Fit To Govern?

The now all to familiar dance around raising the debt ceiling is playing again in Washington.  The drop dead date has come and gone.  Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has begun the machinations which move money hear and there, and technically avoid default.  Some say Lew can do this for weeks, so there is no urgency to resolve the ceiling limit.  Hmmm.

Just exactly what type of law is the debt ceiling law anyways?  Why would a country have such legislation?

In the wisdom of past Congresses, the notion that there needed to be some reigns put on the Federal Government.  Government was spending too much and borrowing to cover the gap between what it spent and what it received in tax revenues.  So Congress put a cap on what Government could borrow.  Unfortunately, Congress did little or nothing about what Government could spend even though it had put in place legislation which put a limit on borrowing.  What?

The term balanced budget appears to be a foreign language word for Congress.  Congress routinely passes unfunded legislation, each time emphasizing the urgency and need for a spending bill but remaining silent or vague on how the government will fund the measure.

The second category of abuse is labeled “entitlements”.  This class of legislation specifies government spending, in perpetuity, and unrelated to whether there are sufficient tax dollars to cover.  So for example, with Medicare and Medicaid, we have an aging population (more people collecting for longer periods than having paid in taxes) and increasing healthcare costs (rising faster than anticipated in original legislation)  are driving a year after year deficit regardless of whether Congress passes a balanced budget on discretionary spending.  Hmmm.

So for strong supporters of a truly balanced budget, one can understand their frustration.  What one cannot understand is the logic that says “we, Congress, have authorized the Government to spend all this money which even if we could stop today would continue as a matter of law, so we have decided not to pay our bills when they come due”.  Isn’t that what third world countries do?

One can agree to disagree on whether specific Government spending is wise, and one can also agree or disagree on whether the tax code is sufficient and fair to cover the money spent.  What seems to avoid comprehension is on what basis does Congress think it is not obligated to pay for what it has spent?

More simply said, if the Country is not to borrow, than why are not taxes being increased immediately to cover these deficits?   Why is Congress not acting to really eliminate deficits?

Explanations quickly drift to “politics”.  Blame it on politician A or B, or Party R or D, or ideology C or P.  There are plenty of excuses and explanations.  It must be a tough problem because not since Bill Clinton was President has there been a balanced budget.

Back to the Debt Ceiling Increase standoff.  The best explanation is the immense frustration felt by many “R’s” and “C’s” because they cannot get agreement on a balanced budget that meets their principles.  Apparently, they reason that if we can’t get our way, then we will scorch the earth.

Allowing the Country to default on its debt is truly playing with fire.  It is far worse than shutting down the government by refusing to authorize spending.  Those favoring default are simply not sufficiently competent to govern.

The Republican Party and especially its conservative wing must get a grip on itself.  Regardless of how unworkable their plan of no new taxes and deep entitlement cuts might be, Republicans will serve the Country far better trying to enact that plan than to block increasing the debt limit and pushing the Country into default.

Republicans ask,  “well why won’t the President negotiate with us to achieve reductions in entitlements in return for an increase in the debt ceiling”?

The simplest answer is double jeopardy.  Only a few weeks ago, Congress passed a budget for discretionary spending.  Why wasn’t taxes and entitlements tied into that budget?  For what ever the reasons it wasn’t.  Congress in essence said with its budget “we accept the consequences”.  Raising the debt ceiling is the first and most obvious consequence.

When Republicans shut down the Government last fall, the world didn’t end but a lot of Americans were inconvenienced.  The shut down was a poor negotiating strategy because the “inconveniences” were not related to the Republican negotiating goals.  Blocking the debt ceiling increase will have a similar blow back, only far worse.

What drives these conservatives screams that they are unfit to govern.  Hmmm, maybe that’s the silver lining.


Explore posts in the same categories: Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Politics, Republican Party

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