Tag Archives: Debt Ceiling

The Nihilist Sound and Fury of Chris Collins

17 Oct

There isn’t any way to sugarcoat it. Republican Representative Chris Collins (NY-27) voted last night to maintain the shutdown of the federal government, and to risk the United States’ first-ever default on its sovereign debt. His behavior during this crisis has been striking for its patronizing cynicism, backbencher grandstanding, and nihilist sound & fury. 

Below is a collection of almost every Tweet sent from Collins’ account, starting the week before the shutdown through Wednesday morning. It tracks nicely with the general rudderless cluelessness of the Republican shutdown of 2013. 

When Chris Collins followed along and voted to shut the government and risk default over Obamacare, he and his cohorts effectively stole $24 billion from the U.S. Economy. In the midst of a slow recovery from the 2008 global financial meltdown and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Collins helped to slow GDP growth this quarter from an estimated 2.6% to 2%. For all his concern-trolling about “small business”, this is inexcusably irresponsible. 

And for what? Look at the chart above. As they stumbled and bumbled through this standoff that Senator Ted Cruz orchestrated for them, the Republicans made wild and crazy demands of the Democrats and the President – DO THIS or the shutdown will continue and we’ll flirt with default on debt that the US has already incurred – Iraq War, Bush tax cuts, Afghanistan war, bank bailouts, stimulus – existing debt. They got none of it. 

Frankly, they bought their own bullshit about what a weak negotiator Obama is; what weaklings the Democrats are. They’ll cave. They have no resolve. But instead, cooler heads prevailed and a deal was struck to do everything that Obama wanted and nothing that the tea party wanted – reopen the government, raise the debt ceiling, and then we’ll talk. This was the deal that the Senate passed overwhelmingly last night; that the House passed overwhelmingly last night. That margin, to me, is the difference between realistic representatives who are in Washington to do right by the country – who put people and the good of the nation over partisanship – and the reactionary ideologues who make up the secessionist America-last bloc. The latter is the group to which Collins firmly belongs. 

The tragedy of it is that he would plunge an already weak economy into unprecedented chaos; that he chose to stab the wound more instead of placing a Band-Aid on it. But it gets worse: 

That’s from Facebook, but this is what he told the Buffalo News’ Jerry Zremski: 

“The bottom line is, I didn’t come here to kick the can,” said Collins, who was elected to Congress last year. “This doesn’t deal with any of our entitlement spending. It doesn’t change the trajectory of our deficit, which is $700 billion a year. And therefore I can’t support it, and I’m going to vote no,” he said before Wednesday night’s 285-144 vote to approve the legislation.

Entitlement spending. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The 27th may be packed with Republicans thanks to gerrymandering, but it’s also packed with seniors who rely on Medicare and Social Security (there’s lots of rural poverty, too, so don’t think there aren’t plenty of Medicaid recipients, as well). When you examine the Tweets below, you’ll note that Collins considers Medicare and Social Security (at least) to be “essential services”. Which ones does he want to cut? By how much? What barriers does he want to place between seniors and their entitlements? Means testing? Changing the age of eligibility? 

The continuing resolution passed Wednesday night is, by the way, a continuing of a Democratic cave to the Republicans – it contains the sequester cuts, which Democrats vehemently oppose. The spending is already significantly lower than the Democrats wanted – even lower than what Paul Ryan originally proposed. It is so spartan that it was supposed to be the fallback position so politically unpalatable to both sides that it would act as an incentive for everyone to work out a compromise. 

So, Chris Collins – this self-appointed champion of small business over people, wants to: 

  • Abolish Obamacare, ensuring the continuation of the third-world insurance status quo we had in 2007, which means medical bankruptcies, lifetime maximums, less coverage for more money, profit motive to prevent people from getting care they need, and coming between people and their doctors; 
  • Reduce spending on “entitlements” on which seniors rely, like Medicare and Social Security; 
  • Risk the country defaulting on already-incurred sovereign debt – something that has never before happened and which every responsible economist has warned would be a catastrophe for people and businesses throughout the world; 
  • Maintain the government shutdown; 
  • Do real, palpable harm to his constituents in order to score political points against the President. 

Collins isn’t one of the moderate Republicans that reflect the New York GOP – he is a nihilist who would just as soon have his district secede from the nation to escape the duly elected clutches of OBAMAPELOSI. He wants to destroy America over a law that Congress passed, the President signed, and the Supreme Court upheld, which helps Americans get affordable, quality health insurance. Whatever harm Collins thinks Obamacare is doing to the country, it pales in comparison to what default would do, and he voted to default, voted to keep the government closed, and voted to slow economic growth. Chris Collins is an utter trainwreck. 

 

 

Ceilings

11 Oct

Courtesy  Marquil at EmpireWire.com

Chris Collins & Pathology Disguised as Policy

9 Oct

There’s supposedly a group of moderate Republicans who are willing to to vote for a clean Continuing Resolution (CR), which would fund the government and not include some sort of fantastical effort to defund or repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Chris Collins is not one of these people. He never was, and he never will be. He is a demagogue of the lowest sort, who feeds of the government teat while positioning himself to be a leader in Congress – his ego won’t tolerate anything less. Collins is a better-spoken Carl Paladino. He’s a wealthier, more polished Rus Thompson. He’s not a leader – he’s a follower; a wealthy tea party parrot. 

As it stands now, this narcissist backbencher has whatever “principles” FreedomWorks and the Heritage Foundation order him to hold. Now the truth is laid bare – Chris Collins cares about Chris Collins, and no one else. This is why he is helping to hold the country hostage over Obamacare

He has health insurance, but doesn’t frankly care if you do or don’t. It’s not important to him, and he believes that he was elected based on his repetition of “Obama”, “Pelosi” and/or “Obamacare” – a law he lies about daily. It’s like the tea party hatred trifecta that he got himself, and the omniphobes love it. 

Collins thinks Obamacare is horrible for the economy. That’s why Zeptometrix and Volland must be readying to accept Euros or Swiss Francs, because – like a lemming –  Collins has followed the rest of the suicide caucus of Republicans who are threatening not just the work of the federal government, but the global economy as a whole. And for what? To ensure that you can’t get affordable private health insurance. That’s it. 

The pinkos over at the Economist believe that the Republicans are in a completely untenable situation. Having manufactured a crisis, they are cornered. The continuing resolution would fund the government at tea party-approved sequestration levels – something the Democrats already detest.

When Mr Obama stops speaking as a partisan advocate of ambitious liberal goals, adopts his mature school-principal voice, and demands simply that political players adhere to reasonable norms of democratic governance, Republicans are left with nothing to oppose except the reasonable norms of democratic governance. At the moment, Republicans need to be reminded that Democrats do not want the government to reopen and the interest on our debt to be paid. They want the government to reopen, double its infrastructure spending and guarantee pre-school from age three to poor Americans; they want to pay the interest on our debt, then borrow more to run larger deficits right now and for the next couple of years, and lock in higher taxes five to ten years down the road to handle the long-term deficit problem. A fight between Democrats and Republicans over whether or not those are good ideas is a fight America can survive and even thrive with. A fight over whether or not to default on our debt isn’t.

Cue Chris Collins, unpatriotic follower of Washington fashion: 

 

There you have it. Collins and the rest of the GOP want to “talk”. This despite their months-long abject refusal to do anything of the sort

Perhaps there’s a silver lining, though. In his partisan blindness, he has discovered the value of big government. 

False. First of all, the federal Amber Alert site doesn’t issue alerts – it merely collects and disseminates statistics. Second of all, he tweeted the wrong link to Michelle Obama’s health initiative. What does Snopes.com have to say about Collins’ asinine allegation

 

Why would a sitting Congressman lie – in public, to his constituents – about something like this? For short-term political gain? Is he just pathological? 

This one is fantastic, really. Obamacare is working because it is a permanent appropriation – mandatory spending specifically budgeted-for in 2010 by an act of Congress. It doesn’t need to be reauthorized. 

National Parks and the National Institutes of Health? Why? Don’t you remember Collins’ declaration that, “people now don’t die from prostate cancer, breast cancer and some of the other things“? 

This is all a distraction from the real points: 

1. Chris Collins has a lot invested in the failure of the Affordable Care Act. If it is a success, he’ll be in a spot of trouble. If it’s a success and his constituents come to appreciate it, he’ll be in a lot of trouble, as his words come back to haunt him. 

2. Chris Collins had an opportunity to vote in favor of funding the National Institutes of Health, the Amber Alert website, the National Parks, and all the other federally-run and paid-for programs that have been adversely affected by the government shutdown. He failed and refused to do so, because he is not a leader who is looking out for his constituents’ best interests, but a follower who is concerned only about political expediency and his own congressional tenure. 

3. Chris Collins will say anything – will concoct any lie – to gain a perceived political advantage – it can be as trivial as a claim that the Amber Alert system is shut down, or as serious as a claim that people don’t die from cancers anymore. 

4. Chris Collins is a contented passenger on the tea party-driven bus that is hurtling the United States towards global economic disaster.  

5. The Affordable Care Act was debated and negotiated. Passed by both houses of Congress, signed by the President in 2010, and declared Constitutional by a conservative Supreme Court. It is the law of the land, and Collins is acting extra-Constitutionally, attempting to nullify a duly enacted statute. What other statutes would Collins like to see de-funded or repealed? If unsuccessful there, over what other laws would he shut down the government. or risk the full faith and credit of the American treasury? The House has voted over 40 times- unsuccessfully – to repeal the Affordable Care Act. If Republicans want it gone, they should elect themselves a president and a Senate. 

President Obama said he is willing to talk with them about whatever they want to discuss – including the Affordable Care Act. All they have to do is remove the figurative gun from the country’s head, and re-open the government and raise the debt ceiling. Simple. Because ending the shutdown and avoiding default isn’t a win for Democrats and Obama – it’s what the country desperately needs. Is Collins more interested in destroying Obama than in running the government? That’s not policy – that’s pathology. 

Chris Collins, millionaire of Clarence, is a new breed of confederate secessionist – willing to take down the entire country over a law with which he disagrees, because it helps people obtain quality, affordable, private health insurance in a new marketplace. We’ve crossed over from loyal opposition, and we’re deep in lunatic territory. 

I hope Collins and his family like that federal healthcare program. 

Nutshell

30 Sep

The Republicans in Congress, with the fringe tea party and its sycophants wagging the dog, are holding the country and the global economy hostage in order to prevent millions of Americans from having access to affordable, quality health insurance from private companies. 

In 1996, when the Gingrich Republicans shut down the government, they did so in part to hurt Bill Clinton’s chances for re-election. It didn’t work. Barack Obama is term-limited and can’t run for President again. So what’s the political benefit here? What incentive does Obama have to negotiate with these hostage-takers? 

That’s it. That’s what the Republican Party has become – the party of very wealthy keeping reasonable, market-based policies that help the middle class from being implemented. 

And by the way, if the government shuts down, Obamacare gets implemented anyway, and millions of Americans will be able to start enrolling in new policies via the insurance exchanges tomorrow. If you have employer-supplied health insurance, you do nothing and get some new guaranteed benefits. 

The Return Of The Morning Grumpy – 5/30/12

30 May

It’s been a hellish few weeks of business travel, but I’m back in the saddle, ready to give you your daily dose of all the news, views, and filtered excellence for you to consume during your morning grumpy.

1. Once upon a time, there was a group of media outlets that made decisions about the types of information you, the consumer, would be able to hear, view or read.  They were gatekeepers and they decided what would be news and what would forever descend down the memory hole.

The internet changed all of that.  We, formerly known as the audience, suddenly became producers, curators and distributors of news and information using the semantic web and social networking. We could even influence the production of traditional media using the web; changing the face of the news to look a little something like this.

Using this technology, we would set information free and open new channels of communication independent of gatekeepers. Right?

Eli Pariser is the author of a book called “The Filter Bubble” which challenges that basic assumption.  I’ll let him explain the basics.

Pariser asserts that the tools we use to produce, aggregate, curate, and disseminate news have become the new gatekeepers. The complicated algorithms which make the web possible are actively working to create a personal internet, attuned to our biases and perspective. So much so that we’re beginning to lose touch with other points of view and information needed to make informed decisions as media consumers.

Essentially, Facebook, Google and others are turning into automated confirmation bias machines.

Interestingly, there are geeks all over the world who are working to solve this problem. The first product I’ve seen is a Google Chrome extension called rbutr. And it could change the way we consume information. Their solution is an amalgam of the two systems, technology tools and personal gatekeepers, working to keep each other honest.

Our current primary focus at this point is leveraging the platform we have to develop a strong, dedicate community of bloggers and skeptics who will continue to help building a network of rebuttal connections between relevant websites all over the web.

A healthy mix of people, skeptics, and algorithms. Sounds good to me. Their mission?

To link every page on the internet to its most appropriate responses, so that no one is ever forced to simply accept what they are ‘told’ by any one source ever again.

It comes along with a code of ethics and philosophy. A very unique tool for a confusing time in media.

2. This summer, we’ll have a redux of the fight over the debt ceiling and the effects of that showdown will derail the economy…which is exactly what the Republicans are hoping to accomplish.

Europe is crumbling. China is slowing. The Federal Reserve is dithering. Yet the biggest threat to the emerging U.S. economic recovery may be Congress.

John Boehner, the leader of the House Republicans, has promised yet another fight with the White House over the debt ceiling

If this sounds familiar, it’s because we suffered through an identical performance last summer. Our analysis of that episode leads to a troubling conclusion: It almost derailed the recovery, and this time could be a lot worse.

The brinksmanship displayed by the Republicans last summer resulted in a huge drop in consumer confidence, not just a drop in our credit rating.

High-frequency data on consumer confidence from the research company Gallup, based on surveys of 500 Americans daily, provide a good picture of the debt-ceiling debate’s impact (see chart). Confidence began falling right around May 11, when Boehner first announced he would not support increasing the debt limit. It went into freefall as the political stalemate worsened through July. Over the entire episode, confidence declined more than it did following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc

The only way, realistically, that Mitt Romney takes the White House is if the economy goes into the proverbial squatter. The Republicans were willing to derail the recovery and toy with the nation’s credit rating last summer to accomplish a political goal, why wouldn’t they do it again when the stakes are even higher? They reneged on the deals that were struck after that near economic nightmare last summer and they’re ready to bring it all crashing down.

As an added kicker, if you read this breakdown of the negotiations from last summer (some of the finest enterprise journalism of the last five years), you’ll learn that the Republican caucus is so fractured, that there isn’t one entity with whom the White House can negotiate.

In other words, buckle up, it’s gonna be One Crazy Summer and President Obama will be negotiating with the political equivalent of the Stork Brothers.

3. Speaking of that Presidential election, Medicare Fraud Enthusiast and Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, is doing his best to turn the Florida election into a trainwreck of confusion and insanity. As in the run-up to the Presidential election in 2000, the Republican Party is doing their best to disenfranchise as many voters as possible.

Bill Internicola is a 91-year-old, Brooklyn-born, World War II veteran. He fought in the Battle of the Buldge and received the Bronze Star for bravery. He’s voted in Florida for 14 years and never had a problem.

Three weeks ago, Bill received a letter from Broward County Florida stating “[Y]ou are not a U.S. Citizen” and therefore, ineligible to vote. He was given the option of requesting “a hearing with the Supervisor of Elections, for the purpose of providing proof that you are a United States citizens” or forfeit his right to vote.

This decorated World War II veteran is just one of hundreds of fully eligible U.S. citizens being targeted by Governor Scott’s massive voter purge just prior to this year’s election, according to data obtained from Florida election officials by ThinkProgress. The purge list, according to an analysis by the Miami Herald, targets mostly Democrats and Hispanics.

If you can’t win on ideas, you change the meaning of winning.

4. Every day, the National Security Administration intercepts and stores over 1,700,000,000 emails, phone calls, texts, and online communications. Ya know, to keep us safe.

The Department of Homeland Security is also monitoring your communications, even on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other associated social media outlets. You’re not doing anything wrong, so you’ve got nothing to worry about, right? Well, if you’ve used any of these keywords in your communications, you should wonder.

Three months ago, a list of keywords was released by the Dept. for Homeland Security after the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sued the government for withholding the document.

Sure, they don’t monitor everything you say or type, but if you’ve typed the words “virus”, “social media”, “denial of service”, malware”, or “worm”…they certainly have checked you out.

This is probably a good time to remind you Proles that, “We’ve always been at war with Eurasia.”

5. As it turns out, customers prefer to be lied to about pricing.

You might have seen recently that iconic retailer JC Penney is slumping badly. You almost certainly have seen the reason why: A massive, creative and aggressive new advertising and pricing campaign that promises simplified prices.

Shoppers hated it.

The campaign, which launched on Feb. 1, appears to be a disaster. Revenue dropped 20 percent for the first quarter compared to last year. Customer traffic fell 10 percent. Last year, the company made $64 million in the first quarter; this year, it lost $163 million.

The CEO who came up with this concept was picked from the ranks of Apple, which made hundreds of billions of dollars by limiting choice and product options and simply relabeling it as “simplicity”. Now that the numbers are in, it would appear that people will dig this “simplicity” only if it’s paired up with the right kind of marketing in a very narrow product vertical. In department stores?

If a firm tries to educate consumers on tricks and traps, and tries to offer an honest product, a funny thing happens: Consumers say, “Thank you for the tips,” and go back to the tricky companies, where they exploit the new knowledge to get cheaper prices, leaving the “honest” firm in the dust.

JC Penney is, as they say, fucked. Switching back to shrouded prices and coupons so quickly will be disastrous for the company. Staying with the current strategy also leaves them exceedingly vulnerable in a very competitive marketplace. It’s fun to see a company make a big bet and take a lot of risk, but it’s terrible to see an iconic American brand lose so big on that bet.

Fact Of The Day: The Commodore 64 is the best selling computer ever made. To this day, I can strike anyone out with Pepe Perez’s screwball in Hardball.

Quote Of The Day: “The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.” – Oscar Wilde

Laugh Of The Day: (Strong Language) “Funny As Hell” – Hannibal Buress

Double Laugh Of The Day: “Birth” – Patton Oswalt

Song Of The Day: “Cissy Strut” – The Meters

Follow me on Twitter for the “incremental grumpy” @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chris@artvoice.com

Political Stories Left Unwritten

27 Jul

Like many writers, I keep a list of story ideas for future use. I use a big whiteboard in my office, a leftover of my time in the military when I organized our unit’s tasks and deployment schedules in a similar manner. If an article has been writing itself in my head for a couple days, almost a subconscious exercise for me, then I have no need to check the board. I can go weeks without glancing at it. But on a day like today, when nothing in particular has caught my enthusiasm, I look for inspiration.

Some of the story ideas are timeless – book reviews, or the unchanging nature of Buffalo politics. Some are waiting for the perfect opportunity to fit the zeitgeist; I wanted to write about Grand Rapids for a full year before the American Pie lipdub phenomenon, contrasted with the Buffalo: For Real video, provided the right timing and opening I needed. And some stories sit and rot and likely will never be written, because they are no longer relevant (the Islamic center near the former WTC), no longer true (Obama should run against his own party in ’12), or are increasingly unlikely to occur.

It is into this last bin that I toss today’s inspiration fodder. Normally, erasing a couple lines of black dry-erase ink does not merit a column itself. But today I’m a bit pained, as my idea was as much Hope as substance.

I wanted to write about the Republican Party redonning Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose mantle. About reclaiming the “Progressive” title that was once a hallmark of such policy, and be the party of leadership and vision in an otherwise empty Washington void. About how we they should embrace High Speed Rail, green energy, and a number of other targeted investment strategies that are fundamentally good for business, so our economic recovery is about more than recreating the failed investment bubbles and house-of-cards service sector of 1992 – 2008. About how the Republicans should embrace cities, because that’s where the voters are, and cut support to massive western infrastructure development that is both unsustainable and bloats the federal budget.

But I’m not writing that article, because I don’t write fiction for WNYMedia. It will never happen in my lifetime. Never say never, right? Well, I won’t hold my breath.

In 2001, prior to September 11th, moving the Republican Party to the center was a difficult, though real, possibility. Compassionate Conservative President Bush’s first “major” policy debate involved finding a middle ground on stem cell research. His first agenda items were education and tax cuts; he compromised on both, famously with Ted Kennedy on the second. History had ended in the Clinton era, and the tone of the Presidency and country were quite different, so different it can be hard to relate now. People like David Frum had spots at the table in the White House. Who knows what would have been possible by now.

Instead, Frum (and every voice like him) is sidelined and marginalized. Unlike Democrats, who usually seek to promote the smartest guy in the room, Republicans had been clever enough (since the days of Buckley) to put their wonks in think tanks and their statesmen in office. No longer. The statesmen have retired and the wonks have fled. We are left with tin-pot Tea Party economist politicians who confuse ideology with policy, personal confidence with wisdom, and brinksmanship with leadership. Running a business is a useful skill, but not the only skill needed to run a government. Every lesson is over learned or misunderstood. The ice of competent governance is thinning beneath the national party’s feet.

Unfortunately, the Republican foibles do not cure the Democrat’s own systemic failures. Take branding, which should be a strength for a party dominated by Hollywood and East/Left Coast media types. Republicans won the fight over the debt default as soon as it became about “default.” To a nation of credit card abusers and fleers of underwater mortgages, “default” doesn’t sound so bad. It sounds like the new normal. Strictly speaking, the United States will not “default” on its debt August 2nd. That would require not paying the $385B a year in interest on our Treasury notes, an eventuality no one is considering. What will actually happen is partial government shutdown, as the federal budget expenditures will overnight immediately have to equal revenues. Lopping a trillion off this year’s budget will cancel every road repair project, close every national park, put millions of “non-essential” employees on unpaid furlough, and a variety of other messy outcomes. “Government shutdown” is a winner for Democrats, which is why Republicans love “debt default.” It casts them as the tough-love parents of the discussion.

Democratic troubles extend far past word choice. President Obama and Harry Reid haven’t learned how to govern just because Boehner and Cantor are fighting dissention in the ranks. There is a significant pot/kettle problem when Democrats complain that Boehner does not speak for his entire caucus. Pelosi rarely herds her cats well, but within Democratic circles, such free thinking by rogue representatives is seen as a sign of strength. Bold Republican Tea Partiers, Class of 2010, are for once giving the fitful Democrats a taste of their own disorganized medicine. In the meantime, no one is picking up the “seriousness” slack. 

The main legit critiques of Candidate Obama, that he was an inexperienced legislator and untested leader, are both unfortunately proving to be sound. I did not expect Constitutional Scholar Obama to supplant Political Obama, but how else does one explain his constant deference to Congress for healthcare, debt ceiling and budgetary plans? Yes, we know they write the laws and you sign them. But would a little direction from that bully pulpit kill you? President Obama never learned how to cut a legislative deal himself, and clearly heading up a Presidential campaign, where everyone is on your side and wants to win like you, is not sufficient proof of leadership acumen. 

When Republicans don’t have an easy solution, they deny the problem exists (see: climate change, debt limit). When Democrats don’t have a plan, they blame Bush. Eric Cantor was in the minority so long, in his state legislature and Congress, he doesn’t know how to produce a majority effort. Democrats have been against Bush so long they don’t know how to govern independently, without a specific foil. While all the sides try to grow up, the United States may slip out of our unnatural boom back to our nearly forgotten historic average.

Crisis Politics

15 Jul

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

 

 

The National Debt, Srsly

6 Jul

Washington is debt crazy. But in modern, polarized and uber-politicized 2011, crazy means incoherent brinksmanship. Let me try to add a bit of sanity and food-for-thought to your grey matter as you try to make sense of the current fiasco involving the extension of the debt ceiling.

1) Don’t wish for compromise. Compromise and “bi-partisanship” is what got us in this mess (“this mess” being $14 trillion in total federal debt, $8 Trillion of which has come in the last 11 years, $4.5 Trillion in the last three). Bi-partisanship means Republicans get tax breaks and President Obama gets stimulus programs and the total debt get keeps going up. In an interview that starkly laid out the two sides, Tom Ashbrook of On Point on NPR talked with veteran Congressman Jim Clyburn (D-GA) about the way forward. His answer? We’ve always worked it out before and we need to do so again. Wrong. Working it out as before will make the problem worse. Our country is bad at solving big spending problems. Don’t fix it like before. Fix it a new way. If you are going to wish for something, long-suffering citizen, wish for a lightning bolt of rational planning and decision making to leap from the sky. If that sounds unlikely, then you get the idea.

2) Ignore anyone from either party that says the federal debt is like household debt. If citizens or businesses have to balance their books, then its “common sense” that so should the federal government, and the US government needs to “stop putting things on the credit card.” While Clyburn uses the last argument, Republicans are usually guilty of the former, especially Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) on the NPR program noted above. Its a load of bollocks. Managing a national economy, defending the nation, making wise targeted investments, meddling in overseeing education, running social service program ad nauseum is a little more complicated than a mortgage and car payment, and there are legitimate (though few) reasons to borrow. More on that in a second.

3) Ignore the China argument. We’re not overly putting our security at risk by borrowing from China – we have their money, and the stuff we bought with it. They have a slip of paper. The worth of those slips of paper is directly related to the strength of our economy. The oligarchs who run China need the US to be strong at least as much as we do. We need to stop borrowing so much, but not because of China.

4) Clamping down the debt ceiling is not a political gimmick or trick. Republicans are not gaming the system or using some obscure parliamentary law to derail the system. They have “discovered” the third step in the funding process. First, Congress Authorizes an agency to spend a certain amount of money on a certain program. Then they Appropriate the funding to the agency, never more than the initial Authorization, and often lower. Then, in all of modern history, Congress votes to raise the debt ceiling to allow borrowing of sufficient funds to meet the Appropriation. Congress has FAILed at controlling themselves in the first two steps, but nearly always considered the third a formality. It is no crime to introduce rigor and provide an opportunity for redirection. However, that leads us to . . .

5) Republicans are about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Prior to the 2010 election, President Obama was a stimulator, and the conventional wisdom agreed that significant borrowing was required to pull the country out of the Great Recession. Eighteen months later, with the two year old “recovery” yielding record corporate profits, wage stagnation and perhaps systemic high unemployment, President Obama is Deficit Cutter-in-Chief. Republicans successfully changed the conversation from stimulus to debt reduction, and are on the cusp of the “deal of the century,” to quote David Brooks. Now is not the time for tax policy puritanism. An honest discussion of revenues would examine the amount of money the federal government brings in from taxes, not the tax rate itself. Revenues are at 60 year lows, 15% of total economic output instead of the traditional %18, and $500 billion below their peak. Contrary to popular wisdom on both the Democratic and Republican sides, this is mostly due to the economy, not tax policy. Revenues peaked during the boom following (chronologically only) the Bush tax cuts. However, continued tax cutting since has hardly provided a spike to revenues or the economy. Republicans need to catch up with the times – even conservatives economists and experts are finally admitting tax cuts aren’t a cure-all for economic development. Republicans cannot, and should not, be taken seriously about their concern for the federal debt until they endorse increased taxes or reduced subsidies on someone, anyone, somewhere at some time. The initial thirty year old Reagan conservative idea of generally reducing taxes has morphed into an inflexible, irrational, extreme article of faith. Its like some quasi-religious telephone game – after cycling through eight series of Presidential elections, Reagan’s plan to reduce the top marginal rate from 70-ish% has yielded a packed stage at a recent CNN Republican debate where no one would raise a tax anywhere for any reason. As long as Republicans hold out on taxes, Democrats can accurately accuse them of gamesmanship and an utter lack of seriousness, and we stay stagnated. But bend on taxes, and the lack of any real independent competing Democratic plan is instantly unveiled. Will Republicans seize the opportunity? David Brooks, once again, lays out the scathing case for why they won’t.

6) If you are still wondering what the big deal with the debt is at all, ask yourself this question: under what circumstances is it moral and/or ethical to borrow money from your grandchildren? To invest in their future? To secure and defend the country for their safety? To allow their eventual prosperity? Compare those options, and your own answers, to our actual spending now. We’re borrowing to invest not in the future, but the past. We’re spending half our federal budget on social security and Medicare. We’re spending another third on military excursions and interest on the debt. We’re spending a pittance on research, development, education, infrastructure or any other program that could reasonably be called an investment. In other words, we’re borrowing from the future to maintain our (probably unsustainable) quality of life today. The first step in balancing the moral imperatives of providing what was (unreasonably) promised the elderly in their dotage and investing in our children and future is admitting how lopsided the ledger currently is, and where our borrowed dollars are currently flowing. . . even before the Baby Boomers really start retiring en masse.