October 6, 2013

Dysfunction in Washington: Pathetic Ineptitude all Around.

by Harold Gershowitz

Comments Below

 

We’ll know when our esteemed elected officials are serious about resolving the budget and debt showdown playing out in the theater of the absurd we call our nation’s capital, when Democrats stop blaming Republicans and Republicans stop blaming the Democrats.  It’s time for them all to look squarely at themselves in the mirror and ask, is this really how I want to be remembered? 

The bush-league vitriol playing out in Congress and in the White House is the real tragedy in this mess.  The Republicans who have madly gone sawing out on a stop-ObamaCare limb are fools.  ObamaCare, or the Orwellian-named Affordable Care Act, a lousy 2700 page, hodge-podge, patched-together piece of transformative legislation if ever there was one, is nonetheless the law of the land.  A majority of both houses of Congress has said so; it was duly signed into law by the President of the United States, and has been adjudicated and upheld by the Supreme Court.  It is, at present, unalterable given the President’s power of the veto. Anyone who doesn’t like it should campaign for its repeal or reform in the next election.  That’s the way we do things or are supposed to do things in America.

But this horror show has a cast of many mischievous luminaries and that includes the President of the United States.  He can lambast the Republicans all he wants (that seems, at the moment, to be his primary calling), but he is the President who told the nation that he wouldn’t sign ObamaCare if it increased the deficit by a single dime (the Government Accountability Office {GAO} now says ObamaCare will increase the long-term deficit by $6.2 trillion); that ObamaCare would (on average) reduce health insurance premiums by about $2,500 during his first term in office (premiums instead have increased by more than $3,000) and that if you liked your current plan (and doctor) you could keep it .  Really?  Sorry, none of that is true.  It was never going to be true.  Major trade unions are on the warpath because real-world reality has now begun to overwhelm presidential rhetoric.

Most distressing has been the Democratic demagoguery that attributes voter objections to ObamaCare to American racism.  How sad. If one feels mislead by the President’s assurance that ObamaCare wouldn’t increase the deficit by a single dime, or his assurance that their health insurance premiums would go down instead of up, or that they would be able to keep their current plans and their current doctors; well they’re just racists.  That’s the insulting party line that many on the left are selling.  It’s a dangerous strategy that could well backfire. A recent study commissioned by The Economist found that a plurality of respondents favored stopping ObamaCare even if that caused a temporary government shutdown: 49% of those polled favored repealing the law, compare with 36% who favored expanding or preserving it.  That’s a lot of Americans to call racist, or too dumb to know better.

The President tells us that it is Congress’s job to pass a budget.  He is, of course, correct although that was also true during most of his first term when the government operated without the passage of a budget because the Senate that his party controlled wouldn’t approve the very budget(s) he submitted or those that the House passed.  It has, however, never been the case that Congress must pass the President’s budget.  The Administration and the Congress, in effect, negotiate, and a final budget ultimately proceeds through both houses of Congress.  But not with this President and not with this Senate.

The President is livid that Congress is stalling on increasing the debt ceiling.  Republicans who are asking for spending restraint, especially with respect to ObamaCare, in return for increasing the debt limit are being called everything from suicide bombers, and terrorists to arsonists and members of the Hezbollah wing of the GOP.

Now, we happen to think Congress should get on with the job of increasing the debt ceiling because it is the lesser of two evils.  The world economy is too fragile for people to start wondering how safe is the world’s safest harbor.

But debating the efficacy of raising the debt ceiling is neither unreasonable nor irresponsible.  What is irresponsible is rubber-stamping these increases every time any particular Congress or any particular President goes on a spending binge.  We’ve rubber-stamped these increases 79 times in the past, and that’s part of the reason we’re in the mess we’re in now.

Make no mistake about it.  We’re headed down an extremely dangerous path. Just one year ago the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that federal debt in public hands would reach 52% of GDP (the size of our entire economy) in twenty-five years.  CBO has now adjusted its forecast in its latest report and now projects that federal debt in public hands will soar to 100% of GDP.  The projections CBO made a year ago actually had debt sliding to zero by the 2070’s.  Now, CBO says public debt is on course to reach 200% of GDP in the 2070’s.

So here’s the problem.  Few of our ruling public officials expect to be here in 25 years so, foolishly, they don’t see it as their problem.  Their next election is the only problem they really think about.  Besides, they reason, as long as the Fed quantitatively eases the problem by printing money and buying the nation’s debt then what’s the problem.  Well, here’s the problem; by the end of this year the Fed is on course to be gobbling up 75% of the Treasuries being offered to the public.  What happens when the Fed pulls back, as sooner or later it must?  That’s like asking what happens the next time a thrill seeker spins the chamber in a game of Russian roulette.

Here’s a bit of Washington nonsense that isn’t talked about much very much.  We actually reached the debt ceiling last May.  The Administration has been shuffling money around between accounts to pay the bills much the same way an insolvent company tries to keep the wolves away from the door.  The current problem is that the Administration has run out of shuffling room.

So objecting to raising the debt ceiling is neither un-American nor unpatriotic.

An impassioned plea was made on the Senate floor a half-dozen years ago that illustrates the point.  Consider the logic of that plea:

“Mr. President, I rise today to talk about America’s debt problem. The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our government’s reckless fiscal policies. Over the past five years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion. That is  ‘‘trillion’’ with a ‘‘T.’’ That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan and borrowed from American taxpayers…Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”

So, was the Senator who made that eloquent case against raising the debt ceiling a suicide bomber or a terrorist or an arsonist or a member of the Hezbollah wing of his party?  Of course not.  In fact, it was the Junior Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.  But that was then, and now is now.  Then, our federal debt was $8.6 trillion.  Now, seven years later, it has doubled to nearly $17 Trillion. That’s trillion with a “T”.

When asked about the contradiction of his remarks regarding raising the debt ceiling when he was a Senator compared with now when he is President, Obama said his earlier eloquent speech on the subject was just political talk.  Well, sooner or late, it seems, all chickens do come home to roost.

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3 responses to “Dysfunction in Washington: Pathetic Ineptitude all Around.”

  1. alan Samdperil says:

    Hi Hal;

    A great job in nailing down an accurate overview of failure of our government and its so-called leaders.

    The callous way in which Obama turns his back on his Senate speech speaks volumes about the man – politics trumps principles every time

    alan

  2. mark j levick says:

    Where have all the leaders gone? We have twice elected a community organizer with no record of accomplishment other than expanding the number of takers and thus getting elected. Our Speaker of the House and Senate majority leader are political hacks. The minority leaders of the House and Senate are politicians who love to pass bills that no one has read and if they read them would not understand them. The bureaucracy in fact controls everything as evidenced by your quotes of the ever changing prognostications of the CBO, The unfunded and unfundable entitlement obligations of the Government are never addressed. The MSM has become a group of cheerleaders as evidenced by their failure to inform the public that the issue of default on our debt obligations is a non issue whether or not the debt ceiling is raised as tax revenues continue flow at the rate of nearly $250B per month and debt service totals about $30B per month. As long as we have an unconcerned and uninformed public this Kabuki theater will continue and we will keep electing representatives who have no interest in governing for the “good of the order”.

  3. Seymour Kreshek says:

    Hi Hal,
    I believe it was President Lincoln who said that if you wanted to get a law repealed then
    it should be enforced exactly as written.
    The House Republicans should pass the budget including funding for Obamacare
    with the proviso that it must be enforced exactly as written—No exceptions,
    waivers, concessions, delays, or special treatment or benefits to ANYONE,
    especially people working in or for the government.

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