What Have We Learned?

The markets are in a free-fall as Congress’ failure to come to an agreement on the debt ceiling begins to have real-life repercussions. Namely, that’s my retirement savings swirling the drain, and frankly I’m pissed off. On the positive side: who thinks putting Social Security in the stock market is a good idea now?

So what have we learned?

• It’s a brave new world, and most people are in complete denial. I can’t tell you how many people I speak to who assume the debt ceiling crisis will be resolved … any second now! Honest! They’ve been telling me this for weeks. Months, in fact. My financial adviser who oversees my ever-dwindling retirement account told me just last week that he was convinced a deal was already in place and we were just seeing some political face-saving. “The Tea Party only represents 19% of the population,” he told me. Yes, but unfortunately they’re more than 50% of the House of Representatives, and that’s all that matters.

• We’ve learned that anyone who thinks they can negotiate with Republicans as if they were reasonable, sane people is smoking something. These are not reasonable people. They are zealots. And we all know how zealots operate. They’d rather burn down the country than give an inch. This is insanity, but pretty much everyone to the left of President Obama saw it coming. Of course, no one listens to us.

• We’ve learned that you can never, ever trust the Republican Party near the U.S. economy again. Ever. As my neighbor said as I was walking the dog this morning: “The Republicans are trying to take down the president, and they don’t care if they take down the entire country to do it.” This is what Real America™ is saying, folks: no one buys Boehner’s “blank check” line, and yes, we blame Republicans.

• Old pieces of conventional wisdom — for example, that “divided government” is best — no longer apply. I already covered that earlier this month but when you’re dealing with zealots, what you get is gridlock and dysfunction. That might go unnoticed on most things — who really notices that there’s a backlog of federal judges awaiting confirmation unless you work in that world? — but when dealing with a housekeeping issue like the debt ceiling, we can all see it and feel it in our pocketbooks.

• Blue Dogs still don’t make any sense. Last week Rep. Jim Cooper, my congressman, was one of only five Democrats to vote for the “Cut, Cap & Balance” bill. Yet he responded to my e-mail about this issue by saying while we need to secure the nation’s fiscal future, he’s not for “crazy cuts.” He wrote:

I believe that Congress needs to tighten its belt, restore fiscal discipline, and develop a strategy that offers common-sense solutions to restore our long-term fiscal health. I’m for cuts, but not crazy cuts that indiscriminately slash services our students, veterans, and seniors rely on, as well as job-promoting programs that are helping Middle Tennesseans get back to work.

Well, “Cut, Cap & Balance” would have to be full of crazy cuts to make it work. Personally, I think Cooper is panicking, and can you blame him? He wants a deal — any deal, Christ almighty let’s get this over with, pass anything, we can fix it later. He does have one good idea: if the nation goes into default, he proposes stopping pay for all members of Congress, nor would they be allowed to recoup their lost pay later. This is all very well and good but I don’t know how many members of Congress are in it for the money. It’s a symbolic gesture, the kind of stuff Cooper usually eschews, but at least it’s something.

• The American people are absolutely powerless to do anything about this dire situation, save come up with some creative Twitter hashtags. Have you tried calling your Congress Critter? Good luck. The lines have been busy for two days. I’m glad I called last week — for all the good it will do.

So yes, #FuckYouWashington. I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire life, not during the Nixon years, not during Watergate, not during the Iran-Contra scandals and AbScam and the Iranian hostage crisis, no not even during the awful uncertainty around the 2000 election. Some people need to be fired, namely Republican assholes who refuse to listen to reason. And, you know, Harry Reid who thought he was dealing with the Republican Party of 2004. When what he’s dealing with is a GOP who wants, first and foremost, for Obama to fail: nothing more, and nothing less.

[UPDATE]:

Via Slate’s Dave Weigel, scenes from the Tea Party’s “Hold The Line” rally, which drew … dozens! Dozens I tell you! … of reporters. People? Not so much. That’s Louie Gohmert speaking to the cameras and pretty much no one else, guess everyone else left to hit the all-you-can-eat buffet at Applebee’s. As usual, click on the photo to enlarge.

I simply can’t believe our entire national economy has been taken hostage by this pathetic excuse for a “movement.”

36 Comments

Filed under budget, deficit

36 responses to “What Have We Learned?

  1. Well, if the Republicans won’t say Yes to anything, then I have this suggestion for President Obama that no self-respecting small-government Republican could oppose. Simply lay off all federal workers in Congressional Districts represented by Republicans and states where there are two Republican Senators. Also suspend payments to any federal contractors in those districts. That should allow us to pay off the Chinese and keep the Social Security checks coming and give the voters in those districts a good lesson in what “smaller government” really means.

  2. Jim

    Charles – it is hard to say that the Republicans won’t say yes to anything when the Democrats have not actually proposed anything. The Republicans passed their proposal in the House and the Democrats said no to it in the Senate. Correct me if I am wrong, but has Harry Reid tried to get an actual vote on anything in the Senate to address the budget or the debt ceiling?

    • Elder Futhark

      Red Herring, Jim. You are confused by all the glitter and flashing lights. All those assholes have to do is unchain the debt ceiling hike from the budget talks, and we have all the time in the world for them to fuck things up at their leisure. Again, you have bought into their shit deli and are eating their crap sandwich. As an alternative, I can make you a nice ham sandwich with no shit in it at all.

  3. Jim you’re full of shit. The Democrats haven’t offered anything? How about Harry Reid’s plan, which even the CBO says cuts deeper than Boehner’s plan? What was the CBO looking at, tea leaves?

  4. Actually Reid’s plan is crap too. All we need to do to solve the deficit is to return tax rates for the wealthy and corporations back to the levels they were in 1961 when we were experiencing a long period of economic growth. When Republicans say they won’t accept any tax increases, even on millionaires and billionaires they make their true colors obvious.

  5. All bills begin in the House, Jim. Reid can’t put a Senate bill up for a vote until the House presents its version first.

    Watch How A Bill Becomes A Law for a refresher.

    • Jim

      Sorry – then why hasn’t Pelosi asked for a vote on it? Has it been introduced in the House?

      • Jim

        Also, as noted, the Republicans did pass a bill in the House. Reid did not allow any discussion of it or even attempt to amend it and send it back to the House. The Democrats simply voted it down. Why not try to work with the legislation that had passed the House?

      • Pelosi is now the MINORITY LEADER. Boehner is the MAJORITY leader. Bills are called to a vote by him, not Pelosi.

        The “Cap Cut & Balance” bill does not have the votes to pass the Senate. The House must now come up with a new bill. The Boehner bill that has everyone’s knickers in a twist is the current piece of legislation being bandied about.

        On the left, we have the Reid plan, which we have been calling our lefty Representatives asking them to put forth a House version of the Reid plan.

  6. Because it won’t pass the Senate, and the President would veto if it did. Once Boehner’s bill passes the House, (50/50) then it will likely be hollowed out sufficiently to appease both sides. This seems to be how it’s playing out.

  7. Jim

    SB – I understand Boehner has to call for the vote. Has she even proposed the legislation to the House? Is there anything to vote on from the Democrats?

  8. So it’s better to propose something ridiculous that would irreparably damage the nation and has no chance of passing than to not propose a solution? We need to get out of this stupid partisan back and forth. It’s not about who wins, R or D, it’s about what is best for the United States, and neither party is focused on that.

    • I think at this point everyone is like, “just PASS SOMETHING Jesus Fucking Christ we’re all doomed if you don’t do something… we can fix it later but for Chrissakes you’re killing us by doing nothing.”

      Personally I think we’re at a place where no matter what the Democrats put up the Republicans will vote against it as Harry Reid’s plan proves. It’s got everything the Republicans SAID they wanted but now since it comes from Reid they don’t want it all.

      What’s really going on is the Republicans want to hurt Obama — they want to shame him, “break” him, and basically punish him for being an uppity Negro who dared set up shop in the White House. Nothing short of breaking Obama will do. The debt ceiling issue was a convenient avenue for this little piece of political theater, but let’s not kid ourselves as to what’s really going on.

  9. I can’t help but marvel at Jim. He obviously hasn’t been paying enough attention, and doesn’t even know how bills are passed, but he’s just so damn sure that the Republicans are somehow blameless in all this, that the problem is that the Democrats haven’t proposed anything. This is the result of he-said, she-said journalism, folks.

    • Along those lines, this from The Onion cracked me up:

      “Emergency Team Of 8th-Grade Civics Teachers Dispatched To Washington”

      • Joe

        I love it! We had a marvelous government teacher at the high school Boehner & I both attended (he graduated 2 years before I came there). The teacher taught a course called “Problems of Democracy” and I often wonder what he thinks of one of his former pupils clearing making himself one of the “Problems of Democracy.”

  10. Randy

    Representative Democracy + Capitalism (With a little help from Citizens United) = Organized Crime.

    IT AIN”T GONNA GET BETTER WITHOUT SYSTEMIC CHANGE!

    Seems this is just a replay of the Healthcare Debacle. Weren’t people screaming at BHO then that one couldn’t negotiate with the GOP?

    Guess we should just put on our Marriage Equality t-shirts and go to Dollywood.

  11. Proud Socialist

    Ya got yer Islamic Fundamentalists scorching the earth in the Middle East, ya got yer Jewish Fundamentalists scorching the earth in the Middle East,
    ya got yer Christian Fundamentalists scorching the earth pretty much everywhere they can…

    And we got our own true-believer Market Fundamentalists scorching the earth in New York & Washington DC.

    A pox on ALL their houses of ill repute.

    The collapse of capitalism can’t come too fast for me.

  12. Min

    A fairly conservative friend of mine commented in book group back in the spring, after I had done a typical harangue about the anti-public education set on the Hill, “I was so happy when the Republicans beat the Democrats and took control of the state house, but they just can’t govern.”

    I felt like saying, “Well, duh.”

  13. Maybe everybody abandoned the Tea Party rally to go see “The Undefeated”.

    *snerk*

  14. Jim

    Republicans are not blameless in all of this. They are also guilty of pandering to voters by wasting money on pet projects on their districts in an effort to buy votes. We can raise the debt ceiling all you want, but without spending cuts we will just be back in the same spot either later next year or after the 2012 election. There is no way taxes alone are going to cover the costs of all of the proposed spending. Of course, we don’t have a budget passed yet either, so who knows what the proposed spending even is at this point. All we have to go by is Obama’s proposed budget that could not get even a single vote in the Senate.

    I am all for huge cuts in the Defense budget – ending all of the wars, and bringing all of our armed forces home. But that is not going to close the budget deficit by itself. Other cuts need to be made including cuts in Medicare, SS, and Medicaid. These programs are quickly becoming a huge portion of the budget and are not sustainable as currently devised.

    • Other cuts need to be made including cuts in Medicare, SS, and Medicaid. These programs are quickly becoming a huge portion of the budget and are not sustainable as currently devised.

      Bullshit, that’s just spin from the right wing idiots you listen to who have always wanted to dismantle the New Deal as their first priority, since the 1930s that’s what they’ve wanted to do. First of all, Social Security is completely solvent for the next 30 years. There is not a problem there. And to make it solvent longer than that, just raise the cap. You only pay into the system on your first $107,000 of income; so raise that to $250,000, or get rid of it completely. Problem solved. And then we need to put it in the “lock box,” remember that from the 2000 presidential campaign? Oh how everyone laughed at Al Gore, “lawk bawks har de har that’s SO funny,” but if we’d done that Bush couldn’t have raided the funds to pay for his wars.

      • Jim

        Sure SS is funded for the next 30 years. Of course that funding is sitting in US Treasury bonds. When the US actually needs to cash those in, where is the money going to come from?

  15. Jim,
    If we rolled the tax rates on wealthier Americans back to 1961 levels we would be able to remove the deficit in 10 years. We can very easily deal with the deficit by raising taxes, ending wars and cutting the military/intelligence budget down to a rational size – but of course, none of those things is politically feasible because both parties are benefiting from the current mess. Social Security is not a deficit issue, it is a bondholder and should be able to pay out all its benefits for the next 3 decades by selling its Treasury bonds. Of course, the politicians have already spent that money and would have to figure out how to pay SS just like they have to figure out how to pay the Chinese. Removing the salary cap on the payroll tax would remove the SS problem altogether – another political non-starter.

    • Jim

      Tax rates in 1961 provided revenue of about 17.5% of GDP. Tax rates for 2010 provided revenue of about 16.25% of GDP. Federal expenditures in 1961 were about 17% of GDP. Federal expenditures in 2010 were about 25.35% of GDP.

      http://www.deptofnumbers.com/misc/debt-revenue-and-expenditures-as-a-fraction-of-gdp/

      You may say we have a revenue problem, but it is only about 1.5% less than that of 1961. Spending on the other hand is way out of proportion at 8.35% higher than 1961 on a GDP basis.

      • We didn’t have two wars and an aging baby boom population in 1961. We didn’t have an unfunded Medicare prescription drug plan forced through by Republicans. We didn’t have a Dept. of Homeland Security, the largest federal expansion since the Dept. of Defense was created after WWII. The difference between 17% and 23.5% isn’t all that great, especially with those 4 things taken into consideration, and the fact that we’re talking a difference of 50 years.

      • Jim

        Well now we know of at least 4 programs we can cut back on SB. I would be more than happy to start there and see where that gets us. Sure it is 50 years later and the GDP has grown accordingly. If you look at the history I linked to, you would see that tax revenues have historically hovered around the 15-20% mark no matter what the marginal rates were set at. What has ballooned lately is the spending.

  16. Actually, just allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire and ending the wars will pretty much erase the deficit.

    Going back to Kennedy-era tax rates is just a good idea.

  17. While I do agree with the expiration of tax cuts to the wealthy and perhaps even tax hikes, raising the cap on S.S.A. payroll taxes, ending the wars and most of these ideas… Here is my libertarian fall back plan:

    Abolish the DEA for once and for all. Begin selling any and all U.S. government vehicles for private travel. A fleet of shuttles and limos should suffice for any reasonable needs. Immediately suspend all travel and expense accounts for all federal employees and office holders.

    That ought to save a few bucks!!!

  18. Southern, if Barack “The Less Than Bold” would borrow a couple of testicles from Pelosi this charade would never have gotten started. He should have stated from the beginning he would invoke the 14th Amendment unless the Congress raised the debt ceiling as they have always done. As you said, you can’t negotiate with snakes. It’s that “Team of Rivals” crap he has in his head which indicates his incredible arrogance which is destroying the progressive movement that largely sent him there in the first place.

  19. Well I’m hearing conflicting things about the 14th Amendment. There would most assuredly be a court challenge, and as long as there is a hint of illegitimacy around the action, no one would want to buy U.S. Treasury bonds. On top of that, there would likely be an impeachment proceeding in the House, though I think that will backfire on Republicans after the unpopular Clinton impeachment.

    Honestly I don’t know that much about it but from what I’ve read it’s by no means a magic bullet.