Elephant in the room

>> Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Regular readers know that I sometimes write about politics here, and yet they may have noticed that I've said almost nothing about the whole stupid debt ceiling "crisis" or possible imminent credit default. Well, of course not: what is there to say?

One might say that this proves the Republicans elected to the House in 2010 have no interest in actually leading, but I think any reasonable observer knew that, already. What further evidence did one need when they showed up on their first day of work talking about impeachment and whining about when their own Federal healthcare would kick in, etc. It was self-evident during the election season itself that these are people whose only agenda is saying "no" to anything that originates with the Democrats, even if it's something their own party suggested at some point in the past. Actually, that pattern of misbehavior was clear even before the Republicans took back the House, during the healthcare debate.

I have no idea whether a last-minute deal will occur or not, whether there will be a default, whether a default will be catastrophic, whether credit agencies will trigger a further economic crisis by lowering this country's credit rating. What I do know is that our system of government has essentially malfunctioned and I have no idea what needs to be done to fix it.

My first inclination is to say that the House has fallen into the hands of a party that is interested in ruling, not leading, that these are people who want to win elections--motivated by rage, narcissism, I don't know--but who are incapable of doing anything but behaving in a Newtonian way to the other party, reacting with an equal-and-opposite reaction to every little thing. But I don't know that this is true: it is also possible that the House has fallen under the control of ignorant ideologues who do in fact have a vision for this country, albeit a confused, foolish, naïve, childish, inchoate one. I don't know which is worse.

I will not be the first or last person to point out that all revenue bills originate in the House Of Representatives and the President's sole role in this ongoing embarrassment is merely to recommend possible courses of action for Congress and he certainly may, as a courtesy, inform the House of what he's liable to veto. In short, this has always been Speaker John Boehner's show. I'm tired of all these calls from House members for Obama to propose something, because leaving aside the fact that he has, the other fact is that it's not technically his job to do so; the President is required by Federal statute to submit a budget to Congress at the beginning of and middle of the Congressional session, and that's really the extent of it. Which, of course, brings up another thing I'm getting a little bit tired of: I realize that partisans from both parties have been talking about "the President's budget" for at least as long as I've been alive (I think probably since 1921, actually), but you know it's still Congress' budget: sure, the President gets the OMB to estimate how much money the United States will need to do business and then submits a request to Congress sometime after the first Monday in January and no later than the first Monday in February, but then it's Congress that actually controls the purse and has the power to tell the President to go fuck himself. If there's some kind of deficit when the next fiscal year starts this coming October 1st, well, that's Congress' budget.

What the President does have power to do in this is something that George Will, who clearly missed his calling to be a rocket scientist (I imagine a man of Will's perspicacity directed STS-51-L, frankly), recently criticized President Obama for. Will took issue, among other things, with the President "imperiously" summoning Congressional leaders to the White House on the 23rd; of course, the President could have "imperiously" convened either or both houses whenever he wanted to, and perhaps that would have been, strictly speaking, the play according to Hoyle, but it seems like a wasted effort if you don't need everybody to show up to work on a Saturday morning and all the lights turned on and doors unlocked, etc. But, you know, whatever.

So there we are: the biggest issue of the moment and I just don't want to talk about it much more than this because the whole thing is tiresome and induces nausea. We have a gang of fools up on the Hill who don't want to do their job and then make political capital out of the President's failing to do their job for them, all so they can get someone from their ranks elected President in 2012 or perhaps 2016 (and to do what, one has to wonder--will they suddenly want to lead, then, or just wave their junk at their political rivals while the rafters come down in flames round their ears?). And if the nation collapses before they get a chance to do anything? I suppose you can't make an omelet without throwing a carton of eggs from the roof of a ten-storey building. It's all very miserable and depressing, and makes me glad I don't have children.

UPDATE, July 27th, 2011, 11:52 AM: We're so fucked--they're a bunch of goddamn children.


Phiala Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 10:47:00 AM EDT  

Miserable, depressing, nausea-inducing. Yes, all of those.

Also, terrifying. I am a very small part of the government, trying reasonably hard to accomplish something useful. Yes, for the good of the nation, even though it doesn't involve ways to kill people or make large corporations richer. And even though my agency has been threatened with tremendous cuts by the TPers, and will take fair-sized cuts regardless. And by that, I don't mean anything that relates to "fair" in the equality sense, but that they are not as enormous as proposed, and also non-trivial.

Interestingly, in April there was intense and urgent planning and a fair bit of communication between the administration and us peons. This time? Nothing. I think it's possible that if we default nonessential bits of the government will shut down, but nothing at all has been said to us nonessential bits.

It would be interesting, even fascinating, to watch if I lived in Sweden.

Steve Buchheit Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 9:16:00 PM EDT  

I'm getting near to saying, "Okay, let's default. But then we eat the TPers first."

What I think a lot of these newbies are missing is that after they fuck over our credit rating, it doesn't go back to AAA just because they pass the new debt ceiling. It stays reduced for a long, long time.

Jim Wright Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 12:30:00 AM EDT  

To paraphrase what I said on Facebook, when the whole fucking thing blows up because these childish selfish pricks can't stop acting like childish selfish pricks, well then they've got nobody to blame but themselves when the mob drags them from their houses and hangs them in the town square.

Eric Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 9:13:00 AM EDT  

...well then they've got nobody to blame but themselves when the mob drags them from their houses and hangs them in the town square.

Jim, Jim, Jim. If the past decade-or-so has taught us anything, it's that Republicans will always have Democrats and radical Islamic militants to blame when the going gets rough. And, frankly, if the Democrats and radical Islamic militants somehow no longer existed, the GOP would still Goldstein them when the shit hit the fan. Because that's how they roll.

The first rule of contemporary Republican politics is that there's always somebody else to blame.

Leanright,  Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 7:07:00 PM EDT  

So, it sounds to me like everyone here believes this is all the Republicans doing, am I correct? No shared blame and or credit for what's going on?

Our choices are, according to what we hear are: Default or go broke. Does the cieling need to be raised? Probably, Do SOME taxes need to be raised? Probably. Return to the rates pre-Bush? I don't know. Perhaps split the difference. All I know for sure it that if we keep up with massive deficits, and out of control spending, Inflation will be such a problem going forward, we'll be in a world of hurt, fiscally.

I just find it interesting that this is being blamed, (here) on the republicans only. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. The conversation used to be that the Republicans were always in "lock-step" with one another. Certainly not the case this time. There is plenty of blame to go around by BOTH parties. With or without a debt ceiling increase, our credit rating is in jeopardy.

If something isn't done, and with the GDP numbers coming out, and 9.2% unemployment still a reality, pay CLOSE attention to your portfolios.

Eric Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 7:53:00 PM EDT  

Dave, revenue bills originate in The House of Representatives under the Constitution. Those revenue bills are influenced by a budget that the President is required to submit under Federal law. Republicans controlled the House for all but the last two years of the Bush Administration and first two years of the Obama Administration.

Who would you like them to share the blame with? Or is it your hypothesis that the deficit has nothing to do with the Republican president whose administration said they don't matter and the Republican Congress that agreed, and is largely the doing of the Democrats during the four years they held the House? And as far as the current debt ceiling fiasco goes: I do believe the Republicans control the House... which, again, is responsible for initiating budgetary matters. Do tell who else is to blame, and by all means please show your work, Dave, because I think your implication that there is blame to be shared happens, in this case, to be factually, legally and Constitutionally impaired.

Leanright,  Friday, July 29, 2011 at 9:56:00 AM EDT  

Did I say "House" Democrats? Yes, I know that revenue bills stem from the House, but a bill needs to come through that will pass the litmus test of the Senate, and get through the president who, as he mentioned, veto legislation that doesn't provide what he wants (yes, a veto is his right).

I appreciate that there is a debate to get this done. The left has ALWAYS claimed that the right is in "lock-step" with one another, but now that isn't happening.

And, the hyperbole! Oh, the hyperbole! Nancy Pelosi and "saving life on the planet as we know it". I kind of miss her in a sick sort of way.

By the way, did you all heed my warning on the GDP number? Did you adjust your portfolios? I told you yesterday! You've been warned

Eric Friday, July 29, 2011 at 11:32:00 AM EDT  

Dave, the House is responsible for submitting a bill that can get through the Senate and pass muster with the President, yes. And because the House has been hijacked by a bunch of teabagging apes, there's little chance of that happening, yes. What the Republican House Speaker is doing, yes, is trying to rally the chaotic mob of teabagging apes to pass a symbolic vote for a bill that they know the Senate majority leader has said will not see a vote and that the President has said he would veto if it somehow did pass the Senate, yes. The only way you can possibly screw that into being a matter of shared responsibility would be to claim that the Senate Democrats and the President are being unreasonable for not surrendering to members of the House who have steadfastly refused to meet their fellow Americans halfway even after Senate Democrats and the President announced that they would accept House bills that are consistent with prior Republican fiscal positions and (as a result) drew a great deal of fire from the American left for being willing to sacrifice social welfare programs and rolling over for the American right.

Indeed, what the bogus claim that the Democrats somehow share responsibility for this debacle really boils down to is that the Democrats shouldn't have projected weakness to such an extent that the teabagging faction in the House thought they could behave like a bunch of truculent three-year-olds and they'd get their way, easy-peasey, just like that. Or, alternatively, that it's the Democrats' fault that they haven't yet surrendered to the mob of truculent three-year-olds in the House, and they were obligated to agree to any old demand the brats made without so much as whining. Neither of those arguments survives a straight-face test.

There are plenty of bad policies that can be blamed on both parties or primarily on the Democrats: the ongoing preservation and expansion of the American surveillance state, for instance. Or the mess our military policy in the Middle East has become with the Iraqization of the Iraq War, a foot still stuck in the quagmire of Afghanistan, and a Constitutionally suspect handling of Libya (for the record: I generally favor our support of NATO in Libya, but recognize that it presents a tricky legal question on which reasonable minds may come to different conclusions).

But the entirely separate issues of the deficit and the debt ceiling debacle simply cannot be blamed on the Democrats in any meaningful or significant way without altering the facts and/or the law. It's a load of bullshit that has gained currency because of the general incompetence of the major news outlets, who (with the exception of Fox) consider it paramount to offer "both sides" of a story for the sake of "balance" even when the only two sides are the truth versus a steaming pile of crap.

In short: if you want to find an issue to peg the Dems on, pick a legitimate one and have at it. Gods know, there are more than a few I'd agree with you on. But on this one, you're completely, truly, totally dead wrong. This gig is the House Republicans' show, and at this point even some number of prominent Republicans are calling them on it.

Leanright,  Friday, July 29, 2011 at 11:56:00 AM EDT  

"Or, alternatively, that it's the Democrats' fault that they haven't yet surrendered to the mob of truculent three-year-olds in the House, and they were obligated to agree to any old demand the brats made without so much as whining"

Well, that would be a good start ;)

Leanright,  Friday, July 29, 2011 at 11:58:00 AM EDT  

And, it kills me to say this, but "you win".

(yes, I SAID IT!)

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