And now, they're coming for your Social Security money - they want your fucking retirement money - they want it back - so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all from you sooner or later. Because they own this fucking place. It's a Big Club: and you're not in it.
To see what the Boehner rule means, consider the following facts. Based on projections done last August by the Congressional Budget Office, the national debt will increase over the next decade by about $12 trillion under current law. To cut spending over the next decade by $12 trillion, it would be necessary to cut annual spending by an average of $1.2 trillion a year. Since total non-interest spending over that period will average $4 trillion a year under current law, about 30 percent of projected spending would have to be eliminated. Because big cuts are impossible next year or the year after, the required cuts toward the end of the decade would have to approach 50 percent to satisfy the Boehner rule. As it happens, no one in either party—and, most tellingly, none of those insisting on the dollar-of-cuts-for-a-dollar-of-increase-in-the-debt-ceiling trade-off—has indicated where spending cuts of even one half this amount should come from. Even so, they have declared that they will oppose any increase in the debt ceiling unless these terms are met. And they have the votes to make their commitment hold.
My only real complaint is calling any of these “rules” in the House rules. Hastert, Boehner, what-have-you: they have no force of law and only exist as a “rule” in the sense that washing one’s hands after using the toilet does. If one does so, one is following the rule. If not, well, uh not much really. The Boehner Affectation, or the Boehner Most Dangerous Strongly Held Opinion. Whatever, just not a “rule.”
But: yep. And the reason no one “has indicated where spending cuts of even one half this amount should come from”? Because they don’t give a shit about the deficit. This whole “crisis” was created and continues to exist as a useful cudgel to extract tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the poor. Period, the end. Positive deficit impacts of said policy, be they large or small, are purely coincidental and entirely unintended.
Do nothing, Congress. Ezra Klein and EJ Dionne both write today about the benefits of simply letting various existing policies expire…doing so would net $7.1 TRILLION in deficit savings over the same decade that the “Super-committee” can’t find a way to reliably extract $1T. This path requires no votes, it requires no legislation, it requires no GOP assistance of any kind. Gridlock is all that’s required to make it happen.
So why is it no Serious Person (to whom deficits are, always have been, and always will be the preeminent policy question come-what-may) ever talks about the biggest deficit reduction plan currently out there, a plan that outstrips all other extant deficit plans by several orders of magnitude? Because they don’t actually care about deficits. None of them do. Because deficit reduction is not the goal. The GOP and their media enablers do not care about deficits. They care about eliminating social spending in this country to lower taxes on the richest 1%. Period. Everything and anything else that happens is collateral damage to that desired policy outcome.
Gridlock works. Gridlock will help America. Relying on gridlock is the best possible negotiating tool for Democrats. Period. Be prepared to end the Bush tax cuts. All of them. Be prepared to end the “doc fix.” All of it. Be prepared to end it all. Then you begin to drive policy decisions and have actual governing authority to get jobs bills and other things done.
Instead, they will, of course, continue to negotiate with themselves and parrot right-wing talking points. This is why they fail.
Just sit there quietly and let it all expire. Whenever the GOP talks about deficits, you bring up the $7T you are cutting deficits by over the next decade.
When the GOP gets tired of that, realizes you are serious about this, and is ready to talk, they’ll come to you. Then you set the terms. Then you begin to govern. This is how politics works. The Democrat seems to have largely forgotten this. Again: this is why they fail.
"The Republicans are serious budget reformers; the lady from Washington, doesn’t do budgets."
— Grover Norquist, primary driver of conservative economic policy in the form of his idiotic anti-tax pledge. In every way that matters, this is who they are.
He’s referring to the second highest-ranking member, male or female, of the Senate Budget Committee, Senator Patty Murray. You stay classy, Grover.
My hunch is that S&P was making a political argument and felt the need to cast it as deficit arithmetic. Then, when their arithmetic proved wrong, they were left looking foolish. As it stands, you actually can’t coherently merge the first and second versions of S&P’s explanation of the downgrade. That should tell you something about how rigorous their framework is, even if doesn’t obviate the still-legitimate points they made about our political system.
I think Ezra is fundamentally right here. The problem is this: if S&P set out to make a political point, they did so in such a fumbling manner that the political message, the most important part, was utterly lost. The MSM has a fundamental inability to report on something negative relative to a single party. Obama offered at least four debt ceiling deals, including several that had previously been GOP deals. How was this reported? “Both parties unwilling to compromise; President unwilling to lead and/or deal”
S&P issues a report castigating GOP intransigence on revenues. Reported: “political system unable to deal with current crisis.”
If S&P truly intended to make a political point, the report itself needed to be called “The GOP’s Willful Destruction of The American Century” or “Political Nihilism and Today’s GOP: A Downgrade Story” and furthermore needed to be told through colorful pictures and in fewer than 50 words. There’s no way in hell a company like S&P is going to do this; they are fundamentally incapable of really making the political point that they seem to have set out to make, as such moves soon prove to be bad for business. (And don’t think for a moment the GOP will forget this slight. There will be GOP initiated investigations, damaging ones, into S&P at the first available opportunity). Therefore: you don’t do it at all unless you can back it up with hard numbers such that the conclusions are inescapable. Which they also couldn’t do. But that national embarrassment is a whole other post.
Assuming for the moment that they went there and made the political point utterly and inescapably explicit, even then, it would be hard to get the MSM to report it as such. They’d dodge with a “it’s all very complicated” or “let’s leave it there” or simply book only conservative guests and allow them to talk as long as they want to without challenge or correction. Above all else, they’d avoid any mention of what was actually written in the report. You know: pretty much what’s happened in the last several days.
Naturally, this all has to transpire alongside the slow-motion European financial collapse and its effect on global markets. Typically “USA über alles" reporting over-stresses the influence, if any, of the downgrade on global events. "Post hoc, ergo procter hoc motherfucker” may as well go on the Times masthead. People are stampeding for Treasuries!!! It must be the downgrade of that instrument’s backing that is causing them to do this!!! (Had the downgrade not occurred, at least FOXnews and maybe the broader media would have blamed the collapse in value on the Presidential birthday BBQ’s failure to durably impact jobs creation). The MSM response? Get some folks on to scream “I blame the Democrat and the dirty fucking hippies for this historic downgrade of the United States and the similarly timed collapse of the global markets. The only response is to slash the social safety net, cut taxes, and increase defense spending. Or a mandatory National Week of Constant Prayer. Whichever.” What other rational approach is even possible?”
Who rejected “the comprehensive fiscal consolidation program,” with cuts to entitlements accompanied by higher revenues, producing a debt reduction of $4 trillion, proposed by President Obama? That would have produced twice the debt reduction promised in the deal that was finally accepted.
Who rejected the very notion of compromise, making “the differences between political parties … extraordinarily difficult to bridge,” with one side announcing that only total capitulation by the other side would be accepted?
Who embraced the policy of political brinksmanship that pushed the country so perilously close to default? Who publicly embraced the threat of default as “a hostage that’s worth ransoming,” announcing that the tactic would be used every time the debt-ceiling issue arises from now on?
To hear any of these questions, much less any of their answers, one would be well advised not to even bother with the MSM. They are in full on “pox on both houses” mode. This is an entirely self-inflicted, politically motivated wound. Why won’t anyone ask the GOP why they thought it best to bring ‘em on?
"In short, the Boehner plan would force policymakers to choose among cutting the incomes and health benefits of ordinary retirees, repealing the guts of health reform and leaving an estimated 34 million more Americans uninsured, and savaging the safety net for the poor. It would do so even as it shielded all tax breaks, including the many lucrative tax breaks for the wealthiest and most powerful individuals and corporations."
— Robert Greenstein, writing about the “Boehner plan” at the nonpartisan CBPP.
Said it approximately one billion times: this isn’t some side affect. It’s the intended consequence. The debt ceiling is simply a useful construct for ramming the same old policy of “zero social safety net, all wealth and benefits to top 2%” GOP dream government setup. All it is, was, or ever will be. If they fix the debt ceiling this morning, they will be using the next federal budget (which will need to be done to have a government post-September) to push the exact same line by this afternoon.
The GOP does not care about deficits. If they did, they’d have taken any of the four increasingly huge deficit cutting plans offered them. They want low to nonexistent tax rates on the top 2%. Simple arithmetic will show anyone that this means eliminating the social safety net; as Ezra Klein has noted: the federal government is better thought of as an insurance conglomerate with a large standing army. To cut taxes to “GOP preferred” levels, services have to go. And to get rid of those hugely popular and helpful services, a large number of people using them have to be convinced said services (and government in general) aren’t working or even in their interest at all. This is the core GOP governing strategy in fifty words or less. Everything they have done and said in the past several decades of tight, lockstep messaging with the aid of the most popular “news” network on television has been aimed at and in service of making those 48 words reality.
Everyone not already up the ladder will kindly go die in the streets. Today they’re using the debt ceiling, tomorrow it will be the FY2012 budget, the next day it will be veterans benefits or whatever else comes to hand. And until they are forced to pay a steep political price for steadfastly using gridlock and economic hostage situations as a negotiating strategy, they will continue to use them. That Congressional and Executive Democrats seemingly haven’t figured this out yet is why they fail.
"The United States never had a debt ceiling until 1939, and doesn’t need one now. Congress can control debt by its control over revenues and expenditures; all the debt ceiling does is create the possibility that the government will not be able to borrow the money needed to carry out the laws Congress has already passed."
— Mark Kleinmansays what should be the first thing out of Obama’s (and every other Democratic) mouth every time a microphone is switched on. Or, perhaps, paired with the depressingly ever-present “God bless you and may God bless America” tagline. Whatever works for them.
Give the utter lack of any unified message on the issue, it’s genuinely remarkable that public opinion has turned so mightily in favor of what you could broadly call the “Obama position” on the debt ceiling. People still don’t seem to grasp what the hell the debt ceiling is or what purpose, if any, that it serves… but they’re beginning to dislike GOP demagoguery on it no matter what. At least we’ve got that going for us.
Steve Benen reports that the Gang of Six, er, Five, er, Six, er five plus Coburn who left but is back again is claiming to have come to terms on a broad budget agreement:
Coburn … noted the Congressional Budget Office would score the plan as a $1.5 trillion tax cut because it would eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax. It would generate a significant amount of revenue out of tax reform and reduction of tax rates, which authors believe would spur economic growth.
Ah. So we’re going to eliminate the AMT, apparently without paying for it (because when has any gang ever actually paid for something), further cut other tax rates, and then, magically, revenues will just rise and rise. Just like they’ve never done in the past. At least we’re finally getting the serious people together over the kitchen table, as it were. Now if we can just placate the unicorn caucus and raise the ceiling to eleventy trillion billion dollars, we’ll have a deal.