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By Brendan Loy

Mitch Daniels, back when he was George W. Bush’s budget director, on Meet the Press, about the debt limit:

We’re going to raise it, as a reasonable government must. This is really housekeeping, Tim. This has nothing to say or do with future spending. This simply reflects decisions made in the past, and it ought to be treated as the housekeeping matter it is.

“The housekeeping matter it is.” True then (and shame on Senator Obama and other Dems for behaving otherwise), true now. Yes, the numbers are much bigger now, for a variety of reasons, some of them President Obama’s fault, many of them not. But regardless of that, the core fact that Daniels articulated remains the same: “This has nothing to say or do with future spending. This simply reflects decisions made in the past.” The debt ceiling is not a policy decision; it’s a math problem. The relevant policy decisions are made in the budget. That’s the time to take a stand. Not now. This whole charade is completely bats**t insane, totally wolf-face crazy, utterly indefensible on its face.

I know I’m repeating myself. But this whole negotiation process is a total farce, and a dangerous one at that. Few in the media seem capable of recognizing or articulating this point, but it cannot be made enough. I blame Obama for buying into the GOP’s transparently fraudulent framing of the issue (and, separately, for not seriously addressing the debt sooner, though that’s really a separate question); I blame the GOP for said fraudulent framing, for its utter demagoguery, its willingness to hold the economy hostage, its complete disregard for the good of the country and the global economy; I blame the media for its total and inexcusable failure to do its job and inform the public of the basic facts at issue: what the debt ceiling is, what the actual consequences of not raising it would be, which “opinions” are factually supportable, and which are not (included in the latter category, of course, would be the mathematically and factually illiterate stance of leading GOP presidential contender Michele Bachmann, who, in a sane and functional republic, would be hounded and/or laughed out of public life for her facially indefensible stance that the debt limit should not be raised no matter what); and I blame the voters, We the People, for allowing this transparently bogus bulls**t to continue, indeed encouraging it, nay demanding it, of our so-called “leaders.”

More here (PDF) on the actual consequences of not raising the debt ceiling (which must be judged with an eye on daily cashflow, not just monthly or yearly aggregate revenues and expenditures), and why a literal debt default, while unlikely, is not impossible and cannot with 100% reliability be prevented by Treasury (hint: it’s the markets, stupid). Also this, from center-right economics writer Megan McArdle:

[Hardline conservatives often] retort that there’s plenty of money for debt service, military payrolls, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and that therefore, people like me are just scaremongering about the consequences of refusal to raise the ceiling. … I don’t think people are really thinking this through. They’ve got this big “spending” basket in their head, but they’re not focusing on the line items.

Let’s say that we refuse to raise the ceiling. Does…prioritization…mean that we don’t need to cut politically untouchable programs?

No. Let’s think through what would happen if we tried to use this plan:

* You just cut the IRS and all the accountants at Treasury, which means that the actual revenue you have to spend is $0.
* The nation’s nuclear arsenal is no longer being watched or maintained
* The doors of federal prisons have been thrown open, because none of the guards will work without being paid, and the vendors will not deliver food, medical supplies, electricity,etc.
* The border control stations are entirely unmanned, so anyone who can buy a plane ticket, or stroll across the Mexican border, is entering the country. All the illegal immigrants currently in detention are released, since we don’t have the money to put them on a plane, and we cannot actually simply leave them in a cell without electricity, sanitation, or food to see what happens.
* All of our troops stationed abroad quickly run out of electricity or fuel. Many of them are sitting in a desert with billions worth of equipment, and no way to get themselves or their equipment back to the US.
* Our embassies are no longer operating, which will make things difficult for foreign travellers
* No federal emergency assistance, or help fighting things like wildfires or floods. Sorry, tornado people! Sorry, wildfire victims! Try to live in the northeast next time!
* Housing projects shut down, and Section 8 vouchers are not paid. Families hit the streets.
* The money your local school district was expecting at the October 1 commencement of the 2012 fiscal year does not materialize, making it unclear who’s going to be teaching your kids without a special property tax assessment.
* The market for guaranteed student loans plunges into chaos. Hope your kid wasn’t going to college this year!
* The mortgage market evaporates. Hope you didn’t need to buy or sell a house!
* The FDIC and the PBGC suddenly don’t have a government backstop for their funds, which has all sorts of interesting implications for your bank account.
* The TSA shuts down. Yay! But don’t worry about terrorist attacks, you TSA-lovers, because air traffic control shut down too. Hope you don’t have a vacation planned in August, much less any work travel.
* Unemployment money is no longer going to the states, which means that pretty soon, it won’t be going to the unemployed people.

These are just the very immediate, very theatrical outcomes. Obviously, over any longer term, you’d have issues from bankrupt vendors stopping work funded with federal highway money, forgone maintenance on things like levees and government buildings, and so forth. Averting any of these things would require at least small cuts in Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid spending, or military payrolls.

McArdle then proceeds to offers this bit of political advice to conservative purists:

Now, maybe you look forward to these outcomes. There are certainly some on this list that I would be okay with. But because I am not delusional, and I did not fall off of a turnip truck last night, I recognize that the American public does not agree with me, and that if any of these things happen, they will freak out and besiege their local representatives. …

[If GOP hardliners] hold out, the only thing that would happen is that they would be unelected in 2012. The tea party is not a majority. If you piss off every single other constituency in the United States, they will gang up against you, and they will win. Welcome to representative democracy. …

Over and over I am beseiged with people saying, “So, what, are we just supposed to give in”, as if convincing me of the moral righteousness of their plan will somehow produce a political coalition that can deliver what they want. But the universe is not here to please us. Being right in some metaphysical moral sense will not make the government any smaller unless you can also deliver the votes.

Comments on "Debt ceiling a “housekeeping matter”"

44 Responses to “Debt ceiling a “housekeeping matter””

  1. gahrie Says:

    1) The Republicans brought a clean debt ceiling bill to the floor this Spring…no new taxes, no spending cuts…just raise the debt ceiling. Not a single Democrat voted for it. What do you think would happen if they did it again?

    2) Every time the Republicans have dealt with the Democrats in the past: raise taxes now and we’ll cut future spending; raise the debt now and we’ll cut future spending; amnesty now and border enforcement in the future…guess what? The Democrats get what they want and the Republicans get screwed.

    3) If not now when? If we can’t get Democrats to agree to spending cuts when we are literally about to go broke when will they?

    4) What is the purpose of having a debt ceiling if we are simply going to raise it every time we hit it, with no changes in our behavior. Why not raise the debt ceiling by $10 trillion? Seriously…why not?

    5) Does anybody believe that we won’t be back within 2 or 3 years raising the debt ceiling again?

  2. gahrie Says:

    Let’s say for the sake of argument that Pelosi, Reid and Obama were determined to destroy the American economy. (I am not saying they are in reality)

    What would they have done differently in the last five years?

  3. Brendan Loy Says:

    1) It isn’t true that “not a single Democrat voted for it,” but most didn’t. (It is true, I believe, that not a single Republican voted for it.) The reason the Democrats voted for it is that it was pure political theater, and the Dems didn’t want to hand the GOP a political victory over an entirely meaningless, designed-to-fail vote.

    Having said all that, they should have voted “yes,” in my opinion. But that doesn’t in any way excuse the Republicans’ behavior (or their unanimous “no” votes on the bill you’re referencing).

    2) This is a subjective reading of history without much substance to respond to. Suffice it to say that liberals feel they constantly get the short end of the stick when negotiating with conservatives, at least recently. I suspect this is common among ideologues and partisans on both sides, given that compromise necessarily means giving things up. Regardless, I’m not going to change your mind on this, so whatever. It doesn’t change any of the facts I’ve laid out.

    3) The Democrats have offered trillions of dollars in spending cuts. They have offered a package that is something like 80% spending cuts and 20% new revenues. Interestingly, this is quite similar to the ratios in the “austerity measures” passed by Britain’s conservatives. Sensible conservative commentators in this country, who you undoubtedly dismiss as RINOs, have said that any sane conservative party would welcome such a package. The Republicans have rejected it because of their innate radicalism: they believe there must be no new revenues, even though taxes are — this is a fact, not an opinion — at historic lows. Regardless, the statement that Democats won’t “agree to spending cuts” is a lie. Please acknowledge that fact.

    4) The purpose of having a debt ceiling is because, historically, Congress had to authorize every single issuance of debt by Treasury (a pro forma thing), but this got too cumbersome during World War I, so the debt ceiling was created as a substitute. That said, in my view, it serves no purpose in the modern world. We are the only major industrialized nation to have such a thing. The need to raise the debt ceiling is entirely dependent upon the budget passed by Congress. There doesn’t need to be a debt ceiling (or specific legislative authorization for every issuance of debt), because CONGRESS ALREADY CONTROLS THE PURSE. If Congress doesn’t want Treasury to spend money, then CONGRESS SHOULD NOT PASS LAWS TELLING TREASURY TO SPEND MONEY. For Congress to pass such laws, and then fail to pass laws creating sufficient revenue to cover the spending it has required, and then say, “But don’t borrow any more money,” is complete and utter lunacy, unsupportable by anyone capable of elementary arithmetic. The debt ceiling should be abolished.

    5) Of course not. Indeed, EVEN IF THE REPUBLICANS’ OWN PROPOSED BUDGET BECAME LAW TOMORROW, WE WOULD HAVE TO RAISE THE DEBT CEILING AGAIN, REPEATEDLY. There is no budget plan on the table that would obviate the need to raise the debt ceiling repeatedly over the next decade. None. Nor is their any conceivable plan, in the real world, that could be offered that would do this. With the Baby Boomers retiring, it’s simply impossible. We need to get our debt under control over the long run, but over the short run, it HAS TO increase quite a bit — that die is already cast, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Please read McArdle’s post, the whole thing, for more on this point. And please stop swimming upstream against a tide of undeniable facts. I don’t care what your opinions are, but you aren’t entitled to your own facts.

  4. Brendan Loy Says:

    P.S. Please re-read the following two sentences as many times as necessary until you completely understand them:

    If Congress doesn’t want Treasury to spend money, then CONGRESS SHOULD NOT PASS LAWS TELLING TREASURY TO SPEND MONEY. For Congress to pass such laws, and then fail to pass laws creating sufficient revenue to cover the spending it has required, and then say, “But don’t borrow any more money,” is complete and utter lunacy, unsupportable by anyone capable of elementary arithmetic.

    Until you, and all other Bachmannite conservative hardliners who ridiculously advocate not raising the debt ceiling, grasp those two sentences, we cannot have a meaningful conversation about this issue, because you are living in an alternate universe.

  5. gahrie Says:

    Brendan…I didn’t want Congress to pass Obama care and the rest of the trillion dollar rise in the deficit. If Congress had maintained the level of spending we had in 2008 when the democrats took control of Congress, we would not be here today.

  6. AMLTrojan Says:

    I’ll give Brendan credit for being sufficiently less hysterical that this post is actually worth responding to. I figured newborn-induced sleep deprivation would make him a bit more batty, but perhaps Brendan’s got this down to a fine science with #3.

    I read McArdle, and her post is fairly compelling from the perspective of reliable political analysis. No doubt not raising the debt ceiling will cause serious pain. However, I think it could be credibly done (I’ve run numerous scenarios here that I project would dish out an acceptable level of pain and risk). Still, the chief error here by various Republicans is, you don’t take a hostage you’re not willing to eventually shoot, and that’s precisely where we find ourselves: holding a hostage we’re too afraid to shoot. Obama has effectively called the GOP’s bluff on this one, and now my perception is that the real choice is between a last-minute debt deal that doesn’t even pretend to achieve the Bowles-Simpson plan and indeed makes eventually balancing the budget far more difficult, and McConnell’s last-resort option of punting to the president.

    At this point, I will only be happy if we shoot the hostage, and yes McArdle, it’s worth losing 2012. If the resultant semi-default exercise turns America against the GOP, fine. If / when that happens, we might as well then turn the country back over to the Dems and let them finish the job of turning America into another democratic-socialist European welfare state with the corresponding zombie economy that inevitably goes along with it. Americans deserve the leaders they elect, and they’ll suffer the consequences as a result.

  7. Brendan Loy Says:

    First, gahrie, I note you haven’t corrected the lie I pointed out in paragraph 3 above. Please do so.

    Secondly…

    I didn’t want Congress to pass Obama care and the rest of the trillion dollar rise in the deficit.

    And I didn’t want Congress to pass the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which may or may not have helped the economy, but certainly did balloon the deficit (notwithstanding any abject lies to the contrary from the Church of Norquist). But Congress did. Whatever you or I might have “wanted,” Congress passed those laws, increasing the deficit, and now the bill is coming due. And it must be paid. The law requires that it be paid.

    If we want to undo the effects of those laws, we must repeal the laws. It is not remotely legitimate to leave the laws on the books, but say, “We’re just not going to allow Treasury to meet its pre-existing legal obligations. because we don’t like the laws we’ve obligated it to follow.” If you want to repeal ObamaCare, you need to elect a government that will repeal ObamaCare. If I want to repeal the Bush tax cuts, I need to elect a government that will repeal the Bush tax cuts. That is the essence of representative democracy. You can’t “repeal” existing laws by sticking your fingers in your ears, saying “NANANANANANANANANA,” ignoring the facts and refusing to do the math.

    For instance, I would never suggest that we should “repeal” part of the Bush tax cuts by refusing to allow the borrowing necessary to have the cash on hand to issue tax refunds mandated by the cuts. I would never argue that this course of action is legitimate because “I didn’t want” that particular deficit-increasing law to go on the books. That would be absurd. My side lost that fight, just as your side lost the ObamaCare fight. If you want to change the law, you have to change the law. You can’t short-circuit the process by refusing to pay the bills required by law. In your heart, gahrie, you know this. You’re a principled conservative. No principled conservative can believe it’s okay to simply ignore the law. Yet that’s what you are literally advocating. Please ponder this, deeply.

    If Congress had maintained the level of spending we had in 2008 when the democrats took control of Congress, we would not be here today.

    First of all, I presume you mean 2007, since that’s when the Dems took control. Second, this statement is absurd on its face, another example of you inventing your own facts and living in an alternate universe. In case you didn’t notice, we had a massive recession in 2008 and 2009, the effects of which are ongoing. Without getting into the blame game about who’s responsible for it, the recession is clearly a fact on the ground — whoever/whatever caused it, it happened. And recessions have all sorts of negative effects on budgets. They decrease tax revenue, for one thing. At the same time, they automatically — and by “automatically,” I simply mean “without any affirmative policy changes or amendments to the law” — increase social safety net spending. So a massive recession is always going to increase the deficit, regardless of who’s in power. At the same time, a whole lot of Baby Boomers have retired since 2007, increasing the strain on Medicare and Social Security. Those three forces — the Great Recession’s revenue decreases, the Great Recession’s automatic social safety net spending increases, and the aging of the Baby Boomers — have combined to exert massive upward pressure on the deficit. Thus, in order to “maintain” the status quo as of 2007, it would have been necessary to make massive cuts to spending, not just leave spending at 2007 levels. I’m not saying Democrats’ policy choices haven’t contributed to increasing the deficit — clearly they have, and we can debate the merits of those policy choices, or we can just watch the Keynes vs. Hayek rap video and call it a day — but they aren’t the sole contributor to the deficit’s rise; not even close. So it’s nonsense to claim that it would have been trivial to simply “maintain” the budgetary status quo as of 2007. It would have required massive cuts (or tax hikes) to do that. Please acknowledge this fact — it’s a fact, not an opinion — so we can proceed on a common basis of understanding of the universe and the nature of arithmetic.

  8. Brendan Loy Says:

    AML, I never took you for such a nihilist. You sound like a bitter, defeated dead-ender: “Americans deserve the leaders they elect, and they’ll suffer the consequences as a result.” But your team still has a fighting chance! Why not do the responsible thing, don’t plunge the nation into “semi-default,” and then try to — oh, I don’t know — win the 2012 elections? Are you so hopeless about the chances of a Romney or Perry or Pawlenty against Obama, and about the GOP’s chances to hold the House and retake the Senate on a favorable, 2006-based playing field, that you don’t think it’s a better bet to save your fire for when your side actually controls the government and can enact the changes you feel are necessary to prevent America from “turning…into another democratic-socialist European welfare state with the corresponding zombie economy that inevitably goes along with it”? Disastrous policy implications of “semi-default” aside, I fail to see the political logic of the kamikaze strategy you’re advocating.

  9. gahrie Says:

    The Democrats haven’t offered any spending cuts.

    The best the Democrats have offered (with no specifics ) is to lower the rate of rise in spending in the future.

    Will it really cripple us if we simply cut today’s levels of spending to what they were two years ago? That would save us over a trillion dollars of new debt each year IMMEDIATELY.

  10. Brendan Loy Says:

    Gahrie, please re-read the last paragraph of my comment #7. It is maddening when you say things that I’ve already addressed, without even commenting upon the points I’ve made in rebuttal. Perhaps there’s a compelling response to what I’ve said; if so, by all means, respond! But if you just ignore me, and repeat the same talking points without addressing the already-articulated counterarguments, then we aren’t really having a conversation.

    As for spending cuts vs. lowering the rate of rise, see McArdle:

    One of the areas where the hard-liners and I depart is that they do not consider cuts from the future baseline to be “real” spending cuts; they want absolute cuts, or at the very least, per-capita cuts. I do not think that this is realistic–and not because I think that it would be somehow impossible to have a smaller government. We could certainly do less, and I agree that we should. But we cannot do it instantly. It is not politically possible, and it is not even fiscally possible. It would, for example, be eminently possible to have a private air-traffic control system. But we cannot privatize the system by August 3rd. Similarly, I think we could use a Singapore or Chilean style private accounts system to save for retirement, but we cannot arrange for today’s Baby Boomers to have started saving in 1972–at least not without some fairly massive government spending on time-travel research.

    Over the next ten years, the Baby Boomers are putting huge upward pressure on budgets. Just holding the line–or even giving a minimum of ground–on spending is a huge victory for the GOP. It would be nice if we hadn’t made these promises but we have, and it is too late to simply renege on them.

  11. gahrie Says:

    I would reply to McArdle and you that we can start by eliminating programs and agencies.

    NEA
    Dept of Energy
    Dept of Education
    Dept of Labor
    Dept of Veteran’s Affairs
    Homeland Security (all the stuff we really need can go back to where they were before the agency was created)

    That would be a start, and show that someone was serious about shrinking government and cutting spending.

  12. Brendan Loy Says:

    And you would propose that we start….next week? Instantly eliminating these agencies, with no transition planning? Or do you mean eliminating them long-term, in which case the debt ceiling still needs to rise (well, it needs to rise regardless, but all the moreso if you don’t mean abolishing those agencies next week).

    Also, when the Department of Education goes away, presumably the grants to states for educational funding go too, right? Are you ready for the massive property tax hikes that will follow? You’ll be okay with those? Or do you propose draconian cuts to public education (which has already been savaged in a lot of state budgets over the last couple of years)?

    Also, since I’m fairly certain the combined budgets for the agencies you’ve mentioned doesn’t even begin to approach the increases in the rate of entitlement spending we’ll see in the next decade, so I’m not sure this is really a meaningful reply to McArdle’s point that “just holding the line–or even giving a minimum of ground–on spending [over the next decade] is a huge victory for the GOP.” Eliminating some of these agencies might be necessary just to get to that point, rather than representing additional cuts that would get us to the promised land of “absolute” spending cuts during the next decade.

  13. Brendan Loy Says:

    P.S. Have you considered the undoubtedly large short- and medium-term administrative costs of moving “all the stuff we really need” from Homeland Security “back to where they were before the agency was created”? Maybe the proposed return of tasks to various disparate agencies would save money over the long run — maybe — but I’d be shocked if it was a cost-saver in the short run. Massively reorganizing a behemoth bureaucracy (particularly one that, however much it’s rightfully derided, does perform some essential tasks) is neither easy nor cheap nor quick. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security had major transitional costs, and so would its dismantling. And yet much of the cost of running its subdepartments would remain, since “all the stuff we really need” isn’t actually going to go away, it’s just going to move around within the government.

  14. Brendan Loy Says:

    P.P.S. Re: eliminating the Department of Veteran’s Affairs… I presume you don’t propose eliminating all benefits to Our Brave Men And Women In Uniform after their tour of duty is up? Who then will administer these benefits? Some other agency? Okay, but again, you’re not cutting that much (just re-labeling), and the transitional costs probably swamp any short-term cost savings.

  15. gahrie Says:

    Also, when the Department of Education goes away, presumably the grants to states for educational funding go too, right? Are you ready for the massive property tax hikes that will follow?

    Nope. The elimination of all the extra paperwork, paper shuffling and administration needed to appease the federal government would more than make up the difference.

  16. gahrie Says:

    P.P.S. Re: eliminating the Department of Veteran’s Affairs… I presume you don’t propose eliminating all benefits to Our Brave Men And Women In Uniform after their tour of duty is up?

    That’s a cheap blow. My Dad is a veteran. There were Veteran’s benefits long before there was a cabinet agency. The cost savings come not from cutting benifits, but from eliminating costly bureaucracy.

    Who then will administer these benefits? Some other agency?

    Dept of Defense, or Dept.of Health and Human Services.

    Okay, but again, you’re not cutting that much (just re-labeling), and the transitional costs probably swamp any short-term cost savings.

    You make my point. I propose cuts, you belittle them and label them ineffective. There are no actual cuts in spending the Left will accept. Government can never get smaller. Programs can never be eliminated.

  17. Brendan Loy Says:

    No, I absolutely agree that cutting some agencies may well be called for, perhaps even some of the ones you’ve mentioned. I’m merely pointing out that, in the short and medium term (which is what we’re talking about, since you’re demanding immediate absolute cuts, not promised future cuts, and since you also are advocating for the reasonableness of immediately cutting the federal government by more than 40%, starting two weeks from today, when the debt ceiling is reached), any savings caused by reduced bureaucracy can’t be looked at in isolation, but must be offset against the short- and medium-term costs inherent in bureaucratic reorganization.

    Also, the notion that the elimination of “extra paperwork, paper shuffling and administration” in getting rid of the Department of Education would be “more than [enough]” to allow for the continuation of all federal education grants — which will apparently be administered in the future without any “paperwork” or “paper shuffling” or “administration” costs — strikes me as complete bollocks. This is the classic conservative fantasy, that we can massively cut government without any real-world effect on anyone except the allegedly useless middle management whose salaries and benefits and other overhead, in your fevered imagination, probably make up about 40% of the federal budget.

    I’m not sure why I bother. If you want to insist on living in a fantasy world, I suppose I can’t stop you.

  18. Brendan Loy Says:

    I propose cuts, you belittle them and label them ineffective.

    It’s not my fault that you’re proposing ineffective cuts that deserve to be belittled. You’re just attacking “waste, fraud and abuse” — the first and last target of every faux deficit hawk since the beginning of time. Propose real cuts, based on budgetary realities — not the fanciful notion that we can massively reduce government simply by laying off a bunch of bureaucrats and consolidating agencies, while maintaining all of the important functions that people want — and I’ll take them seriously. Propose bulls**t, like the idea that we can simply move the Department of Education’s functions to another agency and “more than” pay for all of its grants with the reduced bureaucracy costs, and I’ll call bulls**t.

  19. gahrie Says:

    It’s not my fault that you’re proposing ineffective cuts that deserve to be belittled. You’re just attacking “waste, fraud and abuse” — the first and last target of every faux deficit hawk since the beginning of time.

    Eliminating agencies, cabinet departments and government programs is not cutting waste. I was done with that game long ago. It is shrinking the size of government. If in the beginning it is only symbolic as you claim, well…symbols stand for something and you have to start somewhere.

    Propose bulls**t, like the idea that we can simply move the Department of Education’s functions to another agency and “more than” pay for all of its grants with the reduced bureaucracy costs, and I’ll call bulls**t.

    If that was what I said, you’d be right. However, I did not propose shifting the responsibilities of the Dept. of Education to another agency. I proposed eliminating the Dept. of Education. Our schools got along just fine (and some would say much better) before 1979.

  20. David K. Says:

    “If Congress had maintained the level of spending we had in 2008 when the democrats took control of Congress, we would not be here today.”

    And if Bush didn’t shitcan our economy and mire us needlessly in Iraq we wouldn’t be here today either, but we ARE here today so rather than spend all our time talking about the things we don’t like that the other side does, how about we address the impending financial crisis being caused by the obstinancy of the Tea Party wing of the GOP.

    BTW, when it comes to spending Republican administrations have been FAR worse then Democratic ones in the past few decades.

  21. gahrie Says:

    BTW, when it comes to spending Republican administrations have been FAR worse then Democratic ones in the past few decades.

    1) There is simply no one, NO ONE in history who has spent like the American government under President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Reid.

    2) To quote myself:

    When President Bush entered office, 1/20/01, the debt was at $5.7 trillion.

    When the Democrats took control of both houses of the Congress on January 3, 2007, the debt was at $8.6 trillion. So in six years, Pres. Bush and the Republican Congress increased the debt by three trillion dollars while dealing with the aftermath of 9/11 and fighting the war on terror. (increased the debt by $500 billion a year)

    When President Obama took office on January 20, 2009, the debt was at $10.6 trillion. So in two years President Bush and the Democratic Congress raised the debt another two trillion dollars. (raised the debt by a trillion a year)

    In January 2011, when the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives the debt was at $14 trillion. In two years, President Obama and the Democratic Congress raised the debt by three and a half trillion dollars. (raised the debt by $1.75 trillion a year)

    So President Bush (even with a Democratic Congress his last two years) left us a debt of $10.6 trillion, and a deficit of $1 trillion a year. The Bush administration added $5 trillion to the debt in eight years.

    After two years of President Obama we have a debt of $14 trillion dollars, and a deficit of $1.75 trillion a year. The Obama administration has added $3.5 trillion to the debt in two years.

    It is a simple fact that as more of the government was turned over to the Democrats, spending increased by huge amounts.

    Now that the Republicans have taken back one part of government (by promising to cut spending and shrink government) suddenly any talk of spending cuts is fanatical and draconian.

  22. Brendan Loy Says:

    suddenly any talk of spending cuts is fanatical and draconian

    Gahrie, don’t be a dishonest jerk. That’s a completely inaccurate summary of my position, and you know it. What’s fanatical and draconian is eliminating 40% of the federal government overnight a week from Tuesday. What’s fanatical and draconian is refusing to pay bills we’ve already obligated ourselves to pay. What’s fanatical and draconian is failing to take the “housekeeping” step that everyone from Mitch Daniels to Ronald Reagan himself recognized as essential to responsible governance. Those things are fanatical and draconian. But “any talk of spending cuts“? Who exactly is saying that is fanatical and draconian? Certainly not me. Certainly not the author of this post or this post, or this post, or this post, or this post. You know perfectly well that I don’t believe “any talking of spending cuts” is off limits. You are simply lying. Please stop lying.

    AMLTrojan, you may want to take a look at this post. Tell me again why this lunacy is now your preferred course of action?

  23. gahrie Says:

    1) I was referring to the world in general, not just Brendan with my fanatical and draconian.

    2)You seem to be under the impression that I believe the Republicans shouldn’t raise the debt ceiling. I’ve never said that. By the way, the republicans have now submitted three bills to raise the debt ceiling in the past six months. Where are the Democratic bills?

  24. Brendan Loy Says:

    I was referring to the world in general, not just Brendan with my fanatical and draconian.

    Not “just” Brendan, or not Brendan, period? I had used both the terms you reference, fanatical and draconian, and we were debating back and forth, so I assumed, reasonably I think, that you were addressing me. Do you concede that your statement (“suddenly any talk of spending cuts is fanatical and draconian”) is completely inapplicable to me?

    For that matter, is your statement applicable to anyone who has commented on this thread? In fact, is it applicable to anyone in this debate at all, considering the Democrats are reportedly offering (in negotiations) a package that is based primarily on spending cuts? In short, the hell are you talking about? NO ONE IS PROPOSING MAKING ZERO SPENDING CUTS.

    It would really help the quality of this dialog if we could talk about confine ourselves to statements that have some articulable basis in reality.

    You seem to be under the impression that I believe the Republicans shouldn’t raise the debt ceiling. I’ve never said that.

    I’m under the impression you believe not raising the debt ceiling is an acceptable option that should be on the table. Am I wrong? (A yes or no answer would be most helpful here.)

    the republicans have now submitted three bills to raise the debt ceiling in the past six months. Where are the Democratic bills?

    Instead of posturing and playing politics, as the Republicans have with their doomed-to-fail and/or designed-to-fail “bills,” the Democrats are trying to actually make policy, by crafting a compromise that can pass. They haven’t put forward a bill because it would have been completely pointless, if not counterproductive, to do so under the circumstances. With Dems controlling the Senate and the GOP controlling the House, only a bill acceptable to both parties has any chance of passing, and no such bill has yet been devised, because the parties have not yet reached a mutually acceptable compromise (because the Republicans have thus far insisted on an absolutist position of zero new revenues, which is obviously unacceptable to the Democrats, as it would represent not compromise but capitulation). Any bills offered unilaterally by the Dems, lacking Republican support, would have been pure political theater, completely useless in terms of solving the problem (just like the GOP bills you reference, one of which was unanimously opposed by the very Republicans who put it up for a vote). Surely you know this. Why are you taking stupid questions?

  25. Alasdair Says:

    WOW ! All these quiet nights … and then Brendan the Hysterical Projective resurfaces !

    gahrie – the Dem bills to raise the debt ceiling are in the same “lockbox” along with the Social Security fund and the Dem Senate budget bills for the past couple of years …

    Given Democrat historical behaviour, it is eminently reasonable for GOP folk to require that, *this* time, the spending cuts come first, and then, and *only* then, should any tax increases be considered …

  26. Alasdair Says:

    Brendan #24 – “Instead of posturing and playing politics, as the Republicans have with their doomed-to-fail and/or designed-to-fail “bills,” the Democrats are trying to actually make policy, by crafting a compromise that can pass. “ – ummmm – and what about the TWO YEAR PERIOD of the Democrat supermajorities in House and Senate ? Where are the responsible budget bills from that period ?

    I know, I know … that was then, this is now – quit bring up inconvenient facts !

  27. Brendan Loy Says:

    Alasdair, we aren’t talking about budget bills, we’re talking about bills to raise the debt ceiling. I agree that the Dems have screwed up on the budget. That’s not what we’re talking about. Try to stay on topic.

  28. Alasdair Says:

    Brendan – take a look here and then tell us all who is doing the posturing …

  29. Alasdair Says:

    B #27 – is the topic about how to responsibly deal with the budget and its results ? Or is it to whine on and on about how it is all the GOP’s fault ?

  30. Brendan Loy Says:

    Yes, the broad topic involves both the budget and the debt ceiling, although those are very distinct things. However, you were quoting a specific thing that I said, in which I referred to the Republicans’ “doomed-to-fail and/or designed-to-fail bills.” In direct response to that specific quote, you retorted by asking where were “the responsible budget bills” from 2009 and 2010, when the Dems were in power. Yet I wasn’t talking about “doomed-to-fail and/or designed-to-fail budget bills.” I was talking about “doomed-to-fail and/or designed-to-fail bills to raise the debt ceiling.” Why was I talking about that? Because gahrie had asked, “the republicans have now submitted three bills to raise the debt ceiling in the past six months. Where are the Democratic bills?” I was responding to what he said.

    In that specific context, your question is a non-sequitur.

  31. Brendan Loy Says:

    Anyway, I’m going to bow out of this discussion now. All it can possibly do is distract me from more important things, and frustrate me unnecessarily, as I bash my head repeatedly against the brick wall of the Gahrie-Alasdair Axis of Fantasy-World Politics. Enjoy your delusions, and I’ll continue to put my faith in facts. Good night and good luck.

  32. David K. Says:

    gahrie, I’m sure the debt and deficit had absolutely nothing to do with the major economic downturn our country faced after 8 years of Bush. And I’m sure it had nothing to do with finally including the cost of the wars in those numbers, costs that were conveniently accounted for off the books under Bush. Nope, none of that, its all been Obama and his reckless spending.

    Further, when was the last time a Republican administration reigned in spending? Not under Dubya, or his dad, or Reagan thats for damn sure.

    Of course, as Brendan pointed out no one is talking about NOT making cuts. But a cuts only plan is not only insufficient, its also likely to make things worse, not better economically. Instead, the better plan, the one that makes the most sense involves cuts AND taxes. The idea that our taxes are too high and lowering them even more will spur job growth has been proven to be a myth. After all with taxes at historic lows, um where are all the private sector jobs thats supposed to create? Wealth is being increasingly concentrated at the top. Trickle down economics is a fraud. Any effective solution needs to acknowledge that not touching (or lowering) taxes is just not going to work.

  33. James Young Says:

    Brendan–In re-reading the discussion, it would appear to me that you are “bowing out” because Gahrie-Alasdair’s facts are painful, not because they live in a fantasy land. While yes, your facts are painful also (see Bush tax cuts in the middle of starting two wars…WTF?!!), the fact is that Gahrie-Alasdair do support their arguments. It’s not like they’re going “Unicorns are real because I _say so_.”

    _Neither_ party has been saints on spending. However, roughly 70-80 GOP Congressmen ran on “We were going to stop the spending. We are going to cut the deficit. We will not raise taxes.” To paraphrase our current President, they won. As you say, “Welcome to a representative democracy.” G/A are correct in that every time in recent memory the GOP has negotiated with the Democrats on raise taxes now and cut spending later the end result has been an Elephant pulling a Charlie Brown impression. This, in turn, is usually followed by the GOP voters either A. staying home or B. going the primary route. So why would a sane, rational Representative _vote that way this time_?

    “Because it’s for the good of the nation!” Oh, you mean like in 2006 when we needed to raise the debt limit to continue funding Afghanistan-Iraq? Wow, I am constantly amazed at all the people who just expect one party to just forget the last time the other kicked it in the junk. Especially when you have a sitting President _still_ blaming his predecessor for stuff three years into his term (while continuing his policies, but let’s not get off topic). Neither party is innocent, but once again the freshmen came into power on a bow wave of the Democrats saying brilliant things like “Well we’ll have to pass the bill before you can see what’s in it…”–so unfortunately this would be the “reaping” part of the particular parable. Sometimes when you refuse to compromise and ram things down people’s throat, the people send folks of the opposite party back to Washington to personally carry their “No, F___K _YOU_!” message.

    I also love how the Republicans are “unreasonable” yet the Democrats’ stance on entitlements is sane and rational. I won’t even get into Obamacare. I’ll start taking the President seriously on “sacred cows” when he puts that in the kitty–until then, he’s as much a demagogue as the GOP.

    Likewise, the reason why the GOP reps are holding strong is the American people are tired of hearing about how it’s Arma-f*cking-geddon every time something controversial comes up. Patriot Act–OH MY GOD, PASS THIS OR WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE! AUMF-Iraq–MUSHROOM CLOUD IN US CITIES! TARP–PASS THIS OR IT WILL BE LIKE THE GREAT DEPRESSION! Stimulus–PASS THIS OR UNEMPLOYMENT WILL GO ABOVE 9%! (Mmmm, about that…). Once again, welcome to a representative democracy–this is those “ignorant slopeheads” in the middle of the country telling D.C. to f*ck off. Sure it’s going to be cataclysmically bad but, well, I don’t think people honestly give a damn right now.

    You can call them “designed to fail” bills all you want, but the point of the matter is that the people’s representatives have passed three bills that the Senate Majority Leader even refused to bring to the floor. Welcome to a representative democracy again. I hope that his President enjoys the single term, as while people (for some inexplicable reason) seldom throw out _their_ Congressman despite hating the Legislative Branch and all its works, they do seem to get around to voting against the President they absolutely despise. If this debt ceiling doesn’t pass, whomever survives the Republican Primary is probably going to win in 2012. Period. (And I don’t even want to hear about hounded from public life, Brandon. Reverend Wright and Bill Ayers. To cast a wider net, the Dem Vice Presidential Candidate in 2004 was _had a bastard child with his videographer while his wife had cancer_ yet was not immediately ran off the decks in 2008. Just so we don’t, you know, start to act like the GOP has a monopoly on craziness.)

    Note: Nor does any of the above make these people unrealistic, nihilistic, or whatever other ad hominem attacks you want to hurl at them. Just like calling the opposing attorney a poopyhead doesn’t exactly sway the jury, unleashing a long diatribe of SAT/GRE/LSAT vocabulary that boils down to “You are all idiots and obviously lack my ability to see the proper path!” doesn’t exactly help one’s cause. If you’re just going to insult people, get to the nitty gritty and don’t try to dress it up to look like a reasonable argument. I never claimed to be MENSA-material, but on the other hand I’m allegedly reasonably proficient at building a logical argument. I can see the factual logic for both sides of the debt ceiling debate. The problem is _BOTH SIDES_ are demagoguing the issue to the point of uselessness…and now Americans are likely about to get what they deserve for sending village idiots to Washington.

    Gahrie–one way you are in fantasy land is if you think that you can flick a light switch and turn off a government agency overnight. You _can_, but if you think that’s a good idea then I would point out that it wasn’t much fun just _shifting_ FEMA, Coast Guard, etc. to DHS…winding them down would be a pain. Not undoable (and it _should_ be done in some cases), but definitely something that should be done over 2 years as opposed to overnight. As for Veteran’s Affairs–no, that needs to stay a cabinet position after fighting two major wars. You see, when you put veterans’ affairs under DoD, generals start doing things like taking money that’s supposed to go towards veterans’ welfare and switching it to accounts for their Fulda F*cktard (thank you, Max Brooks) Weapon of Choice. I don’t care what your father did, Brandon’s shot was not cheap, it was dead on. Don’t think so? Look at the historical record starting with the Bonus Army and work your way forward to VA becoming a cabinet position. If you can read that and still think DoD should in any way run veteran’s benefits, then you’re pretty much saying “Screw the soldier when the fighting’s done.”

  34. gahrie Says:

    . If you can read that and still think DoD should in any way run veteran’s benefits, then you’re pretty much saying “Screw the soldier when the fighting’s done.”

    Then use my other suggestion and move the VA to Health and Human Services.

  35. gahrie Says:

    “The bipartisan House-passed Cut, Cap, Balance bill remains the only plan on the table, the only one that preserves our AAA rating, and is only four Democrat votes away from a Senate majority to end this debt crisis,” said Senator DeMint. “I will work to force another vote on Cut, Cap & Balance next week because the President and Democrats have not offered the American people any other viable solution.

    “It is outrageous that every Senate Democrat voted against even allowing a debate on balancing the budget within 10 years, a plan supported by two-thirds of Americans with wide support across all party lines. Why are Senate Democrats so afraid to debate a balanced budget? Cut, Cap, Balance is the compromise plan that passed the House and can end the wasteful spending that caused this debt crisis. It gives the President the debt limit increase he has asked for in return for immediate spending cuts, enforceable spending caps, and a constitutional amendment to force Washington to stop spending more than it brings in.

    “The President and Democrats have been beyond reckless in this debate, refusing to offer any serious solution to our fiscal crisis. The only plan the President has offered would increase our debt by $10 trillion and push our nation into bankruptcy.

    http://hotair.com/archives/2011/07/22/breaking-senate-shoots-down-ccb-51-46/

  36. gahrie Says:

    Er, yeah. In other words, a consensus exists across all political lines that the CCB/BBA approach would be a good idea. When one scrolls down to the crosstab sections of the raw data, the consensus becomes very, very clear. The CCB/BBA approach wins majorities in every single demographic — including self-described liberals. Sixty-three percent of Democrats back the House bill. The least supportive age demographic is 50-64YOs at 62/37; the least supportive regional demographic is the Midwest at 61/39. Even those who express opposition to the Tea Party supports it 53/47.
    In other words, it’s a clean sweep. Simply put, there is no political demographic at all where the CCB/BBA doesn’t get majority support. The BBA on its own does even better. It gets 3-1 support (74/24), and except for those Tea Party opponents (56%) and self-professed liberals (61/37), doesn’t get below 70% support in any demographic.
    (emphasis added)

    http://hotair.com/archives/2011/07/21/oh-my-ccb-bill-gets-2-1-approval-among-adults-in-cnn-poll/

  37. gahrie Says:

    So who is being irresponsible and fanatical now?

  38. gahrie Says:

    Congress never, ever cuts spending

    http://blogs.marketwatch.com/fundmastery/2011/07/21/congress-never-ever-cuts-spending/

  39. James Young Says:

    Gahrie–Health and Human Services is supposed to deal with _health_ issues. Veteran’s Affairs does not only deal with Veteran’s Health, but also administrates several other facets of Veteran’s wellbeing. On a practical note, do you really think that Veterans’ needs and concerns will actually get heard during the Presidential decisionmaking process if it’s no longer a cabinet position? That’s the kind of logic that leads to Brownie being in charge of FEMA. *shrug*

    Sorry, but this country’s screwed veterans enough in the past that I’m not so sure we want to go back to their affairs being tucked away someplace else. Given all the folks who are going to come out jacked up after this conflict, I think that it would be bad juju to merge it back.

  40. AMLTrojan Says:

    I realize that Brendan is probably no longer listening, and I’ll just be lumped into the A / g / JY axis of ignorance, but there are a few issues still lingering to which I wish to respond.

    Instead of posturing and playing politics, as the Republicans have with their doomed-to-fail and/or designed-to-fail “bills,” the Democrats are trying to actually make policy, by crafting a compromise that can pass.

    - Well beyond a clear majority of the Senate — including a dozen Democrats — backed the concept of supporting a Balanced Budget Amendment. Today, the House CCB/BBA plan could not even gain a Senate majority to continue debate. So, you tell me who is posturing in front of the voters.

    - As gahrie noted above, when it comes to the CCB/BBA approach, “…a consensus exists across all political lines that the CCB/BBA approach would be a good idea.” Yet according to you, it’s “posturing” for the GOP to support a bill that has complete consensus among the public across every political, ideological, and ethnic demographic. So, how is it then that the Republicans are the ones playing with political fire here?

    As for as your link to “sane conservatives” who recognize the lunacy of not raising the debt ceiling, as I said, I expect there will be pain and disruption, but markets will rebound and demonstrate that the temporary bleeding will have been more than worth it if the ultimate resolution locks in long-range cuts to spending. Ideally the threat of shooting the hostage would be good enough and Obama would capitulate, but absent that, Republicans should go ahead and shoot the hostage and wait out the fury.

    Now, if I read this article correctly, the potential cutbacks could be much less than advertised. Since it appears SSA Trust Fund bonds are exempt from the debt cap, and since SCOTUS has ruled that “The proceeds of both [employee and employer] taxes are to be paid into the Treasury like internal-revenue taxes generally, and are not earmarked in any way”, the Obama administration does not need to use general revenues to pay out Social Security obligations if the debt ceiling is not raised. He can use those general revenues to pay for other budget items (e.g., paying military contractors, keeping DHS, FAA, and DOJ up and running, etc.) and redeem Trust Fund bonds to pay Social Security benefits. This means the total amount cut in the month of August is closer to 28% vs. 44%. Still painful, but that is not insignificant breathing room.

    But let me address the larger issue here. Brendan objects to this “nihilist” “kamikaze” approach on the grounds that it needlessly subjects the US to a default and economic pain (I disagree, but we have covered that red herring ad nauseam), and thinks I should shirk from supporting the GOP taking such needlessly huge risks with the debt ceiling and potentially compromising their ability to win in 2012. IMO, Brendan’s position (or suggested GOP position) — that the GOP should raise the debt ceiling and play out the argument as part of the standard budget fights — is far more cynical. Let me step back a bit and show why.

    One of the inherent bugs/features in our particular republican structure of having a set schedule of elections and a separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches is the impedance of politicians making sweeping changes — the power of incumbency and accountability to voters on a regular basis checks bold action. Most parliamentary systems, for example, do not suffer this problem. For example, in the UK, the ruling party can instantiate massive change (a la Thatcher) since the PM is also the head of government, and “reckoning day” can be postponed or moved up within reason (i.e. the PM sets the election schedule), depending on whether the PM has the confidence of parliament. This opens the door for major shifts in policy so long as the ruling party is confident it can sustain a majority. Here in the US of A, however, majorities don’t mean squat most of the time, the power of individual lawmakers is much greater, and the executive is sufficiently separated from legislative activity that he can act as a check as well (i.e. he has veto power). As a result, even when the public is clearly against raising the debt ceiling and wants a BBA (even if they don’t fully appreciate the consequences of what this would mean to spending programs they favor), the structure of American politics is such that the problem will almost always get kicked down the road and compromises will be struck such that major reform is darn near impossible — incrementalism rules the day — and thus the public’s will seldom is reflected by Congress.

    In contrast, here we have a real chance for Congress to reflect the will of the people: massive spending cuts, movement towards a balanced budget, and government reform. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for one of the parties to seize the moment, force radical change, and test whether the will of the voters is reliable (and if voters are not reliable and therefore not to be listened to, why bother with the farce of democracy?). The GOP is offering what the public says they want, so let’s give them what they want, and if the public decides, “Ewww, these peas are nasty; give me my ice cream cone back!” — fine. It’s worth the risk, and it’s not “nihilistic” to implement the will of the voters!

    I’m also skeptical that shooting the hostage here will really hurt the GOP in 2012.

    First and foremost, the House is unlikely to change hands no matter what happens with the debt ceiling armageddon; between redistricting, the power of incumbency, and the freshness of the GOP majority, it’s unlikely the House will completely flip, though the Republicans could see their majority shrink significantly.

    Second, far more Democratic Senators are up for reelection than Republicans, so the highest likelihood is that one party or the other holds a slight majority and neither has 60 votes.

    Third, no matter what happens, no matter how bad the Republicans look in this mess, Obama does not come out of this smelling like roses (his recent involvement has only made him look worse), and his eventual Republican opponent (unless it is Bachmann) is unlikely to suffer much blame because he is on the sidelines during this whole ordeal.

    Finally, from a very broad perspective, it’s important to note the degree to which the Democratic base is increasingly made up of those classes of people who rely on government favor (e.g. public unions, teachers, the poor), and the Republican base is increasingly made up of those classes of people who are being forced to pay for everything. The pain of the debt ceiling not being raised will fall disproportionately on those who already are in the Democrats’ camp anyways, so I don’t see how there could possibly be a significant enough shift in voter sentiment that the Republicans are truly in danger of losing all three of the Senate, House, and Presidency to the degree that they did in 2008.

    In sum, I think the potential economic risk is being overplayed, and I believe the 2012 electoral risk is insufficient to alter the current GOP political calculus. Meanwhile, the potential benefits are clear: force a real reduction to spending.

    If on some minute chance I turn out to be disastrously wrong and we end up with Democrats in 100% control like 2009-2010, and therefore we restart our major lurch leftward to a European welfare state paradise with the zombie economy that goes with it, I stand by my statement: the Americans will have the leaders they deserve.

    So again, I say, let’s shoot the hostage.

  41. James Young Says:

    Well I always I’d eventually end up in some sort of “axis”…just not an “Axis of Ignorance.” Oh well, intelligence is overrated…you just see the bad things coming rather than getting unpleasantly shocked like everyone else.

  42. gahrie Says:

    Sal Alinsky would be proud…..

  43. Alasdair Says:

    JY #41 – be of good heart … remember that it’s a brendanian “axis of ignorance” – and signifies that we do not agree with brendanian ‘wisdom’ … since we are basing our points upon facts and offer corroborative citations, observers can see whether they wish to be brendanian or rational …

    While I am not quite as sanguine (pun intended) about “shooting the hostage”, I will happily do some version of shots with the hostage … as I suspect to be true for AMLTrojan, also …

  44. gahrie Says:

    From my comment #1 on this post:

    2) Every time the Republicans have dealt with the Democrats in the past: raise taxes now and we’ll cut future spending; raise the debt now and we’ll cut future spending; amnesty now and border enforcement in the future…guess what? The Democrats get what they want and the Republicans get screwed.

    3) If not now when? If we can’t get Democrats to agree to spending cuts when we are literally about to go broke when will they?

    Now from Brendan’s Comment #2:

    This is a subjective reading of history without much substance to respond to. Suffice it to say that liberals feel they constantly get the short end of the stick when negotiating with conservatives, at least recently. I suspect this is common among ideologues and partisans on both sides, given that compromise necessarily means giving things up. Regardless, I’m not going to change your mind on this, so whatever. It doesn’t change any of the facts I’ve laid out.

    3) The Democrats have offered trillions of dollars in spending cuts. They have offered a package that is something like 80% spending cuts and 20% new revenues. Interestingly, this is quite similar to the ratios in the “austerity measures” passed by Britain’s conservatives. Sensible conservative commentators in this country, who you undoubtedly dismiss as RINOs, have said that any sane conservative party would welcome such a package. The Republicans have rejected it because of their innate radicalism: they believe there must be no new revenues, even though taxes are — this is a fact, not an opinion — at historic lows. Regardless, the statement that Democats won’t “agree to spending cuts” is a lie. Please acknowledge that fact.

    And now shoot forward to today….the Democratic controlled Senate, which has not managed to pass a budget in over three years, proved my point:

    Last summer, Republicans in Congress agreed to increase the federal debt limit in exchange for the Democrats’ pledge to cap future spending at agreed-upon levels. The compromise was embodied in the Budget Control Act; discretionary spending was to increase by no more than $7 billion in the current fiscal year. I wrote yesterday about the fact that the Democrats intended to violate the Budget Control Act by increasing deficit spending on the Post Office by $34 billion. The measure probably would have glided through the Senate without notice had Jeff Sessions not challenged it. Sessions insisted on a point of order, based on the fact that the spending bill violated the Budget Control Act. It required 60 votes to waive Sessions’ point of order and toss the BCA on the trash heap.

    Today the Senate voted 62-37 to do exactly that. This means that the consideration that Republicans obtained in exchange for increasing the debt limit is gone.



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