Budget Battle Drama

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Yet when the election yielded a Republican majority in the House only, it was virtually inevitable that the two principal reasons for Republican success — promises to defund ObamaCare and get spending under control — would be killed in the Democrat-controlled Senate, or vetoed by the White House, if either somehow got that far.  Thus, Republican leadership embraced a series of CRs, each containing some cuts, as a means of chipping away at the spending. It is precisely this timidity which annoys those Republicans who voted against nickel-and-diming the way towards fiscal sanity.

Which brings us to the third sub-drama: whether or not to raise America’s debt ceiling.  Earlier this year, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner warned that a failure to raise the borrowing limit in the coming months could lead to “catastrophic economic consequences.”  Despite Geithner’s warning, a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken in January revealed that 71 percent of Americans opposed raising the ceiling, which currently stands at $14.3 trillion. One of those opposed Americans is newly-elected Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) who explains why in a Wednesday editorial for the Wall Street Journal which can be read here. Rubio characterizes raising the debt ceiling as a “leadership failure of epic proportions,” and, like many of his conservative Republican colleagues, has indicated he will only change his mind if “it is the last one we ever authorize and is accompanied by a plan for fundamental tax reform, an overhaul of our regulatory structure, a cut to discretionary spending, a balanced-budget amendment, and reforms to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

Which brings us to the fourth sub-drama: a lack of leadership.  Mr. Rubio was not the only one who characterized raising the debt ceiling as a failure of such.  Back in 2006, Senator Barack Obama said precisely the same thing when he voted against raising the debt ceiling then — to $8.965 trillion.  Yet it is Democrats and Mr. Obama, in control of Congress and the White House for four and two years respectively, who have added almost five trillion dollars to the national debt.  And it is Mr. Obama himself who proposed a $3.7 trillion budget in which, like so many other issues, including Libya and domestic energy production to name two, he demonstrates a surreal capacity for hypocrisy, absent the slightest acknowledgment or hesitation.

With respect to the budget, this is both distressing and understandable.  Despite what Americans may believe, restoring fiscal sanity is impossible without major reforms of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  It is this reality which is the basis for the disconnect between Americans who want spending brought under control, and their steadfast refusal to accept that the three entitlements which account for nearly 60% of federal spending are the biggest culprits.  Genuine leadership would require telling Americans some really unpleasant truths — in the run up to the 2012 election, no less.

One can debate whether or not Mr. Obama is up to the task, but it is an irrelevant debate.  In this particular case, a lack of leadership, or clarity if you will, accrues to the president’s advantage.  It is worth remembering that Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign was built around the epitome of amorphousness known as “hope and change,” even as a somnambulant media refused to press him for specifics.  It is likely that at least 40 percent of the electorate will once again be swayed by another siren song devoid of details, especially unpleasant details.  Mr. Obama, along with other member of the Democrat party, are undoubtedly hoping genuine reformers like Marco Rubio and other Republicans will be the bearers of unpleasant tidings (as Rubio has already indicated above), thereby pushing enough Americans who don’t like bad news into the Democrat camp in 2012. Add a little of the boilerplate Democrat demagoguery regarding any spending cuts to the mix — as in killing grandma or tossing children into the street — and one has the basis for a highly cynical, but possibly effective election campaign.

If polls are accurate, such a strategy is already working.  Many of the same voters who handed Republicans a decisive victory in November now give president Obama a one point edge with respect to being “best equipped” to reduce the budget.  As for a government shutdown, former DNC head Howard Dean thinks Democrats should be “quietly rooting for it,” believing Republicans would get blamed as they did for the two which occurred in 1995 and 1996–both of which helped Bill Clinton get re-elected despite the shellacking his party took in the 1994 election.

Can history repeat itself?  Certainly, with one exception:  When Bill Clinton was re-elected in 1996, the national debt was $5.2 trillion.  A Democratically-controlled Congress added almost that much to the national debt in four years, over three trillion of which occurred on Barack Obama’s watch.

That is the ultimate sub-drama which will be an integral part of the 2012 election campaign.  It is one which Americans cannot–literally–afford to ignore.

Arnold Ahlert is a contributing columnist to the conservative website, JewishWorldReview.com.

 

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  • Watchman

    Obama and Bernake are the key men destroying America. But let's not leave out the other progressive leftist marxist and the RINO's as well. They either push Obama or applaud his tactics.

    • Jim_C

      Nope.

      Mr. Obama, and credit where it is due, Mr. Bush, pretty much saved America and the Western world by saving the banking system. There's no doubt Obama saved the auto industry. We haven't gained many jobs, but we've kept a whole lot of people from losing theirs.

      And we're going to have to keep spending in order to turn this economy around. I don't know if anyone has the political courage to do it, amidst inane cries to slash the budget. Not that we can't use the cuts, eventually–but they'd be extremely poor timing.

  • Numerian

    I keep hearing the assertion that "restoring fiscal sanity is impossible without major reforms of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid" but for some reason the people making that assertion don't bother to explain it in depth. Social Security and Medicare have their own separate income stream – why not simply operate them separately and limit spending to what they take in?

  • Stefan

    Numerian, the problem is that current revenues to SS, Medicare, and Medicaid will not be enough to meet the obligations of these programs.

    For example, people who have paid into Social Security for forty years would then see expected retirement benefits cut back… their "contribution" has already been spent. Social Security holds only IOUs, which have to be made up in additional taxes on people still working.

  • Jim_C

    We could go back to the tax rates under Reagan. We have an incredibly small portion of the population sitting on obscene amounts of money they've accumulated since Reagan and they've accumulated it BY DESIGN. In fact one might say they "redistributed it" to themselves, thanks to the way we do elections in this country.

    Now somehow this magically failed to create jobs and facilitate investment like we were told it would. But if we dare to say to these Great Wealth "Producers" (ha!) 'howzabout paying for the privilege of belonging to the country that allowed you to accumulate this absurd amount of wealth?' they'll say 'We never gave a rip about this country and we're buying an island somewhere where the natives will work for pennies.' And they'll get some Fox News shill to talk about how they're being "victimized" and "coerced" so you'll say "Ooo, those dirty democrats!"

    Is Obama part of the problem? Sure–the man is obviously beholden to his donors–but don't kid yourself he's the only one.

  • Jim_C

    Budget, schmudget, I could care less–what are these bozos going to do to create jobs? How bout spend some money getting people back to work, infrastructure stuff. I don't care if its tax and spend or borrow and spend.

    We know one thing: nothing gonna happen by cutting spending–a highly unserious and very possibly dangerous way to go about gutting the economy further

  • JosephWiess

    Shut down the government, stop paying the congress to screw us. While we are at, shut down the IRS, shut down the ATFE, shut down the Czars, and shut down Obama.

    We don't need a government in order to survive, and if the government weren't stealing our money, we'd be able to create new jobs and end this stupid Obama insanity.

  • kafirman

    Jim, I suspect you're highly educated…, but government doesn't create jobs and grow economies. Government kills them. The best government can do is to link the currency to Gold (through a gold window where you can get the same amount of gold for cash over decades), lower regulations and lower taxes. Read Gold (Nathan Lewis) & Wealth and Poverty (Gilder).

    The best government can do is minimizes taxes so that the principle of liberty is not violated. Why must I be a slave to another man's medical bills? Why does my work serve as an incentive for others to not work? That is tyranny, not freedom.

    Instead government is promoting class warfare, increasing regulations and failing to assert its moorings of natural law and Judeo-Christianity.

    • Jim_C

      The only sense in which government is promoting class warfare is in the systematic way it has been used to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few. And they get ALL the tax breaks, cuts, incentives they ask for. They have been, now, for quite some time. So where's the jobs?

      In a perfect world, the extremely small portion of the private sector that has lobbied and infiltrated its way into public policy would at least act ethically if not with some sense of reponsibility toward the democratic republic that has provided the soil for its success. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.

      If you want to talk natural law and "judeo-Christianity," I'll talk "social contract" and the notion that freedom is not, in fact, free. One should have an obligation to the country which provides your standard of living–but our captains now make noise of "moving elsewhere" because we aren't bending over backward for lower wages and benefits.

    • Jim_C

      btw thanks for the reading tips.

      • kafirman

        "The only sense in which government is promoting class warfare is in the systematic way it has been used to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few."
        By reducing barriers to wealth creation and lowering disincentives, government does the opposite of what you claim. If that is not self-evident to you, than you must have studied Keynsian economics and we should stop wasting our time.

        " And they get ALL the tax breaks, cuts, incentives they ask for."
        Couldn't disagree more. The lower 50% pays <2 % of the taxes. Progressive income tax lowers the tide for all boats.

        • Jim_C

          The simple fact that 40% of the nation's wealth is concentrated in the top 1%, and yet somehow jobs are not magically appearing, should paint a fairly harrowing picture for anyone not in that rarified realm. How did it "get" there?

          Being fiscally responsible is not always the same thing as being conservative. I respect my conservative friends on economic matters–but most of y'all are wrong these days and enamored of matters of faith, not matters of fact.

  • Supreme_Galooty

    Some people (many people) function out of a grand Envy. They moan, whine, yammer and snivel here and there around the back-streets of productive society all while castigating the obscenely, filthy, rich and blaming THEM for their mediocrity. What we need in this country – indeed, in this WORLD – is more RICH people. Thousands more. Millions more.

    Trying to achieve some sort of fantasyland eutopian ideal by bringing rich people down and depriving them of their wealth is a vice that springs straight out of Envy. And it walks hand in hand with Greed. Help the poor by teaching them to produce a SURPLUS. All that other Marxian claptrap is, well… claptrap.

    • Jim_C

      Your adolescent utopianism has its charm, Ms. Rand. It's also about as quixotic as Karl Marx, minus the pragmatism.

      What's particularly charming about your breathless fantasy is the notion that somehow poor people are to blame for the wonderful "producers" (ha) having made money exponentially while middle class wages have stagnated (economic FACT). Coincidence? Middle-class slackers sucking up dollars while the great producers (ha) "innovate" their way to greater wealth by dint of sweat and intelligence?

      Or by dint of buying their way into your government and rigging the system to their benefit alone while convincing dupes like you there are 1-10% "productive" people in the workforce, and what must be, according to you, 90% freeloading bums?

      You may call this "claptrap;" the difference is, I have facts, while you have wonderful gossamer fantasy.

  • Supreme_Galooty

    You have the facts, and facts are pesky things indeed. As Sir Francis once said, "A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion." It is painfully obvious that you have spent a great deal of time in your life to acquire a but a paucity of facts. Take them and run with them my good fellow, and may they serve you well in spite of their inabiltiy to completely inform.

    As I inquired of you earlier, how do you KNOW when you are misinformed – or even MAL-informed?

    You research extensively. My suggestion to you (although I know that it is akin to casting pearls before swine) is to read the Austrian economists and compare them to Marx – your "pragmatist." After having read Hayek, von Mises, Marx, and the uber-charlatan Keynes, one can make a reasonable determination of economic ideas and how they may play out in a reasonable world. That would be a world that has NOT been "educated" by the American public school system.