Saturday, January 29, 2011

Debt Ceiling Vote Coming Up

We are about to reach a moment that might determine whether America survives or becomes just another economic footnote to history. Will the Republicans and a few moderate Democrats impose conditions on raising the debt ceiling, or will this be another "bipartisan" love-fest?

Defaulting on our debt is not a realistic option, but raising the debt limit without major spending cuts is fiscal suicide. Recently, I've noticed that even people who should know better are repeating the mantra that the spending cuts must come from the White House. It's being said in a way that indicates they don't understand the basic principle that the power of the purse is in the House of Representatives, and custom over the past century doesn't change the fundamentals of the Constitution. A few seem to have a glimmer of understanding in that they think that it is politically preferable for the White House to propose the cuts. That assumes that across-the-boards cuts will be unpopular and the Republicans will take a big hit because of it.

At best, it seems to me that the reason that conservatives and moderate-conservative Republicans took over the House in the recent election has been forgotten. Getting our financial house in order was the number one issue for Republican, Independent and conservative voters. Not the wars. Not civil rights. Not the environment. The economy. The voters know that we're being buried in debt, spending is out-of-control, and our very survival is at stake. And despite President Obama's State of the Union attempt at obfuscation, they know that when a Democrat says "investment," he means "government spending."

Rather than think for a minute that attaching spending cuts to a vote to raise the debt ceiling would be a negative, honest thinking Republicans have to realize that the public would thank them loudly. But even if the public didn't, it's the right thing to do. If it isn't done, we will indenture ourselves and our children to foreign nations like China and assure the collapse of America's economic leadership. So to hell with political received wisdom and 2012 re-election campaigns. It's time for Republicans to bite the bullet, quit worrying about perceived popularity, and require drastic spending cuts in exchange for a positive vote on raising the debt ceiling.

To belabor the obvious, if they wait for the White House to propose anything faintly resembling meaningful spending cuts, the Republicans will end up looking like Charlie Brown believing that Lucy really isn't going to pull that football out from under him at the last second. Obama and the Democrats genuinely believe that government spending leads to wealth-creation and social justice, and they're not going to give up that belief without a fight. So--let's fight.

There also seems to be a strong hint of timidity among Republicans who see the current situation as being the same as when they were blamed for shutting down the government during the Clinton administration. This is nothing like that. The public has spoken. It wants fiscal responsibility, and it chose the Republicans to implement their wishes. Unlike the Clinton situation, this time the Republicans have the upper hand. Spending (and cutting) originates in the House, and the Young Turks have a plan. They have the will of the public and the economic figures on their side. If they propose large yet realistic spending cuts and the Democrats reject them, Obama and the progressives will take the hit in the public eye.

Right now, Republican Representatives Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Jim Jordan of Ohio have prepared a framework of cuts in the Spending Reduction Act of 2011 that would save $2.5 trillion over ten years. That's not nearly enough to get us out of debt, but it's a damned fine start. And the cuts are realistic as well as comprehensible to the average voter who is neither a politician nor a policy wonk. It's the kind of plan that takes bold steps to reduce our debt and also takes the initiative away from the Democrats who continue to paint the Republicans as the "party of no."

This is not the time for Republicans to be timid, or predictably wait to say "no" to ludicrous proposals from the White House. It's High Noon, and it's time to get out onto the street, challenge the bully, and win the day. Defeat is an orphan, but victory has a thousand offspring. Taking the initiative now, and winning, would start that familiar momentum that pushes former losers into victory after victory. And if it requires telling the John McCains and Lindsey Grahams to sit down, shut up, and get with the program--so be it.


StanH said...

Oh yeah, we’re starting hear from the democrats, that once immortal slogan, “the full faith and credit of the USA,” as if they give a damn about our fiscal well being. It’s imperative that our guys remain firm, and indeed, the 2.5trillion is a good start, but lets not forget the 800lbs gorilla in the room, Barrycare. This gives a phony baseline to the federal budget, extract that poison, and we gain a trillion a year, that would be 12.5trillion in savings. They must not be tepid in defunding that foolish monstrosity. Courage will come to the politicians through their constituency, “us” …burn the phones up, e-mail, FAX, letters, hell carrier pigeon…keep the heat on. Let them know more help will be on the way in 2012,14,16… “The Debt Ceiling” is the first salvo in this long battle to save the republic, be brave, and be rewarded at the polls, real America is watching.

Tennessee Jed said...

Hawk - As long as our guys do what is right, I don't mind a little political posturing. Fixing the financial health of country is the issue that resonates with folks that are educated, particularly in economics and financial matters.

I might argue that for some, it may have been jobs. These people may not be particularly sophisticated, but are more vulnerable to politicking, unscientific polls, and even scientific polls if the economy happens to hit an uptick. There are people out there who react to things like the CBO statement that Obamacare will reduce the deficit..

Don't get me wrong, I agree with what you say, and that we can take the lead on proposed cuts, but just feel we do need a good political officer (to borrow from the Russians) i.e. the Roves and Dick Morrises of the world. If nothing else, those people need to make sure our strength from the last election is not diluted through spinning and fear mongering.

AndrewPrice said...

I’m not sure who’s been saying the Republicans are being timid, they’ve actually been very unified in demanding spending cuts as the price for raising the debt, and Obama’s basically surrendered on this already (as has Reid). Even Lindsey Graham is onboard. I discussed this issue and what they've said (including Graham): (HERE). It’s very similar to Tea Party demands.

Also, the vast majority of Republicans are on board with the Spending Reduction Act of 2011, I talk about that (HERE) and why these are really significant cuts. At this point, I haven’t heard any Republicans waiting to hear what Obama proposes.

Anonymous said...

Stan: Part of the cleverness of the plan is that it leaves direct attacks on Obamacare to others. That is a battle best handled directly and separately. This is a multi-front war, and part of winning that war is keeping the other side off-balance, never knowing where the next front will open up. And you are so right. we have a participatory democracy, and we have to let our representatives know that we're behind them, and remind them that inaction and collaboration are unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

Tennessee: I have no argument with what you say at all. We can't make the mistake of thinking that we can settle on one issue and one or two spokesmen to win the victory. As I mentioned to Stan, this is a multi-theater war. And sometimes the only way to defeat a demagogue is to out-demagogue him (while still sticking to the truth). The Democrats hate the market, yet they have pointed to small improvements and declared the recession over. We know better, and until unemployment is under 8%, there is absolutely no justification for them to be crowing. We can't let them get away with that lie.

Anonymous said...

Andrew: Being on-board is all well and good. Now let's see if they don't jump overboard when the ship of change hits rough waters. I am only discussing what the Republicans themselves are saying tangentially. Whether we like it or not, it's the MSM and even some Fox commentators who are repeating the line about "waiting for the President to make the first move."

This is a cautionary article based on past Republican performance. I watched the '94 "Republican Revolution" turned into the "Bipartisan Spendathon" in less than six months. Words are wonderful, and Obama is just full of them. Let's see how long Graham and McCain stick to their guns in the face of determined Democrat opposition. The Young Turks of the Republican Party are the current face of the Republican Party, but we'll see if they are the rule or the exception. The temptation to go along to get along is deep with many of the mainstream Republicans. Perhaps I'm just more cynical than you about what politicians say versus what they ultimately do. For instance, I'm still waiting for fulfillment of the '94 promise to eliminate the Department of Education.

Joel Farnham said...


I fervently hope that the Republicans prevail this Congressional session. It still is going to be a long row to hoe.

In the past, the fear of re-election caused the politicians to flinch. Maybe this time.

Anonymous said...

Joel: I'm more optimistic than usual, and that's largely because the message was clear and the public is likely to stay involved, thanks to grassroots movements like the Tea Party. Incumbency is not the guarantee it was previously, and I think many of our new reps understand they need to satisfy their constituents and not the political bosses, fundraisers, and the old establishment,

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