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Posts Tagged ‘debt ceiling’
October 10th, 2013 at 7:21 pm
Obama Can’t Get Out of His Own Way
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Watching President Obama blunder his way through the government shutdown and the debt ceiling fight has been jaw-dropping. The president can’t seem to score political points even when the other side is fumbling the ball in their own end zone.

Regardless of what you think of the GOP’s tactics going into the shutdown, the polling has been pretty clear that Republicans are shouldering more of the blame than Democrats. All Obama had to do to capitalize was get out of their way.

Instead, his OMB imposed a series of petty, penny ante shutdowns on locations like the open-air World War II Memorial. The resulting anger from the public has led to plans for a Million Vet March on the mall this weekend. To add insult to injury, police actually removed a man from the Lincoln Memorial grounds yesterday who was voluntarily mowing the grass so that it would look nice for America’s veterans. And this whole drama is playing out within a week or so of Harry Reid’s gaffe making it sound like Democrats weren’t interested in funding research to help children with cancer. When you’re offending World War II vets and terminally ill kids, you’re generally doing politics wrong.

The theatrics are little more than a sideshow, however — and that’s probably the reason they haven’t moved the polls any. We’re now coming to the point, though, when the two sides are negotiating over the real substance of these issues. Just a little while ago, the New York Times put up a story saying that the President had rejected a Republican offer to pass a six-week extension of the debt ceiling. In the time it’s taken me to draft this post, they’ve changed it to say only that they’ve “failed to reach agreement” and that both sides are still talking.

If Obama has any sense, he’ll take this deal. The Republican willingness to pass a short-term fix to the debt ceiling represents an acknowledgment that the consequences of not doing so are decidedly more dangerous that those attending a government shutdown (have you noticed that life hasn’t been much different while official Washington is on hiatus?). If the President shoots it down, he will begin to look like the absolutist and he will seem like the one who’s playing Russian roulette with the country in order to bolster his political standing. With any other president, it’d be unfathomable. Obama, however, has a special gift for unforced errors.

October 8th, 2013 at 1:26 pm
Startling Graph about the Debt Ceiling and the National Debt

In anticipation of the debt ceiling debate/crisis/hysteria, Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University tweeted a graph of all the times the debt ceiling has been raised since 1980.

It’s a simple but shocking illustration that tells the story of how America went from a national debt of $930 million to a national debt of $16.7 trillion in just over three decades.

The graph indicates that we clearly have two big government presidents to thank for putting Americans and the American economy in such a dire predicament: George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

September 12th, 2013 at 7:46 pm
Delay ObamaCare, Spend Savings on Sequester?

House Republican conservatives are considering an alternative to using the upcoming budget fight as an attempt to defund ObamaCare. In its place, the GOP would vote to delay all of ObamaCare for a year and use the money saved to restore budget cuts caused by the sequester, reports the Washington Examiner.

To entice Democrats, the proposal would also raise the government’s debt ceiling, which is estimated to be reached sometime in late October.

On the plus side, the one-year delay puts President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats on the defensive. After delaying the employer mandate and income eligibility requirements, it would be difficult to justify opposing the whole scale delay of a law that is turning into a “train wreck” to implement.

Shifting the money saved on ObamaCare implementation also lets Republicans take credit for restoring budget cuts, but here the plan starts to look less favorable. Conservatives want to restore funding to the military, but liberals are likely to demand restoration across the board – including budget items that Republicans would otherwise like to see shrink or eliminated.

Besides, if at the end of the year the sequester gets “paid for,” what was the point of going through all the downsizing? Angling for praise for restoring spending in a budget that doesn’t balance seems like an odd goal for fiscal conservatives.

Finally, there’s the debt ceiling issue. Between the White House, Senate Democrats and House Republican leadership there appears to be agreement that the debt ceiling should be raised. While that’s certainly the politically correct thing to do, it too seems contrary to the fiscal instincts of conservatives.

And yet, this trial balloon proposal might be attractive to House conservatives, also known as the best hope for imposing any kind of spending discipline in Washington. If this is the best they think they can do, then it means momentum inside Congress for defunding ObamaCare is dead.

If that’s true, let’s hope they can get a full and complete delay. Otherwise, capitulating on those terms will lead to more spending, more debt and more regulations. Not exactly a win for conservativsm.

January 9th, 2013 at 1:50 pm
Amend Budget Act, Not Constitution to Cut Spending?

Here at CFIF we’ve promoted the idea of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require Congress to pass balanced budgets every year with certain 60 percent supermajority thresholds for raising taxes or the debt ceiling.

The idea comes with a stellar pedigree since conservative icons like Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, and the Contract with America all supported various Balanced Budget Amendments.

Alas, the BBA has yet to become law, and with the current lineup of liberals running the U.S. Senate and White House, it will be awhile before such an idea can be seriously discussed in Washington.

That said, Byron York says that Republicans might have an opening in the coming fight over raising the debt ceiling to get closer to a balanced budget; albeit by amending a statute, not the Constitution.

On its face, the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 sets out a clear deadline for passing a budget by April 15 every year.  The problem, however, is that there is no enforcement mechanism to punish Congress if it fails to do so.  With Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Democrats failing to pass a budget for the last 1,351 days as of today, the budget law’s impotency is on full display.

York reports:

“The law doesn’t have teeth,” says a Senate aide involved in the fight.  “Sen. Sessions and others have proposed process reforms to give the budget law teeth (one reform would make it harder to pass spending bills without a budget), but the debt ceiling is the strongest leverage we have on this. This is the opportunity.”

In other words, it is precisely because the budget law has no enforcement provision that Republicans believe they need some other form of leverage, in this case the debt ceiling deadline, to force Reid and his fellow Democrats to move.  In addition, whatever happens in the debt ceiling standoff, it seems clear that the original budget law should be amended to include some sort of enforcement method.

This strategy strikes me as a great way to get real value in return for raising the nation’s debt ceiling.  Imagine how much different Obama’s first term would have been if instead of ignoring the House Republicans’ Paul Ryan-inspired budgets, the President and Senate Democrats had to negotiate its terms up against a hard deadline.  Liberals would have been forced to debate conservatives on specifics instead of substituting scare tactics for policy.

So far, Republicans have said they want entitlement reform in exchange for upping the ceiling, and for good reason since spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid alone account for about 44 percent of the federal budget (other entitlements push the total to 62 percent).  Moreover, since entitlement spending is not discretionary, meaning it isn’t determined in the normal appropriations process but by eligibility formulas, reining in federal spending will require statutory changes that can only be gotten when the stakes are very high.

But if York is right, then Republican strategists would be wise to include changes to the Congressional Budget Act along with spending reforms to entitlements.  Winning both would improve the nation’s long-term fiscal outlook by helping conservatives change the way Washington does business.

November 19th, 2012 at 4:28 pm
Geithner’s Solution to Debt Crisis: Eliminate Debt Ceiling
Posted by Troy Senik Print

There is a certain logic to this. Why have laws, after all, that exist purely for the purpose of being broken? That being said, it’s telling that the Treasury Secretary (he of “We don’t have a plan, but we don’t like yours.”) seems more interested in eroding even the weakest checks on the national debt than in doing something to arrest — or, heaven forfend, even reverse — it’s growth.

October 10th, 2011 at 10:15 pm
No Matter the Outcome, Congressional Supercommittee Set to Do Damage
Posted by Troy Senik Print

I’ve written at length here at CFIF about the doomsday scenario that will ensue should the congressional supercommittee fail to pass at least $1.2 trillion in debt reduction by its November 23 deadline. Because of an outrageous provision in last summer’s debt ceiling agreement, a fail to act would produce defense cuts that could end up cutting as much as $1 trillion from American’s national security budget.

While the supercommittee’s broad goal of debt reduction is laudable, congressional Democrats are digging in their heels and asserting that the real problem is that Americans are being taxed too lightly, not that Washington is spending too much. From the Associated Press:

The supercommittee is struggling. After weeks of secret meetings, the 12-member deficit-cutting panel established under last summer’s budget and debt deal appears no closer to a breakthrough than when talks began last month…

Democrats won’t go for an agreement that doesn’t include new tax revenue; Republicans are just as ardently antitax. The impasse over revenues means that Democrats won’t agree to cuts to popular entitlement programs like Medicare…

 “There’s been no movement on (new) revenues, and I’m not sure the Democrats will agree to anything without revenues,” said a Democratic lobbyist who required anonymity to speak candidly.

Let’s be clear here: either scenario — either massive cuts to the Pentagon’s budget or higher taxes — would imperil America’s ability to maintain its global leadership position. The former would gut our defense resources now, while the latter would hollow out our ability to generate the economic growth that will be necessary to fund our military in the future.

Unfortunately, the only sensible option available is to punt. The supercommittee deserves to go bust if it can’t find $1.2 trillion in unnecessary federal spending. When it fails to do so, Congress should pass a separate piece of legislation overriding the “triggers” that will wreak havoc with defense spending.

The debt crisis simply won’t be solved while Harry Reid and John Boehner are squaring off on Capitol Hill and Barack Obama is in the White House. Better instead to wait for Republicans to gain control of the Senate — and hopefully the presidency — in the 2012 elections. At that point, the debt can be meaningfully reduced through sharp spending reductions, entitlement reform, and a root-and-branch reform of the tax system that can increase revenue while spurring economic growth.  In the meantime, America’s military can be kept intact.

 

August 9th, 2011 at 11:52 am
Debt Ceiling Deal Sets Limits, Not Mandates

There will be much more to say on this in weeks to come, but here’s an absolutely essential thought for conservatives in Congress: The discretionary spending numbers mentioned in the debt-ceiling deal are upper limits. They do not require so much money to be spent; they only ensure that no more than those limits can be spent. My understanding is that the House has six Appropriations bills outstanding. On all six bills, it should approve significantly less than the limits allow. If conservatives choose their cuts carefully, the left will be forced to explain why, in a time of a ratings downgrade, they want to spend more money on bridges to nowhere, museums for silly things, programs that don’t work, and bureaucrats who won’t work. Get the bills done quickly; avoid a massive “omnibus bill” where so many items get wrapped in all at once that the details of lefty largess get lost. But keep on cutting and saving, saving and cutting. Keep the pressure on, for limited government and for freedom.

August 2nd, 2011 at 9:58 pm
Why the Debt Ceiling is More Like a Debt Floor
Posted by Troy Senik Print

With the debt ceiling debate now officially behind us, most Americans will be tempted to simply exhale and move on from the psychological exhaustion of the past few weeks. Like many other conservative pundits (including our own Quin Hillyer), I have misgivings about the final agreement but generally agree that it was the best deal possible given the constraints (including Republican control of only one house of Congress).

Still, that doesn’t mean we should avoid learning the lessons of the recent dust-up, one of which is artfully put by the Atlantic’s Gregg Easterbrook (not exactly a doctrinaire conservative) writing today for Reuters:

The deal raises the federal borrowing ceiling by $2.4 trillion. This means Congress will immediately spend another $2.4 trillion. That basic point is being overlooked.

You’ve got a debt ceiling on your credit card. The ceiling is there for emergencies, and all responsible borrowers work to stay below their credit ceilings. Experience with the national debt ceiling, by contrast, shows that every dollar of available debt is always spent. Announced in doublespeak as a “savings” plan, this deal guarantees the national debt will rise another $2.4 trillion. The moment the deal becomes law, members of Congress from both parties will see an added $2.4 trillion in the cookie jar and begin raiding.

Easterbrook is right. One of the main points of contention in the recent debate was whether the President would have to come back to Congress for another debt ceiling increase within the next year or whether it would be extended into 2013 (the latter won out). But that fight misses the point. We won’t be seeing real reform until new increases in the debt ceiling become unnecessary. Until then, we’re stuck arguing over what speed to drive on the road to perdition.

August 1st, 2011 at 9:33 pm
Biden Downgrades the Vice Presidency
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Oh, for the halcyon days when the vice presidency was a sinecure, in the (paraphrased) words of John Nance Garner, “not worth a bucket of warm (spit).” The current presidency and the two preceding it, however, have seen our nation’s deputy-executive take on growing prominence and prestige. Which was all well and good until Joe Biden arrived on the scene. Here’s how Politico reports Biden’s take on the conservative negotiating stance during the debt ceiling debate:

Vice President Joe Biden joined House Democrats in lashing tea party Republicans Monday, accusing them of having “acted like terrorists” in the fight over raising the nation’s debt limit, according to several sources in the room.

There are two lessons here. The first is that “terrorist” is the new “nazi”; an epithet that the boorish and unimaginative throw around with no regard to the gravity of genuine evil and suffering. The second is that Biden is an extraordinarily imprudent man. While comments like his don’t deserve an airing anywhere, an experienced politician like the VP should know that they’re especially dangerous in a room full of potential leakers — especially when the consequence of a leak could be to dismantle the legislative coalition needed to pass an essential piece of legislation.

With news that the House has passed the compromise debt agreement, Biden has dodged the bullet of having his words derail a grand bargain. But he’s far from being out the woods. Now that he’s alienated the lion’s share of the Republican Caucus, don’t expect to see the VP chairing any more bipartisan task forces on Capitol Hill in the future. The vice presidency may now return to its historical role — attending state funerals and welcoming Girl Scout troops to the Rose Garden. Who said nothing good would come out of the debt ceiling debate?

August 1st, 2011 at 1:50 pm
Grudging Acceptance, Perhaps, of a Smelly Deal

Here was my take on things, this morning, at The American Spectator.

Short version: I think the debt deal DOES, in effect, protect pretty well against tax hikes, but it does not protect enough against defense cuts of an unwisely large size.  But the ultimate fate of defense, and indeed of all of this, will depend on the 2012 elections — and in the meantime, the change in direction of government spending will probably be noticeably helpful. Conservatives have every right to grumble about this result. But wise conservatives will certainly not reject it out of hand. In short, it’s a close call that probably will attract slightly more conservative votes than it will repel.

July 28th, 2011 at 10:39 pm
Thomas Sowell and Charles Krauthammer Agree … Pass the Boehner Plan
Posted by Troy Senik Print

At this hour — as recalcitrant Tea Partiers look bent on defeating the Boehner Plan in the House — two of the great minds of modern conservatism are issuing a sagacious clarion call: don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.

In his syndicated column today, Thomas Sowell writes:

Now that the Republicans seem to have gotten the Democrats off their higher taxes kick, the question is whether a minority of the House Republicans will refuse to pass the Boehner legislation that could lead to a deal that will spare the country a major economic disruption and spare the Republicans from losing the 2012 elections by being blamed — rightly or wrongly — for the disruptions.

Is the Boehner legislation the best legislation possible? Of course not! You don’t get your heart’s desire when you control only one house of Congress and face a presidential veto.

The most basic fact of life is that we can make our choices only among the alternatives actually available. It is not idealism to ignore the limits of one’s power. Nor is it selling out one’s principles to recognize those limits at a given time and place, and get the best deal possible under those conditions.

That still leaves the option of working toward getting a better deal later, when the odds are more in your favor.

Meanwhile, in his syndicated piece, Charles Krauthammer opines:

The sausage-making may be unsightly, but the problem is not that Washington is broken, that ridiculous, ubiquitous cliché. The problem is that these two visions are in competition, and the definitive popular verdict has not yet been rendered.

We’re only at the midpoint. Obama won a great victory in 2008 that he took as a mandate to transform America toward European-style social democracy. The subsequent counterrevolution delivered to that project a staggering rebuke in November 2010. Under our incremental system, however, a rebuke delivered is not a mandate conferred. That awaits definitive resolution, the rubber match of November 2012.

I have every sympathy with the conservative counterrevolutionaries. Their containment of the Obama experiment has been remarkable. But reversal — rollback, in Cold War parlance — is simply not achievable until conservatives receive a mandate to govern from the White House.

Lincoln is reputed to have said: I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky. I don’t know whether conservatives have God on their side (I keep getting sent to His voicemail), but I do know that they don’t have Kentucky — they don’t have the Senate, they don’t have the White House. And under our constitutional system, you cannot govern from one house alone. Today’s resurgent conservatism, with its fidelity to constitutionalism, should be particularly attuned to this constraint, imposed as it is by a system of deliberately separated — and mutually limiting — powers.

At this moment of maximum import, these are words to live by. Sober, principled and deliberative. House Republicans should aspire to be the same.

July 28th, 2011 at 10:45 am
The Scorecard of Conservatives for the Boehner Plan

At the American Spectator, I’ve been keeping tabs.

July 27th, 2011 at 10:34 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Debt Ceiling Standoff
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

July 25th, 2011 at 4:38 pm
Ramirez Cartoon: On the Debt Ceiling
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

July 25th, 2011 at 11:35 am
Congressional Democrats Tacitly Admitting Obama is Inept
Posted by Troy Senik Print

For the past two and a half years, it’s been the exclusive provenance of the right to point out that President Obama often seems overmatched by his job. But after this weekend’s latest round of debt ceiling negotiations — where a newly irascible President Obama was nowhere to be seen amidst the congressional horse-trading — it’s becoming clear that Democrats on the hill are starting to think the same thing. The ugly details are fleshed out by Craig Crawford, writing in the Huffington Post:

While the GOP obviously would savor a solution to the debt-ceiling crisis that gives Obama no credit, why are Democratic leaders so willing to cut him out?

The answer might be found in growing concerns among veteran Capitol Hill Democrats that their president is a lousy negotiator.

Although they see him as a talented public communicator, his short time as a senator and painfully slow learning curve as president leads congressional Democrats to think it best to take over and provide cover for him once the deal is done.

“A talented public communicator” who can’t negotiate? The Democrats are essentially saying that the president is really good at talking about his job, just weak when it comes to actually doing it. This, my friends, is what the wag who coined the phrase “damning with faint praise” had in mind.

July 22nd, 2011 at 10:27 am
Podcast: Adam Hasner Discusses Federal Debt Limit, Energy Policy and More
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Adam Hasner, Former Majority Leader of the Florida House of Representatives and candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2012, discusses the current debt ceiling debate and the need for America to change its policies regarding off-shore drilling, among other issues.

Listen to the interview here.

July 22nd, 2011 at 9:14 am
Video – Obama by the Numbers: The President’s Debt Ceiling Lie
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino debunks President Obama’s claim that 80 percent of the American people agree with his plan to raise taxes as part of a debt ceiling deal.

 

July 19th, 2011 at 1:19 am
How to Destroy the Most Powerful Economy in the World — in Three Paragraphs
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Michael Barone is one of those rare Washington pundits who thinks facts are more important than feelings. That means that when he makes sweeping claims, he’ll always have the data to back them up. And he’ll do so in the dispassionate fashion of a doctor reading an X-ray. That’s part of what makes his new column on the debt ceiling so chilling. In it, he writes:

The bedrock issue is whether we should have a larger and more expensive federal government. Over many years, federal spending has averaged about 20 percent of gross domestic product.

The Obama Democrats have raised that to 24 or 25 percent. And the president’s budget projects that that percentage will stay the same or increase far into the future.

In the process, the national debt as a percentage of gross domestic product has increased from a manageable 40 percent in 2008 to 62 percent this year and an estimated 72 percent in 2012. And it’s headed to the 90 percent level that economists Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart have identified as the danger point, when governments face fiscal collapse.

Barone’s words are a bracing reminder of the stakes in this fight. Virtually all Democrats — and even many Republicans — would have us believe that this is a moment defined by pure political philosophy; that it’s simply a question of whether you balance the books through tax increases, spending cuts, or some combination thereof. But it’s more than just principles that hang in the balance. It’s the fate of a nation.

July 14th, 2011 at 10:23 pm
Boehner Already Softening on Debt Ceiling Sell-Out
Posted by Troy Senik Print

In a commentary published earlier this week, I chastised Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for his “escape hatch” debt ceiling plan, which would allow President Obama to unilaterally raise the nation’s credit limit while giving Republicans the political cover of being allowed to vote against him. It would be a perfectly reasonable strategy if the imperative issue of the moment was GOP political tactics. It’s not, however. Rather, the issue of paramount significance is the nation’s economic future. By that measure, the McConnell plan — which allows more of the same limitless spending — is an utter failure.

In that same column, I praised Speaker of the House John Boehner’s resoluteness, as indicated by his holding the line against the president’s proposed tax increases. Yet only a few days later, the speaker already seems to be going wobbly. According to Politico:

Speaker John Boehner on Thursday left the door open to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s last-ditch plan to raise the debt limit.

“I think it’s worth keeping on the table,” Boehner said.

McConnell’s plan would give President Barack Obama the power to raise the debt ceiling three times through 2012, unless Congress stops it with a two-thirds majority vote. Under that plan, Republicans could vote against raising the debt ceiling without risking default.

Shame on Boehner. Republicans have every right to look out for their political needs, but they must also work tirelessly to protect what’s left of the American economy. Obama’s “grand bargain” (flush with tax increases) meets neither standard. McConnell’s punt only satisfies the first.

Instead, Republicans should pass a debt ceiling increase relying solely on spending cuts. It would serve our economic needs by cutting the size of government and staving off fears of a default. And it would serve the GOP’s political needs by ensuring that a crisis could only come courtesy of Obama’s veto pen.

July 14th, 2011 at 9:28 am
Ramirez Cartoon: The Gov’t Credit Card Has Been Declined…
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.