this forum previously when tea partiers were described as a bunch of bitter old Southerners).

    All numbers below refer to the percentage of respondents to a poll who self-describe themselves as supporters of the Tea Party

    From a CBS poll of April 2010, 18% self identify. - 88% White - 54% of self identified Republicans, 5% Dem - 39% evangelical - 36% from the South - 37% college graduates (national average is 25%)

    July 28, 2011 Pew Poll virtually identical, 19% call themselves "supporters: - 89% white - 35% college grad - 35% white evangelical

    And the big one: 90% registered to vote, 44% say "thought a lot" about the 2012 race, 36% say "follow news about politics closely", 83% say "very likely to vote in GOP primary."

    Each of the last datapoints are substantially higher than all self-identified GOP and even more so than those saying "not approve of tea party."

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