Dispatches from the Debt Brink

Feature photo by Charles Dharapak – AP

In reality, the likelihood of a cataclysmic failure to reach an agreement on the debt ceiling is low. Too much is on the line for clearer heads not to prevail. This presumption mitigates not one iota of the embarrassment we should all feel at our government. The public good has been decidedly relegated to the backseat in the right wing of our legislature, and the Democrats are finding that a principled stand doesn’t easily fit the first time you try it on.

On Monday night, President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner addressed the nation to air their respective positions. Obama told us a scary bedtime story, and Boehner animatronically parodied rationality. They inspired these three thoughts on the whole episode.

Thought 1: Obama won the Old Man test. I always imagine, as I imagine Obama imagines, how his addresses will be received by the crucial Old Man demographic. I envision this perspective as a suspicious enmity toward Obama combined with a total loathing of Washington politics, rolled inside an old, cranky man. I was afraid that Obama would lose that audience to Boehner last night…until Boehner started talking. Forget that the content of his speech proved everything Obama claimed about intransigence and was full of outright lies. The Speaker’s tone and the gist of his message revealed a man so obviously full of crap, even he couldn’t believe what he was spewing. Disingenuity on that scale trumps whatever fear the Old Man has of Obama. Why does the Speaker seem so conflicted? Read on…

Thought 2: Two lessons from the financial crisis. Boehner has long had an unenviable job in having to deal with his party’s idiotic and emboldened fringe. None other than former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson claims in his memoirs that the chief villains of 2008’s TARP effort were hard-right congressional Republicans, impervious to logic and clinging to a worse-than-ignorant understanding of the economy. A profile emerges in these recollections of John Boehner as a zookeeper struggling to keep his constituents in line. To get the GOP votes needed to forestall crisis, Paulson recalls “trying to understand what Boehner was dealing with, [when] it dawned on me how difficult it was to reason with some people. The facts didn’t seem to matter to some in this group.” The motif of Boehner as a harried pragmatist unable to control his party’s lunacy has only increased with the emergence of the Tea Party. In the current debt negotiations, Boehner has twice struck deals with Obama that he ended up having to oppose because he couldn’t command his own caucus’s margins.

The other lesson from 2008 is that TARP, massively unpopular, improvised, and necessary, passed Congress on the virtue of a Bush White House that refused to ask permission for anything. Although the same mentality led to an unprecedented disintegration of checks and balances, no one can deny that Bush usually got what he wanted. To paraphrase The Godfather, Obama would have made a great peacetime consigliere, but this is war, and he needs a bit of the old Bushie chutzpah. He needs to get muscular with a simple, relentless narrative. Go nuts, Barack. We in your moderate base will let you know when it’s safe to be reasonable again. Unfortunately, Obama will live and die by his eternal naïveté.

Thought 3: Early surrender. All who crave statesmanship from our democracy should tremble at these numbers: as of now, President Obama’s reelection fund has raised $86 million, and the entire Republican field, $35 million. Moreover, the GOP has so far seemed oddly complacent to not yet see a dominant candidate, and meanwhile, their rhetoric has begun to increasingly focus on Obama’s reelection. If I didn’t know better, I’d bet that the Republicans have all but given up on 2012 and don’t give two shits about what happens to this country for the next five years; the worse, the better, in fact. That they are content letting the Democrats govern as long as there’s a big stinking mess to clean up has been evinced throughout this administration, and to no small degree in Mitch McConnell’s proposal to acknowledge the need to raise the debt ceiling without having to be a big boy about it. After all, what’s another Obama term if natural economic conditions are prophesying a second lost decade in a row? And anyway it’s not like there’s any great agenda they need to get to.

Troubled times, Gozamoans, troubled times. Few would have predicted, years ago, that the “pro-American” party would one day threaten the government with ritual suicide, but here we are. Personally, I’d like to hear someone raise the idea of Treasury announcing that it will unilaterally ignore the debt ceiling, daring someone to step up and prosecute it. The credit rating will be shot regardless. Whatever solution is reached, it will hopefully begin a period of national soul-searching, with the general political aesthetic veering more towards reason than bombast. A moderate can dream.

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5 thoughts on “Dispatches from the Debt Brink

  1. A few things Lenny…
    If passing the Old Man test means striking unnecessary fear into the hearts of our grandparents, then yes, I guess he does get a passing grade. Earlier this week Obama stated he can’t promise social security checks will go out? There is your outright lie. After paying our $29 billion dollar interest obligation, Obama alone will be able to choose who gets paid and who doesn’t, and he is obligated by law to send those social security checks. He might need to make some “tough choices” about what bullshit he pays after that, but that might be the only way to curb his insane spending.

    Speaking of spending, did you know that Obama has wracked up more debt during his first half term than the previous 43 presidents COMBINED? Think about that. And no, those were not the numbers he inherited. This is a fact. We are at high risk of credit rating downgrade and higher interest rates simply by accumulating this massive debt in such a short time, debt ceiling debate or not.

    “Well, he had to spend that money to keep us out of a recession”, you say. Of the roughly $800 billion stimulus, only an estimated 6% when towards those “shovel ready jobs”. Each stimulus job cost the taxpayers an average of $278000. Obama is doing the same fear mongering now as he did when threatening us into supporting that failed stimulus. He claimed without the stimulus  we would be hitting the unemployment numbers that we are seeing now. Fear monger me once, shame on me, fear monger me twice…you’re a damn liar.

    You know what else the stimulus paid for? The ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious gun running scandal, which put 2000 guns into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, now involved in at least 150 shooting incidents, resulting in the deaths of innocent people and a border patrolman. Never heard of it? Not surprised. 

    Let me tell you something about the “idiotic and emboldened fringe”. You seem liberal enough, even though you refer to yourself as a moderate…but I think its safe to say you probably look favorably upon activists that support your views and vocalize their opinions. You probably call it “grassroots” and are moved by the “power of the people” and enjoy exercising your first amendment rights.  Well, out of this same desire to change the system, so was born the Tea Party. The Tea Party movement is an ever growing revolution, embodying American values and individualism, and supporting our great Constitution and fighting for everyone’s liberty. We do not believe in class warfare. While Obama is constantly trying to remind you that there are haves and have-nots, the Tea Party is trying to save the American Dream…that those who have-not can become HAVES! And conversely, those who currently have can just as easily become have-nots. While it takes hard work and many-a-bootstrap tug to achieve your dreams, it is the only system that will ever allow true equality. Shared sacrifice is code word for shared misery. Unleash the market and watch everyone prosper.

    About compromise…so far, the only plan put to a vote has been Cut Cap & Balance, passing the house and only losing narrowly in the senate. I believe thats what you call bi-partisan support, no? The president has yet to give specifics on any plan of his own creation. The Republicans bring him a plan, he shoots it down time after time and then he cries that he can’t find a dance partner. Sorry, Mr. President, no one wants to dance with you anymore. 

    I admire Boehner’s courage to stand up to this president. He is actually defending the people. As we were coming close to a deal, Obama called him up and suddenly demanded $400 billion more in taxes. That’s unacceptable and Boehner made that known. Obama calls for taxing the “millionaires and billionaires”, and sites himself to make himself sound compassionate. It’s an easy idea for people without the facts to rally behind…”hey yea, tax those guys!” But by his numbers the family with a household income of $250,000 are the millionaires and billionaires. What kind of math is that?? 

    Plain and simple, it should be unconstitutional to fail to pass a budget, proceed to spend recklessly, and then come knocking on the American people’s door demanding they “sacrifice a little more.” No one, rich or poor, should be in favor of the government tightening its financial grip around the necks of their fellow American. Because where does it stop. When will the spending stop. They will never be satisfied and that means you’re next. Will there be anyone left to defend your income is up on the chopping block?

    The reason the GOP is taking their time to rally behind a candidate is because we are actually using careful consideration when choosing what we support, just like we are using while we choose what debt ceiling plan we support. The media has decided it will be Romney, but they don’t get to decide, the PEOPLE decide. We need to see their true colors, watch them debate, discover their positions. And we will probably not pick “the cool guy” because as we now know…they’re usually just an empty suit. And no, no one is trembling at Obama’s fundraising numbers. It’s pretty nice that he gets to fly in Airforce One around on America’s dime to his countless fundraising events, isn’t it. With that kind of advantage you think he would have a hell of a lot more raised by now, wouldn’t you? 

    Believe me, no one wants to sit around and let Obama do his damage as a political move, no one responsible anyway. Why do you think the people fired Nancy Pelosi and took back the House in November? Because we want REAL change now, not a dictatorship. The longer we nullify the constitution, the harder it will be to bring it back from the grave and thus we fall into tyranny. It’s a slippery slope and Obama has got his foot on the gas. Cutting spending, shrinking government, and truly freeing the market is the only way out of this mess. No more of this marxist garbage. No compromise.

  2. Lauren, I have read no comment anywhere that has said it better! Kudos to a true Patriot!

  3. Defense is actually one of the few things our government is supposed to provide. The chart you provided has no date that I could find. Nor does it say 60% of what…your income tax? The GDP?

    Here is a breakdown of US Federal Spending in 2010:
    23% Medicare/Medicaid
    20% Social Security
    20% Defense
    19% Discretionary
    12% Other/Mandatory
    6%   Net Interest

    We could do a lot to reform the top three in that list. You might be interested to know that military spending increased by 3% from 2009-2010 under Obama, who if I remember correctly…promised to bring the troops home.

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