Being Boehner

Pretty much every day is a day I wake up glad not to be John Boehner, but today is one of those days I am especially so. The man has to attempt to reason with the ignorant nihilists that comprise his Tea Party wing, go up against the President of the United States in terms of selling his vision of the debt crisis, and has to deal with the fact that his plan to solve said crisis a) has to be retooled because the Congressional Budget Office pooped all over it, b) probably won’t pass within his own party anyway, because of the aforementioned ignorant nihilists. Man, it really does suck to be John Boehner today, and I’m glad he has to do it, while I get to sit here, writing blog posts and playing video games. Hey, he wanted the job, both the one where he’s Speaker of the House, and the larger existential condition of Being Boehner. This is the gig. Have fun, John.

That’s pretty much all I have for you re: That Debt Thing today.

Update, 3:11pm: Hey, it looks like Boehner’s day might be picking up! Until the bill gets to the Senate, anyway.

Update, 5:46pm: D’oh! Maybe not. Poor Boehner.

242 thoughts on “Being Boehner

  1. Folks, remember to be polite and play nicely with each other in the comment thread. I’m looking at some of you more closely than others about this.

  2. Its enough to drive the guy to drink – oh, too late according to his associates.

    But really, you do have to feel sorry for the guy. This is a job he has worked for a very long time. Under the old system he would have cut a deal that gave a little bit to everyone while allowing the old hands such as himself to keep delivering the Fed money to their districts. But he can’t do that. He has offered 4 different deals, the President has made some minor changes but eventually agreed to 3 of them (the 4th was DOA when the CBO pointed out it has no real cost savings in it) only to find that the loonies wing of his own party rejected them.

    Its almost like a Twilight Zone episode where a guy gets the thing he wishes for only to find some hook that makes it a nightmare instead of a dream.

  3. Frankly:

    “But really, you do have to feel sorry for the guy.”

    In all honesty, I do. His political positions are generally not mine (I haven’t voted for him yet in five elections where I could), but I do think he understands that the political process does include engagement and understanding that getting some of what you want is better than getting nothing. It’s got to be frustrating for him.

  4. Lot’s of sources reported that he was overheard saying, “I didn’t sign up to go toe to toe with the President of the United States” as he was leaving the capital. Which would make me feel bad for him except that that’s exactly what he signed up to do. He did, in fact, pick this fight.

  5. Yeah, I was serious about that – I really do feel bad for him at some level. Its tempered by the fact that he is fronting for pure evil but he is a tragic figure.

  6. Yeah well, the fact is that Boehner’s current solution is no better than Reid’s current solution which is why he is having trouble passing the Bill.

    Let’s recall that the House has already passed two solutions and the Senate none. Both may have been rejected, but generally the way this works is that the House passes a bill and the Senate passes a bill and then there is a House/Senate reconciliation process the output of which is a bill that passes both chambers.

    Sorry, but the Democrats have been criminally absent from this process. You may not like the solutions the Republicans proposed but at least they stuck their necks out. All they got from Democrats is the showing of the axe.

    And there are few things to remember about the Tea Party; if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t even be attempting fix the long term deficit problem. Clearly the default position of the old-guard (of both parties) is to just keep spending.

    And second, they are not being fooled by pretend cuts even when introduced by their own party.

    All of a sudden this is an issue for the Democrats. Where were they on this for the six years prior to 2010? Where were the Republicans before that?

    No pain no gain baby.

  7. I feel sorry for the poor workers in the CBO. Policy analysis and writing is a wonderful pressure cooker under the best of circumstances. I can’t imagine the pressures they’re facing this week.

  8. You know that thing that leaped out at me from John’s essay is the concept that we want to be who we ware. Yeah, Boehner wanted and wants to be Speaker Of The House, but did he or anyone choose to be themselves? I find it a fascinating idea that John seem to think we are who we want to be, not sure I agree with that.
    Do I feel sorry of Boehner? Nope, there’s this bed he made and he made it very uncomfortable, not sympathetic when he can’t sleep.

  9. Frank:

    “You may not like the solutions the Republicans proposed but at least they stuck their necks out.”

    Yeah, no. Offering a series of proposals that they know won’t make it out of the House does not constitute sticking one’s neck out; it constitutes making a safe and pointless show. Your portraits in Republican courage are pretty much exactly the opposite, in fact.

    If the House Republicans want to stick their necks out, let’s see them make an offer that won’t immediately get stuffed by the Democrats and the President, which, if one recalls, hold two of the three other entities required to pass a deal. And to pre-empt the inevitable “the Democrats need to put something on the table,” dude, inasmuch as the current Reid plan doesn’t raise any new revenues (and thus in the long term doesn’t do much to address the root issue of debt), we’re already there. The suggestion the Dems have done nothing is tendentious at best, even if I personally am not pleased they have given in to GOP magic thinking that raising revenues is optional.

    “And there are few things to remember about the Tea Party; if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t even be attempting fix the long term deficit problem.”

    Ignorant nihilists sabotaging the economic system unless they get their way won’t fix the long term deficit problem. Indeed, they’re about to make it a whole lot worse. So, yeah, I find this assertion laughable.

    Frank, your argument is essentially “at least they’re TRYING!!!” But petulant digging in of heels is not trying, it’s acting like spoiled obnoxious assholes. The Tea Party — or at the very least the apparently very silly people they have elected into office — are performing the opposite of help.

  10. #12 – read the constitution – its Congresses job to budget not the Senates.

    Ans note that Obama has basically agreed to 3 Republican plans only to have Republicans back out. Deficits were never a problem when there was a Republican in the White House. Karl Rove famously stated “deficits don’t matter any more.” Yeah, the Dems have their problems in here but 5 trillion of the current deficit belongs to Bush & his Congresses, only 1 trillion to Obama and his.

    Taxes are now lower than they have been since 1950. Tax cuts not only have not paid for themselves as promised nor have they created jobs (in the US anyway they have done a lot for the labor force of India and China). Certainly we need to cut all government spending – I’d start with our wasted efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya – and find ways to control the growth of Medicare and Social Security (although FICA taxes have generated several trillion dollars in surpluses that should be paid back). But we also need to find ways to increase revenue. Start by removing the cap on FICA – CEOs can pay that as well as their minions. End a lot of the tax breaks that have proven to be of no value to the country (Obama targeted 3 that only serve to enrich the rich). That would allow for actual lower rates to being in additional revenue.

    Whats lacking is voters actually demanding this sort of response. Politicians are responding to what will get them re-elected and sanity, unfortunately, is not a big winner on the campaign trail.

  11. What if we made each congressman responsible for balancing the budget of their own district first? x% to defense, x% to debt / interest payments already accrued. Then all programs need to be funded at the district level. Federally administered to save money, but locally funded. Want Social Security for your constituents? Fund it. Want Medicare? Fund it. Want to be seen as the person who opposes taxes all the time, fine… but understand that someone in your district has a grandma who is eating cat food because you cut their Social Security, and those people will know exactly who cut grandma’s meal money, and they know where you live, and are within driving distance.

    The problem is that everyone who favors cutbacks assumes that it is their tax dollar being wasted, and that it won’t be their favorite program that will be cut because the country is so damn big. And everyone who favors huge social programs assumes someone else will be really generous and won’t mind paying for them.

    Companies have been voting with their feet for years, moving from one district to another to save taxes. People should have the same ability, not just at the local level, but at the Federal level as well. A well managed and balanced district will attract business and people, and eliminate much of the constant bickering that so turns people off US politics.

  12. I can imagine Mr. Obama having a few minutes of quiet time with his wife in the evening. Over dessert, he asks her, “Can you remind me why I ran for president?”

  13. Ignorant nihilists, eh? You are blinded by hatred. The tea party is many things. “Ignorant” is at least arguable since it is relative. (They may well be more ignorant on average than you — but the NYT says they are more educated than the average voter.) But nihilist? Come on; words have meanings.

  14. Frank@12:

    Let’s recall that the House has already passed two solutions and the Senate none.

    A bill that you know can’t possibly pass the other chamber isn’t a solution. It’s grandstanding. Granted, it’s a kind of grandstanding you see frequently, mainly so people can run stupid attack ads (“Congressman X voted against the Puppies are Wonderful act six times!”), but let’s not confuse it with constructive legislating.

    Sorry, but the Democrats have been criminally absent from this process.

    This completely ignores that the president has also offered several deals, which were rejected by the Republicans. One was characterized by David Brooks (a conservative) as “The Mother of All No-Brainers”.

    And there are few things to remember about the Tea Party; if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t even be attempting fix the long term deficit problem. Clearly the default position of the old-guard (of both parties) is to just keep spending.

    I don’t think that’s fair at all. Bill Clinton balanced the budget.

    But, more importantly, the Tea Partiers are living in a fantasy world where it’s possible to balance the budget and keep our historically low tax rates. That’s just not going to happen. And by being unwilling to compromise, they are torpedoing any chance for real deficit reduction.

  15. Ignorant nihilists, eh? You are blinded by hatred. The tea party is many things. “Ignorant” is at least arguable since it is relative. (They may well be more ignorant on average than you — but the NYT says they are more educated than the average voter.) But nihilist? Come on; words have meanings.

    Oo, popcorn!

  16. [Deleted for pointless radio show stupidity. Folks, you actually have to contribute to the discussion, not use insults printed on cue cards -- JS]

  17. Leonard:

    “But nihilist? Come on; words have meanings.”

    Yes they do! I’m glad you know that. Also: willfully dragging the country into default, thus extending the recession and messing with the entire global economy for no other reason than you won’t do anything unless you get your way, insert foot-stomping here? That’s a pretty nihilist position.

    “You are blinded by hatred.”

    No, I’m exasperated by abject stupidity. Slight difference.

  18. You are right silbey, words do have meanings. I would have added the modifier “willfully” to “ignorant”. When a movement bases their position on cherry picked facts, when they fuel their ideology with fear and anger, when they aren’t willing to listen to the rest (eg the majority) of the country based on their ginned-up outrage, when they refuse to see what is clearly a threat to national security, then yes they are willfully ignorant.

  19. You are right silbey, words do have meanings. I would have added the modifier “willfully” to “ignorant”. When a movement bases their position on cherry picked facts, when they fuel their ideology with fear and anger, when they aren’t willing to listen to the rest (eg the majority) of the country based on their ginned-up outrage, when they refuse to see what is clearly a threat to national security, then yes they are willfully ignorant.

    Uh, huh? You’re aware that I was quoting Leonard from above, right?

  20. He signed the pledge. The whole point of the pledge is to hold the budget hostage as part of a plan to cut government in half by 2025 and half again by 2050. (Yes that means Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid completely gone and we’re not even close to there yet.) To any extent he really wants to balance the budget, he can’t and won’t until he gains the courage to denounce the pledge. I suppose one can have sympathy for cowardice though.

  21. Scalzi

    offering a series of proposals that they know won’t make it out of the House does not constitute sticking one’s neck out;..If the House Republicans want to stick their necks out, let’s see them make an offer that won’t immediately get stuffed by the Democrats and the President

    Sticking their necks out in the sense that they had a concrete proposal that could be criticized. And was, if you remember the ads showing “Ryan” throwing the wheel-chaired grandma off a cliff. And what good is proposing a plan that will pass the Senate if that plan will only just reiterate fictional fixes?

    Sorry but there were some who were elected to be serious. And Washington math only works in Washington. The come to the table with real math and are not going to go give in to the Washington group-think.

    Yeah, that may mean they will get re-elected by their constituents which just means they are not going away.

    dude, inasmuch as the current Reid plan doesn’t raise any new revenues (and thus in the long term doesn’t do much to address the root issue of debt), we’re already there.

    Dude, it may not raise revenue, but it doesn’t make cuts either. So its status quo. And if its status quo how does that help the problem? And why is it even being proposed if it doesn’t do anything to fix the problem that Democrats are saying is a huge problem that must be fixed?

    Or are they just kidding?

    You worry about default now and the downgrade of the credit rating? But if we continue on this course it will happen sooner or later.

    Why not now? Why not when its easier to fix rather than harder to fix?

    frankly @17

    Ans note that Obama has basically agreed to 3 Republican plans only to have Republicans back out.

    Yeah? What plan. I have seen no legislation. Oh, you mean the sekret Negotiations whose details were leaked? That’s not a plan. If the CBO couldn’t score a speech they sure as hell can’t score a leak.

    And what’s up with these secret negotiations anyway? Why isn’t this being played out in Congress with legislation that can be scored and evaluated by citizens. You know us folk for whom the government are agents?

    Don’t tell me about what what plan the President did or didn’t have on the table when you can’t even show me a budget that was passed for the past six years.

    CLP @21

    This completely ignores that the president has also offered several deals, which were rejected by the Republicans. One was characterized by David Brooks (a conservative) as “The Mother of All No-Brainers”.

    ibid

  22. “Willfully … messing with the entire global economy”

    Honestly I feel that anyone who didn’t spend some time decoupling themselves from the American economy last time it tried to bring the global economy down probably deserves what they get.

    Then again, it’s easy to say that because I live in a country that’s mostly decoupled. If America defaults on its loans, we’ll keep selling steel and coal to China and laugh and laugh and laugh.

  23. I don’t blame either of them for being off and having to have their estimates revised by the CBO. The CBO are economics professionals. The article linked in #10 is ridiculous.

    Joe @18, that’s a very bad idea. Many congressional districts legitimately have more or less federal incomes than others. Just as an example, imagine the congressperson for the district containing Kennedy Space Center. There’s no way they can pay for that out of their district’s taxes. Unless you mean something else…

  24. I got a solution to this whole debt crisis: simply raise the debt ceiling. It was done without hassle or debt limit hotsage taking seven times under George W. Bush.

  25. Frank:

    “Sticking their necks out in the sense that they had a concrete proposal that could be criticized.”

    That’s not sticking their necks out, Frank. That’s their job. This is “everyone is a hero” sort of thinking. And while it’s nice for them they had a concrete proposal, the concrete proposal was ridiculously bad and was appropriately stuffed.

    Again, if they want “neck stuck out” credit, they should offer something that actually has a chance of passing the Senate and avoiding a Presidential veto. Short of that, they’re wasting everyone’s time as much as you want to suggest the Democrats are — and more so, since as noted, all this stuff has to originate in the House.

  26. Frank:

    Their proposal wasn’t serious. It’s neither courageous or sticking their necks out if they know it doesn’t have a chance of passing anyway. That’s what we in the reality-based community call “theater”.

    You’re coming across as a bit of a cheerleader.

  27. “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.”. — Dick Cheney

    Funny thing is, he wasn’t entirely wrong. Deficits do matter, of course, but an economic downturn is *exactly* the stupidest time to try to do something about them.

    Also, I swear I will mercilessly mock the first person who compares the US federal budget to a household budget. It’s an idiotic analogy, even — maybe *especially* — when the President trots it out. The purpose of an analogy is (or should be) to help advance understanding, not retard it. Most lessons one might take from dealing with a household budget either don’t apply or would be *bad* ideas to apply to the budget of a huge and (still, comparitively) wealthy country.

    Even if you boil the analogy down for hours at very high heat to “spending should not exceed income”, that’s not necessarily true even when applied to pesonal household budgets. There are all sorts of very good reasons — *in the long run* — to go into debt. And if you’re not trying to plan for the long run when you’re doing a budget, you’re not doing it right.

  28. Also, Frank, you seem to have been rather conveniently asleep when the Republican senators were filibustering basically everything in the previous Congress. That’s convenient for making empty talking points, but annoying to those of us wanting to have a serious conversation.

  29. Chris

    I got a solution to this whole debt crisis: simply raise the debt ceiling. It was done without hassle or debt limit hotsage taking seven times under George W. Bush.

    What exactly does a debt ceiling mean?

    To ordinary people it would appear to mean that is the most you are allowed to spend. You know, like an allowance. So one would expect that new legislation would be evaluated against the ceiling and if it exceeds it it must be cut back.

    Clearly “debt ceiling” means something entirely different in Washington.

    I would suggest it doesn’t mean anything at all.

    At least until now…

  30. #12: All of a sudden this is an issue for the Democrats. Where were they on this for the six years prior to 2010? Where were the Republicans before that?

    You do know that most of the current deficit issues came from a Republican president and a Republican Congress, and that even those that don’t were signed into law by a Republican President? The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were authorized in 2001 and the Bush tax cuts (which are actually responsible for more of the deficit than both of those wars combined) were authorized in 2003. TARP and the first stimulus were enacted in 2009. Democrats didn’t have a majority, even a slim one, until 2007. Obama became President in 2009.

    Oh, and the Democrats made it an issue a lot of the time. That’s kind of how they started winning elections.

    #20: Ignorant nihilists, eh? You are blinded by hatred. The tea party is many things. “Ignorant” is at least arguable since it is relative. (They may well be more ignorant on average than you — but the NYT says they are more educated than the average voter.) But nihilist? Come on; words have meanings.

    I’d love to see this NYT article. And, yes, considering that a not-insignificant portion of the TP and TP Republican Congresscritters have stated that they don’t believe default is all that bad, they do seem to be more nihilist than most. At the very least, when you lie repeatedly about 51% of Americans never paying any taxes whatsoever, that the richest people in the country (the so-called “job creators”) are being taxed more and more instead of less and less, and that the top 10% pay more than the bottom 90% and have less income growth, you’re denying reality.

  31. You worry about default now and the downgrade of the credit rating? But if we continue on this course it will happen sooner or later.

    In which Frank reveals the Tea Party’s desire to actually force a default if they can’t have everything they want, and nothing the other side wants. Thanks Frank.

  32. Frank:

    “To ordinary people it would appear to mean that is the most you are allowed to spend. You know, like an allowance.”

    Bad analogy: An allowance is an amount given, not an amount allowed to spend. There’s a substantial economic difference between the two.

  33. I swear I will mercilessly mock the first person who compares the US federal budget to a household budget.

    I present #38 for your mocking pleasure.

    Clearly “debt ceiling” means something entirely different in Washington

    You’re aware that the money the Treasury is trying to spend now has already been approved by Congress, including your heroes in the House? They’ve written the checks, now they’re trying to avoid paying. To use the household analogy (and risk Bearpaw’s wrath), they bought the house and now they don’t want to make the mortgage payments. That’s the kind of heroism I’ve come to expect from today’s GOP.

  34. I got a solution to this whole debt crisis: simply raise the debt ceiling. It was done without hassle or debt limit hotsage taking seven times under George W. Bush.

    Chris, here’s a nice graph explaining why your “solution” is not.

  35. As a father, raising the limit on how much the country can borrow so that politicians can keep buying votes with my children’s future income is unappealing.

  36. Scalzi

    That’s not sticking their necks out, Frank. That’s their job.

    Great. So when are the Democrats going to do their job? Where’s the plan? They had control of Congress for six years. Republicans for 12 before that. So people are just now starting to do their job?

    And in case you are not aware of the political realities of what it means to do real cutting, here’s a clue.

    Many recent survey’s show that most Americans are for fixing the debt problem. They say cut, cut cut.

    But when asked just what it is that should be cut, there is no majority for any of the line items (except foreign aid which is trivial). So every single serious plan is a threat to every single politician that proposes real solutions.

    Which is precisely why we are in the mess we’re in. Which is precisely why entitlements are so dangerous. Not only are they long-term budgetary nightmares, but they are so damn hard to curtail once people come to rely on their benefits.

    Remember the protests when Welfare was reformed under Clinton?

    Just look at Greece is you don’t.

  37. Merus @ 31: Honestly I feel that anyone who didn’t spend some time decoupling themselves from the American economy last time it tried to bring the global economy down probably deserves what they get.
    I very much doubt it’s possible to meaningfully decouple from the American economy without going full-bore isolationist. Which would be rather like shooting oneself in the head in order to decrease the risk of contracting plague.

  38. Sadly, too many people see the Tea Party as some kind of force fighting for the common man. In reality, they fight for one group of people and one group only… those with money. If they were really that concerned about the common citizenry, they would engage in honest debate and try to work toward some kind of compromise. However, their idea is compromise is “We’ll put out a plan and you will agree to it. See? Wasn’t that easy?”.

    The President has offered changes to Social Security, Medicare, cuts in spending and has asked for those that can to have to feel some of the tax burden that the least among us has to bear. In return, the Tea Party (willfully malicious ignorant nihilist on the best of days) has offered less taxes for corporations and rich people, cuts to any kind of aid program (some of which probably could use a good pruning, some of which are vital to peoples’ health and welfare), and lots of grandstanding and foot stomping.

    The Tea Party’s foolishness is grandstanding of a type that reminds me of that hoary old “Contract with America” jazz from a little while back. One of the big things the Republicans were touting was the “term limits” part for members of the House and Senate. Of course what they tried to gloss over was that those term limits wouldn’t apply to them… they wouldn’t take effect for 20 years… in other words, after they had spent their time sucking at the public mammary. The Tea Party is no better in this regard. Cut, Cap and Balance sounds good until you realize they want to cut back to levels from decades ago that are unrealistic by any standard, cap spending at that level (supposedly to limit the size of Government… don’t get me started on Republicans limiting the size of Government… that is a whole different rant), and balance the budget, yet leave no slack (surplus or the ablility to otherwise raise funds) for emergencies and unseen expenditures.

    Tea Party? Heh.

  39. And there are few things to remember about the Tea Party; if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t even be attempting fix the long term deficit problem. Clearly the default position of the old-guard (of both parties) is to just keep spending.

    This is factually wrong. If anything, the Tea Party is late to the table and some folks resent the Johnny-come-latelies barging in without a clue, trying to claim credit where it is not due and not understanding what’s going on.

  40. Frank@30:

    And what good is proposing a plan that will pass the Senate if that plan will only just reiterate fictional fixes?

    What good is passing bills that can’t pass the Senate?

    Dude, it may not raise revenue, but it doesn’t make cuts either.

    Where are you getting this? Senator Reid’s offer includes trillions in spending cuts and deficit reduction. In fact, at this point, there’s not much difference between Speaker Boehner’s plan and Senator Reid’s. Honestly, I’m actually pretty happy about this–I would congratulate both the speaker and the senator for coming together on this. My only worry is that this sensible compromise will be torpedoed by the Camellia sinensis crowd, who seem to think government without compromise is possible.

    And what’s up with these secret negotiations anyway? Why isn’t this being played out in Congress with legislation that can be scored and evaluated by citizens. You know us folk for whom the government are agents?

    The reason to have negotiations in secret is to avoid the “grandma-pushed-off-a-cliff” ads you alluded to above. It’s the only way to pass intricate legislation in this political climate, away from the cable news blowhards and the temptation to grandstand.

    Merus@31:

    Honestly I feel that anyone who didn’t spend some time decoupling themselves from the American economy last time it tried to bring the global economy down probably deserves what they get. [. . .] If America defaults on its loans, we’ll keep selling steel and coal to China and laugh and laugh and laugh.

    You do realize that those loans include money lent to the U.S. by China? Or that a good portion of the Chinese economy is based on manufacturing consumer goods for export to the U.S.? If the U.S. economy collapses due to default, we’re certainly not going to be buying as many shiny iPhones made by Chinese factories. I don’t know which country you live in, but if your economy depends on selling steel and coal to China, you probably aren’t as decoupled from the American economy as you think.

  41. silby

    You’re aware that the money the Treasury is trying to spend now has already been approved by Congress, including your heroes in the House?

    No shit? You’re kidding right? How could I have missed that?

    But if it meant something even close to what ordinary humans interpret these words, they shouldn’t have been allowed to do that. Right?

    And for the record, I don’t think any appropriations have been passed by this Congress yet. And what appropriations that have passed the House (since Republicans have taken control) conformed with Ryan’s budget plan which did pass the House. But since there has been silence from the Senate on the budget matter (yet again), the House is using it in the absence of any budget.

  42. Which is precisely why entitlements are so dangerous. Not only are they long-term budgetary nightmares,

    Again, not factually correct.

  43. Frank:

    “Great. So when are the Democrats going to do their job?”

    Sorry, Frank. Just because you want to steer the conversation toward how awful horrible bad those nasty Democrats are doesn’t mean any of the rest of us need to oblige you and go there. The GOP holds the House; the House is where any of the legislation to resolve this issue needs to begin. Right here and now, the House GOP needs to come up with a plan that is palatable to the Senate and the president — or accept one formulated elsewhere, of which there have been several, although it’s apparent that you are either unwilling or unable to acknowledge them.

    I understand your desire to want to get away from that fact, thus all your attempts to lead the conversation from it. But guess what? I think this conversation is more important. If you want to have a different conversation, there are other places for you to go.

  44. And for the record, I don’t think any appropriations have been passed by this Congress yet.

    And I don’t think this is factually correct either. The debt limit is for past expenditures, which WERE authorized by Congress.

  45. But if it meant something even close to what ordinary humans interpret these words, they shouldn’t have been allowed to do that. Right?

    Fronk, you’re complaint is really that the words they’re using don’t mean quite what you want them to? That’s what you’re complaining about? Really?

  46. #45: Great. So when are the Democrats going to do their job? Where’s the plan? They had control of Congress for six years. Republicans for 12 before that. So people are just now starting to do their job?

    Seriously? You think no budget has been passed in 16 years, the first 6 of which were under a Democratic president who had a surplus? Wow.

    And in case you are not aware of the political realities of what it means to do real cutting, here’s a clue.

    Many recent survey’s show that most Americans are for fixing the debt problem. They say cut, cut cut.

    False, false, false.

    But when asked just what it is that should be cut, there is no majority for any of the line items (except foreign aid which is trivial). So every single serious plan is a threat to every single politician that proposes real solutions.

    Which is precisely why we are in the mess we’re in. Which is precisely why entitlements are so dangerous. Not only are they long-term budgetary nightmares, but they are so damn hard to curtail once people come to rely on their benefits.

    Because people depend on help due to the richest people and corporations screwing them over, the government providing a safety net is dangerous? Wow again.

  47. Frank @ 45:

    Many recent surveys also show that fixing “the debt problem” is of a far lower priority than fixing the jobs problem. Which, if it were done, would also go a long ways toward fixing the debt problem.

    And before anyone goes there, no, cutting taxes yet again for wealthy corporations and individuals ain’t going to magically inspire them to create jobs this time either. You know what would magically inspire them to create jobs? *Customers*.

  48. Just to throw another grenade in to the fire: the Republican/Tea Party hero, Ronald Reagan, the hero of small Government had no problem getting the ceiling raised 19 times during his presidency.

  49. CLP

    The reason to have negotiations in secret is to avoid the “grandma-pushed-off-a-cliff” ads you alluded to above.

    Oh, so in Scalzi’s terms then the Democrats are not doing their jobs and their not heros: they’re cowards.

    Put it out. Let’s have a debate. We need to talk about this stuff. It’s, like, important.

    And I don’t buy the line that this is partisan bickering. This is real stuff. There are two very different paths being proposed. We have to understand that. We have to choose one are make another one from the best of the two but whatever we pick we have to be able to afford it.

    We can not afford what we have now. The total debt is now at 90% of GDP and getting worse. GDP is our total and complete national income.

    For the While United States. That’s a lot.

    90% and getting worse.

  50. Scalzi

    I understand your desire to want to get away from that fact, thus all your attempts to lead the conversation from it. But guess what? I think this conversation is more important. If you want to have a different conversation, there are other places for you to go.

    I thought I also blamed the Republicans. I thought it was a discussion about the debt and the solution.

    My bad.

    Later.

  51. Frank:

    “I thought it was a discussion about the debt and the solution.”

    By which you apparently mean to say, Frank, “I thought we were going to have this discussion on my terms, using my terms.”

    Surprise!

  52. #59: And I don’t buy the line that this is partisan bickering. This is real stuff.

    Except, of course, for the fact that, as I mentioned before, the vast majority of the problem is due to Republican policies approved by Republican majorities in Congress and signed into law by a Republican president. Not to mention that the vast majority of economists have all provided solutions (i.e. revenues, whether taxes or otherwise) that not a single Republican member of Congress will vote for.

    It’s also worth noting that Republicans will vote for revenue, except when it’s their exact plan just approved by someone they consider a Kenyan socialist. Yes, that’s the Republicans refusing to accept almost exactly the same proposal they themselves created. So this is partisan bickering, from one side entirely.

  53. #60: I thought I also blamed the Republicans. I thought it was a discussion about the debt and the solution.

    Ironically, you have yet to provide any ideas about how to reach that solution, apart from ones refuted by pretty much all economic experts, including those that worked for McCain in 2008.

  54. I used to do politics for a living (mostly part-time) in British Columbia, which is the province of Canada where the politics are so polarized between left and right that the rest of the country considers us to be kind of crazy. But what’s been going on in DC the past little while makes BC’s take-no-prisoners approach look like that Duck, Duck, Goose game that kindergarteners play.

    I keep being reminded of that scene in Rebel Without a Cause where they’re racing the old beaters toward the cliff, and the trick is to bail out before it’s too late. But one guy gets hung up on the door handle and . . .

    I’m thinking that if you folks get through the next few days without crashing the world economy, you might want to think about designing a new political process — one that works.

  55. Digital Atheist:

    St. Reagan (pbuh) also raised taxes eleven times. Isn’t it funny that the same people who take every opportunity to verbally fellate the man won’t follow his example?

  56. Bearpaw@36:

    Even if you boil the analogy down for hours at very high heat to “spending should not exceed income”, that’s not necessarily true even when applied to pesonal household budgets. There are all sorts of very good reasons — *in the long run* — to go into debt. And if you’re not trying to plan for the long run when you’re doing a budget, you’re not doing it right.

    THIS! The three biggest purchases the average person makes is buying a house, buying a college education, and buying a car. All three of these things are usually bought on credit.

    That’s what’s insane about a Balanced Budget Amendment. A balanced budget is good sometimes, but no organization (be it a family, company, or government) can have a balanced budget all the time.

    Frank@59: If it’s important, that’s all the more reason to have secret negotiations, and shield the issue from cable news blowhards. Secret negotiations have always been a key component to getting things done in this country. We wouldn’t have a Constitution except that the founding fathers locked themselves in a room in Philadelphia and negotiated in secret.

    And if it’s really important, that’s all the more reason to push for a compromise–because nothing is going to happen without one. I know the Camellia sinensis crowd wants to dictate terms, but that attitude is frankly downright dangerous. If everyone in Washington says “My way or the highway”, absolutely nothing will get done.

    By the way, if you are implying that only Democrats run stupid attack ads, then you sure have your partisan blinders on.

  57. I’m curious to see (assuming this debt ceiling crisis gets resolved without precipitating complete economic collapse) what ripple effects this has politically. Will the traditional corporate-types in the Republican party ask, do I really want to give these guys the run of the place next year – the vandals willing to risk a financial collapse to make a rhetorical point? I’m guessing Boehner, who seems like the country-club establishment Republican, must worry about this.

  58. Cursorial:

    If the debt ceiling doesn’t get raised because of the Tea Partiers, then I suspect at in the short run at least a lot of money is going to flow to the Democrats. They may want to raise taxes, but they’re not crazy. Once the Tea Party populists have been rooted out of the GOP, the money will flow back in that direction.

  59. I’d like to address the tax increases if I may. I’m not opposed to tax increases, however, there is a tipping point. I’m not convinced anyone knows exactly where that tipping point is, but there most certainly does come a point where increased tax results in less revenues not more.

    Let’s pretend, that the tax rate is 10%. 10% of $100 = $10 Now, if I argue that lowering the rate to 8% would increase the number of people and businesses who move to my area and pay the tax, then I could increase revenue as such: 8% of $150 = $12. Conversely, if raising the tax rate causes people and businesses to move away and not pay my higher rate, I’ll lose money: 12% of $75 = $9.

    Now, at what point does this happen?? Are people and business content to pay 2% more, but would 4% make them reconsider their options? I don’t know. I do know that states without a state income tax seem to be booming. Corporations definitely consider what they pay in taxes as a factor in where they’ll build their new factory (and before we devolve into the big bad corporations thing, realize that taxes are a business expense and they’re trying to reduce expenses so they can, you know, hire people and be successful here in the US). I’ve read different things about this but have yet to find an article that really addresses the issue. The republicans seem to say “no new taxes ever ever ever” and the democrats seem to say “tax tax more so we can spend more”. Both sides are frustrating.

    One last thing – I’m tired of hearing that ‘cutting this’ or ‘cutting that’ isn’t worth it because it’s a drop in the bucket or it’s a negligible amount. Enough drops will fill the bucket, and a million dollars, or a billion dollars, while only a small percentage of the budget, is still worth saving where we can.

  60. @#65

    Kevin, don’t forget that he also worked hard at tripling the debt of the nation, by pushing for billions of dollars to (alledged) defense contractors to develop space based weapons… some of whom did no more than take the mony and make animated flicks of what they thought might be a good idea… and nothing of any value ever came out of this waste expenditure. sigh

  61. @Matthew Hughes: Our mechanism for designing a new political process is constitutional amendment, which the Tea Partiers effectively have veto power over, because of ratification requirements. Beyond that, we’re essentially talking about revolution, and it’s unclear that can happen without a bigger catastrophe than we’re contemplating here.

  62. Isabel:

    “I do know that states without a state income tax seem to be booming.”

    Florida? Nevada? Both with significantly higher unemployment rates than the national average, incidentally.

    I’d be careful about making blanket statements, personally. I’d also be careful about confusing correlation with causation, especially when (as is the case here) the correlation is not making the case you’d like it to.

    And beyond this, Isabel, please try to more directly tie your tax point into the conversation we’re having here, which is (generally) on the debt limit.

  63. Chris, here’s a nice graph explaining why your “solution” is not.

    Cremes@43, that is a very interesting graph. The part I find the most interesting is that it is the “ratio of the proposed debt ceiling to the tax receipt ratio”.

    So if you want to bring that ratio down, the obvious solution is: a) bring down debt or b) increase revenues.

    Basically all this graph is stating is that we are enjoying the fruits of the Bush tax cuts coupled with high expenditures for the last 10 years plus lower revenue due to the recession.

    That graph screams “balanced solution”, eg increase revenue and cut unnecessary costs. Neither have anything to do with the artificial debt ceiling.

    My preference would be to eliminate the debt ceiling completely. Then when any party proposes legislation, the question “how will we pay for this” will be front and center. The rest would be haggling and compromise.

  64. I’m not convinced anyone knows exactly where that tipping point is, but there most certainly does come a point where increased tax results in less revenues not more.

    It’s at a substantially higher rate than anything being currently mooted. To take two examples: Clinton-era tax rates were higher than they are now, and the US saw enormous growth during that period (and a balanced budget!). The Eisenhower administration had marginal rates of 90% (!) and saw massive growth.

    So, short answer: no taxes that are being proposed now will reduce revenues.

  65. In all honesty, I do. His political positions are generally not mine (I haven’t voted for him yet in five elections where I could), but I do think he understands that the political process does include engagement and understanding that getting some of what you want is better than getting nothing. It’s got to be frustrating for him.

    John Scalzi: Honestly, I’d feel a lot more sympathy for folks like Boehner if they weren’t the political equivalent of parents wondering why their children are behaving like weasels on crystal meth after eating their own weight in sugar.

  66. On corporate taxes:
    pretending that giving corporations more tax breaks is going to stimulate anything is to ignore history. In the past, when taxes were much higher than they are now, corporations had great incentive to create jobs, increase wags and invest in new equipment. The incentive was that they either had to hand over a great big chunk of thier profits for the year, or they could reinvest the cash into the company. Reinvestment meant that they didn’t have to give the stinkin’ Gov’ment no cash, and if used creatively could also lower their tax bracket leading to less taxes and more in-pocket cash. Believe me, I saw it working first-hand. After the Bush tax cuts though, that incentive was removed. No longer did companies need to reinvest in their business, they (the owners/stockholders) could just pocket the cash and walk away… which they did and are still doing.

    Want to see jobs come around again? Boost the tax rate, let the companies know that tax breaks will be given for reinvestment in the company, and going overseas for cheap slave labor will cut tax breaks. Try tossing that bomb in a Tea Party circle’o’jerks and see what happens.

  67. John – I want to commend you for one of the most genteel and polite spankings ever delivered on the Intertubes. If Frank were not so committed he would have realized that every comment he has made as simply demonstrated the truth of your rebukes. Sadly, like all true believers(TM) he is blind & deaf to reality.

    The current situation in DC reminds me a lot of July 1914: no side wanted a war, no side thought they would have a war, all sides understood the risks but they kept playing their parts.

  68. I am a simple man and these matters are above my level of economic comprehension.

    But I promise to support whichever party promises to never again use the phrases “live within our means” and “kicking the can down the road.”

  69. Digital Atheist @77

    On corporate taxes:
    pretending that giving corporations more tax breaks is going to stimulate anything is to ignore history. In the past, when taxes were much higher than they are now, corporations had great incentive to create jobs, increase wags and invest in new equipment.

    THIS! Employee salary is one fantastic tax deduction.

  70. #75 – exactly. There is a very substantial body of economic calculations that suggest the peak of the ‘Laffer curve” is 65%!

    For those unfamiliar with the Laffer curve – Prof Laffer drew it on a napkin with no numbers. Its really just a bell curve that claims to indicate that there is a point where raising tax rates reduces income. If you had any econ classes it really just the price point calculation and is very probably correct. But since every tax cut we have had since the 1970s has cause revenue to decline and every tax hike has caused revenue to go up suggests we are on the left-hand side of that slope. That is not necessarily bad, we can probably do quite well without hitting the peak point. But it does indicate that there is plenty of room to increase taxes.

  71. Back up at #30, Frank writes:

    “You worry about default now and the downgrade of the credit rating? But if we continue on this course it will happen sooner or later. Why not now?”

    Wait, wait– did you just seriously raise the “let’s unleash destruction now; they’ll destroy themselves eventually anyway” line?

    I’m aware that you’re not the only person in the recent debate to say this with a straight face. But this is a largely a group of SF fans here, the sorts of folks who should instinctively recognize this as Supervillain Logic 101. (Your “it’ll be easier to rebuild if we get it over with now” qualifier, which I didn’t quote above but is upthread, is a not-uncommon extension of the trope.)

    Of course, in fiction somebody ends up either talking the villain down or thwarting their plans at the last minute. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that reality will live up to the expectations of fiction…

  72. @ Matt McIrvin:

    I think your system allows for calling a citizens assembly to write a whole new constitution. That’s the option I’d go for, even though it might lead to another civil war. You’re facing the worst crisis in decades and your political system just doesn’t seem to be able to respond.

    Constitutions aren’t sacred writ. They’re the best system that a particular group of people can come up with, under the prevailing circumstances at the time. But then times change. France’s revolution happened within a few years of yours. Since then, the French have rewritten their constitution as needed. They’ve been on their fifth version for the past fifty years or so. We Canadians redid ours about thirty years ago. It can be a lot of trouble, but it keeps a country from marching up blind alleys that the original drafters never anticipated.

    Like the one you’re in now. With the rest of us forced to tag along, though with no say in the matter.

  73. @#68

    Agreed, although I’m not sure exactly how that happens with the Republicans not becoming a minority party. I’m sure there are some Tea Partiers who are genuinely concerned about spending and long-term debt, but the energy in that faction comes from people who want to be outraged about something, and deficits are just the outrage du jour. The stability of the Republican party relied on separating those constituents, who vote on abortion, gay marriage, etc., from people who vote on marginal tax rates and don’t care much about social issues. They’ve mixed the two now, and unmixing them is going to be difficult. Unless they come up with a new and shinier outrage to send the outrage faction after?

  74. And here I thought the CDU and SPD were at each others throats, but compared to what’s happening in the US of A, Germany’s political clima is like a slightly stern family meeting…

  75. From here on the other side of the Atlantic it seems as if Boehner’s supporters seem to think he is the president and that the actual president is the leader of the opposition and should back down. The actual and real president is a tad upset about this, and has tried explaining (admittedly in mounting frustration) that this is not the case and since he was elected as president they should kinda stick to scrutinising and strengthening the policies he is proposing. Then Boehner’s people get upset about that because when it comes to democracy the only votes that actually count are theirs, and if the guy who is really president doesn’t admit that he isn’t and that their guy should be, then they’ll just do a rage quit and over turn the table, stamp their feet, generally cause a great big mess, and then everyone will see they were right all along.

    It’s kinda hard to respect a party whose policy set seems to be “have a temper tantrum everytime they don’t get a lollipop”.

  76. I’m late to this party but isn’t that a leering Eric Cantor just over John Boehner’s shoulder?

    That’s one big reason right there why Boehner hasn’t done a deal with the House Democrats and those Republican’s he can drag along. Near as I can tell Cantor lives for the day he can stick a big ol’ knife in Boehner’s back and become Speaker.

    The Big Money that thought that encouraging the Tea Party would be a fine weapon to soften up Obama for a loss in 2012 and to pave the way for a Romney presidency that would voucherize Medicare and maintain the Bush tax cuts are hopefully rethinking whether that was such a good idea.

    It’s like how we threw money at jihadists back in the Cold War.

  77. Since then, the French have rewritten their constitution as needed. They’ve been on their fifth version for the past fifty years or so

    Uh, given France’s record, I’m not sure I would be holding them up as a model. And no, that’s not a reflexively anti-French crack, but given the number of coups and collapses the French nation has endured over the last two centuries, they don’t exactly stand as a model of political stability.

    You’re facing the worst crisis in decades and your political system just doesn’t seem to be able to respond

    Uh, can we wait until the political system actually doesn’t respond before we make blanket pronouncements?

  78. #86: Keep in mind that the Constitution was never designed with disciplined ideological parties in mind.

    If this is the new normal maybe it will be time to consider parlimentarianism as a constitutional option in this country.

    Either that or we are witnesssing the desperate and rancid ending of Jacksonian White Male Republic.

  79. Matthew Hughes:

    “That’s the option I’d go for, even though it might lead to another civil war.”

    It’s nice that you’d be willing to risk a civil war for us, Matthew, but considering how the last one went, I think we’ll pass.

    Beyond this, the issues here are not Constitutional in scope, they’re procedural. If nothing else, the Debt Limit is not enshrined in the US Constitution.

  80. Matthew Hughes@64: I am sympathetic to the argument that a parliamentary system is superior to our system, because an impasse like this would lead to new elections instead of gridlock. That having been said, the likelihood of the U.S. exchanging its separation-of-powers arrangement for a parliamentary system is so low that I’m not sure it’s worth contemplating.

    But to some extent, the American system is working as it was designed: you can’t pass any legislation in the American system without compromise. The framers of our constitution made a perfectly reasonable assumption that Americans would elect people who, when facing a crisis like this, would be willing to give up some of what they want for the common good. And frankly, as reflected by the work of Senator Ried and Speaker Boehner, most members of Congress are up to this challenge. The problem is that Americans have managed to elected a small, yet sizable, minority of people to Congress who seem to think any compromise is an anathema. Yes, you could fault the founding fathers for not foreseeing this possibility, but I prefer to blame contemporary Americans for electing a mass of “ignorant nihilists”, as Scalzi correctly characterizes them, to Congress. Because the election of enough ignorant nihilists will put a strain on any political system.

  81. On part of John’s original point, I also feel sorry for Rep. Boehner, while opposing all of his policies. While he is certainly not a gleaming example of public service (during the tobacco fights of the 90s, he was passing out contribution checks from the tobacco companies on the floor of the House DURING VOTES, a practice which is now banned) he is not a cartoon of thuggishness, like Tom Delay or Dick Armey. There’s enough actual humanity there to offer sympathy.

    Something I haven’t noted in the comments is the role that Rep. Cantor is playing in making Boehner’s job so much harder. He (the Majority Leader) has been actively fanning the flames of discontent among the tea party set; he wants the Speaker’s gavel, and has not been afraid to signal his desire. He is the reason that Boehner backed away from the “grand bargain,” I think. Now, when we’re really down to endgame, Cantor’s prior activism is preventing the Republicans from declaring victory.

  82. By ‘booming’ I was not specifically referring to the unemployment rate. I was referring to GSP (gross state product, like GDP for the states) and business/individual migration to those states. Obviously many factors go into determining a state’s ‘success’ – I apologize for over-simplifying.

    My point was not that we shouldn’t raise taxes either, but rather that doing so should be done with caution and set re-evaluation.

    As for the debt, my apologies if this increasing taxes thread was an aside. It has been my understanding that spending, taxation and debt limit increase were all parts of the same problem. I believe we should pay our current expenses, which would involve increasing the debt ceiling. But we just can’t keep doing that. Those expenses need to be reduced. I don’t think any one is realistically arguing that there is nothing that can be cut.

  83. Hey, if you think writing a new constitution would solve anything stop and imagine for a minute these same forces involved deep in the heart of the American democracy! Those same teabaggers want an end to the 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 19th and 24th amendments along with rewriting the 1st, 4th and 5th. It would be a can of worms.

  84. @ John Scalzi:

    I assume it would be a short civil war, and it might finally catch the attention of the majority of the US electorate who don’t even bother to vote, and get them involved in the political process. That’s got to help in the long run.

  85. is not a cartoon of thuggishness, like Tom Delay or Dick Armey. There’s enough actual humanity there to offer sympathy.

    Nah, that actually makes Boehner worse. “I’m not a douchebag, I just enable and pander to douchebags when it’s politically convenient” isn’t much of a campaign slogan.

  86. Matthew Hughes:

    “I assume it would be a short civil war, and it might finally catch the attention of the majority of the US electorate who don’t even bother to vote, and get them involved in the political process.”

    You know, Matthew, I think you should stop trying to help. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the thought. But, yeah. Thanks, no.

  87. Matthew Hughes @95

    To paraphrase Terry Pratchett, the trouble with wars is that starting one is quite easy. You just have to shout “start fightin'”, but when it comes time to shout “stop fightin'” everyone is a bit busy to pay attention. Also you don’t have to pay people a lot to start fighting, but generally it costs a lot of money to get them to stop. Wars have a tendency to snowball and eventually end up being about things completely unrelated to the issue that ostensibly started them, principally they turn into “this bastard was stabbin’ and shootin’ at me so I want to stab or shoot him”.

    I would also point out, from a non-US resident POV that the prospect of the world’s biggest economy and most well armed country involved in a civil war is rather underpant-shittingly scary.

  88. John,

    I am afraid that I am going to have to disagree about feeling sorry for the Mr. Boehner. As a Leader, he has a responsibility to lead the House, not just the Republicans in the House. He took the leadership position but has ran it for maximum political gain. He is playing to his base rather than leading, makes absolute statements rather than putting the boot on the neck of his own extremists and now that failure of leadership has backed him into a corner and cost him. He made his bed, now he gets to lay in it. Unfortunately, it is going to cost us all it seems.

    BTW, long-time reader and big fan of your Blog.

  89. I assume it would be a short civil war, and it might finally catch the attention of the majority of the US electorate who don’t even bother to vote, and get them involved in the political process. That’s got to help in the long run.

    Matthew Hughes@#95: In 1861, I suspect you’d also have assumed the Anaconda Plan was going to work and that the American Civil War would be over by Thanksgiving. Sadly, reality is so disobliging.

    Back in 2011, I guess its terribly easy to blithely say what a good thing a civil war would be when I can say with little fear of contradiction that neither of us have been closer to such a conflict than a DVD of Gone with the Wind.

  90. When folks say they are going to cut spending, there is an effect that they don’t mention. Cutting goverment spending means cutting jobs – 60,000 jobs was one estimate I read – I have no idea if that is accurate. I think that figure is low, as government contract jobs will be lost as well. When you cut 60,000 jobs you lose the tax revenue from those incomes, so the savings is not as great as some say it is. There is also the matter of paying unemployment benefits to those who are laid off – another expense. I have heard Republicans, both Tea Party and mainstream, say that cutting spending will create jobs. How is laying off 60,000 people considered job creation? Another old chestnut – cutting taxes creates jobs and generates revenue. That is demonstrably untrue, as wages have been stagnant for years, unemployment is high, and the economy is in trouble. Time to undo the Bush tax cuts and make capital gains and dividends taxable as ordinary income once again. How about we go back to the tax structure we had under the Republicans’ darling Ronald Reagan? There is wasteful spending that can be cut, but we need to increase revenue as well. Everyone should chip in, the poor maybe a little, the middle class more, the wealthy even more.

  91. willfully dragging the country into default, thus extending the recession and messing with the entire global economy for no other reason than you won’t do anything unless you get your way, insert foot-stomping here? That’s a pretty nihilist position.

    No. Tea partiers don’t think that their policy will lead to default or destruction. They think it will lead to austerity. Indeed, they feel about what you do, about your side: they think that borrowing more will cause the inevitable adjustment to be even more painful, when it finally and inevitably happens. They think that USG should have a balanced budget, and the time to start that is now. This is why they are willing to threaten not to raise the debt limit. They think that USG has already borrowed enough — indeed, too much.

    I reject your sort of argumentation, where your enemies are not just wrong, but actively evil. This is, as I suggested initially, the politics of hatred. I can see no other reason for it than hatred. I get that you hate your political enemies. (Hating your enemies is normal for humans, even though it is often a regrettable aspect of human nature.) I understand that you hate them, and even why you hate them. What I won’t go along with is the demonization that you are attempting. Tea partiers are not evil. They are your fellow citizens, who have different political beliefs. Why can’t you just hate them for what they are? Isn’t it enough?

    Incidentally, getting back to meaning: even granting your notion that tea partiers are evil, it’s not nihilism unless they want destruction for its own sake. Shall we use m-w.com? I shall. The closest meaning to what you are talking about here is this one: “a doctrine or belief that conditions in the social organization are so bad as to make destruction desirable for its own sake independent of any constructive program or possibility”. If the tea party was really nihilist, then they would be holding out for default and economic destruction regardless of any agreement. That is, they would simply demand no agreement of any kind on the debt ceiling, raising it, lowering it, or keeping it the same.

    They don’t do that, because (a) they are not nihilists, and (b), they are not evil.

  92. Matthew Hughes@83:

    I think your system allows for calling a citizens assembly to write a whole new constitution.

    Actually, no. You’re thinking of Article V of the U.S. Constitution, which says “The Congress, [ . . ] on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments”. The proposed amendments from such a convention would still have to be ratified by 3/4 of the states, like amendments proposed by Congress. And although you could propose enough amendments to radically alter the constitution, Article V still requires that “no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.”

  93. Civil wars aside:

    The Constitution does indeed allow calling a new Constitutional Convention. But the changes proposed by that convention still have to be ratified by the states with the same threshold as for Congressionally proposed amendments.

    Now, that’s assuming that people actually agree to abide by the old Constitution when approving the new one. In practice, that wasn’t what happened when the current Constitution was ratified; it didn’t happen according to the Articles of Confederation’s amendment procedures. The Articles of Confederation version of the US government had lost sufficient legitimacy by that point that that didn’t matter much.

    That could happen again. The trouble is, it’s a roll of the dice. Much as it was in 1789. You don’t necessarily know that you’ll come out better at the end of the process.

    I actually agree that there are a lot of problems with the current Constitution that a different construction of the republic would help with. The question is whether any reasonably foreseeable process under current conditions would get us there. A second US civil war is not a realistically good option. The history of the past 30-odd years has proven that under some circumstances, you can actually get a largely peaceful people-power revolution. But you need mindshare first, the idea among a sufficient piece of the population that things could be better. I don’t think the moment’s here; the revolutionary fervor is all on the side of people with really bad ideas.

  94. #107: “If the tea party was really nihilist, then they would be holding out for default and economic destruction regardless of any agreement. That is, they would simply demand no agreement of any kind on the debt ceiling, raising it, lowering it, or keeping it the same.”

    How do we know that’s not the plan?

    Just sayin’.

  95. #107: No. Tea partiers don’t think that their policy will lead to default or destruction. They think it will lead to austerity. Indeed, they feel about what you do, about your side: they think that borrowing more will cause the inevitable adjustment to be even more painful, when it finally and inevitably happens. They think that USG should have a balanced budget, and the time to start that is now. This is why they are willing to threaten not to raise the debt limit. They think that USG has already borrowed enough — indeed, too much.

    Regardless of whether or not this is what they believe, it’s wrong, and there’s zero evidence to back up this belief. When we had higher tax rates and no balanced budget amendment, the government and the people were doing much better than they are today. There is absolutely nothing from that time period that would be giving us this amount of debt. In, fact, all signs point to, at worst, a much smaller deficit. That’s because (at the risk of repeating myself again and again) the major drivers of the debt are the Bush tax cuts and the foreign conflicts we’re involved in. Entitlements, TARP, stimulus, health care reform, everything–combined–is a fraction of those two factors. That doesn’t take into account the future savings of HCR (which are huge but don’t really kick in until 2014 or later), and it’s almost certain that the additional revenue that would have been generated had the Bush tax cuts not passed would have kept us in the black.

    That is, they would simply demand no agreement of any kind on the debt ceiling, raising it, lowering it, or keeping it the same.

    That doesn’t really help your argument, since “no agreement” is in fact what they seem to be arguing for. It’s also worth noting that the debt ceiling is an unnecessary crisis. There’s only two other countries that have it.

  96. Leonard:

    “Tea partiers don’t think that their policy will lead to default or destruction.”

    This is why I call them ignorant nihilists, Leonard. And at this point, as others have noted, it’s willful ignorance — they have all sorts of people who can explain to them why their policies will cause default and disruption, and they just won’t listen. Which punts them back over into the “nihilist” camp pretty handily.

    I’m sure they mean well and have good intentions; you’ll note it was you introducing the word “evil” into the mix there, not me, so please spare me that will bit of strawmannery, if you will. They’re not evil, just ignorant. Oh, and nihilist.

    If the Tea Partiers want to realistically show they are not nihilist, then I suggest the solution is simple: They actually try to work into their brains the idea that politics is to a large extent about making choices and compromises, and taking some gains now and working toward larger gains in the long run. I’m not exactly holding my breath on that, because why would nihilists compromise?

  97. Sigh, it seems it is time to drag the skeleton out of the closet. As regards the Tea Party, backers of said group–my fellow Americans–do have some legitimate gripes, gripes the Tea Party claims they will take care of. Unfortunately, the actual powers behind the Tea Party movement are corporations who ran scared that President Obama was going to do away with the Bush tax cuts. The actual movers and shakers of the Tea Party give not one true hoot about the common American. If they did, would it not be smart of them to at least pretend that sending jobs overseas is a problem that needs to be addressed? How about finding jobs for the unemployeed? No…? What you hear is cut the size of government, cut taxes for the rich, let corporations do their jobs with no kind of regulation.

    John is right in calling them (the actual movers and shakers) Nihilists… although I submit that Corporate willingly ignorant and malicious Nihilists is a better term. Most especially since the days of St. Ronnie of Reagan, corporate America has been on a warpath to eliminate the middle class in this country. A middle class that has money to spend, doesn’t need to work overtime, and can find a better job if the old one is not bearable is something that corporations hate. It is much better for the profit line to be able to ration jobs, keep wages as low as possible and keep the rabble lean and hungry and fighting for jobs and sustenance. Believe this if nothing else, corporate America has no regard for your welfare; Their bottom line is the only thing that matters.

    As long as they can reap profits with no tax liability, the situation is not going to change. Money goes into the corporate purse, and doesn’t come back into the economy, at least not to the rabble.

    Everyone needs to accept the fact: the Tea Party exists for one purpose and one purpose only… protecting the Bush tax cuts and keeping corporations free from tax liability and regulation of industry. It is a group that was corporately formed, corporately backed, and corporately run. Nothing more.

    Sadly, any Republican (or fate forbid Tea party member) who sees the light and understands that compromises are going to have to be made, taxes raised, is going to be marginalized slam out of existence and denounced as a heretic.

  98. I hope we aren’t heading towards a repeat of the Weimar Republic, and that the voters then won’t decide that we need one leader to get us out of this fix because Congress is clearly unable to.

    I’d like to believe that. Won’t someone indulge me?

  99. Digital Atheist @ #113:

    Tell a ground-level teabagger that, though, and they’ll angry deny it and say it’s a true grassroots thing. Trust me, I know. They even mean well, but lack the political sophistication to understand that they’re dupes.

    Soviet Union, your useful idiots.

  100. #115: There’s a fine piece at Mother Jones on how one of the main organizers of the movement is a big part in Herbalife and other such pyramid schemes.

  101. Leonard if they aren’t nihilists, then please explain this infamous quote by Grover Norquist: “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

    If that isn’t nihilism, I don’t know what is. Please note that Mr Norquist and his group, Americans for Taxpayer Reform, supposedly holds signed “no new taxes” pledges from almost all current Republican members of Congress.

    For what it is worth, I don’t think of the Tea Partiers as evil. Blinded by unbending ideology, yes. Evil, no.

  102. @ Kevin #115

    That is the problem with this whole mess. The normal every day American sees and hears the things (s)he wants, and the Tea Party speaks a good game. Hell, down here in SC people like me are considered to be flaming liberals who should be exported to some other place. I know for myself that the TP says it stands for things I could get behind… but knowing their true agenda and who kicked in the money to found them lets me know that the actual people who get elected under their banner have no intention at all of helping Me out. Which is sad for them, because historically my ballets have always looked like some one fired a shotgun at them: Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Constitutionalist, Green, Federalist… and probably a couple more I can’t recall.

    As for my fellow Americans who buy the Tea Party line, they hear the right noises, but close their eyes to the Tea Party’s true colors… green, Green, and more GREEN$! I even understand them, they feel that the two biggies have done nothing to help them. Sadly at some point they will discover that the Tea Party has done nothing to really help them either… especially when that one government program they depend on gets cut and they are left twisting in the wind… but until then they are gonna close their eyes, stop their ears, and shout “lalalalalala I can’t hear you” to anyone who dares point out that the Tea Party is really, truly, honestly only concerned with them that has money and wasnts to keep it all to themselves, forever and ever AMEN!

  103. Scalzi:

    Yet. Let the economy go down the crapper a few more years because Congress can’t get its act together, though…

  104. #38: What exactly does a debt ceiling mean?

    To ordinary people it would appear to mean that is the most you are allowed to spend. You know, like an allowance. So one would expect that new legislation would be evaluated against the ceiling and if it exceeds it it must be cut back.

    But we (democrats + republicans) have already spent the money. Raising the debt ceiling only allows us to pay for the projects/programs we’ve already implemented and benefited from. It has nothing to do with continued deficits. Period.

  105. When I hear ‘nihlism’ I usually think of people siting around a coffee shop, sipping lattes, measuring their importance by who can most definitely assert that there is no point to life.

    I am not sure how nihilsm applies to the tea party. googling around, the only variiation that might fit is: people who say we dont need government. is that what people are meaning here by nihlist?

    not how I normally think of the term, but whatever….

    also I did a calculation back on the debt thing thread that the average marginal tax rate over the last hundred years was 60%. can anyone confirm this? if true, can anyone explain why when we have one of the lowest tax rates of the last hunxred years, why is raising taxes not an option?

    as for folks saying the tea party folks are brave heroes. thanks for the chuckle.

  106. Sean @ 121:

    GG, that really is what he wrote. So, either he doesn’t know what the debt ceiling is, or he thinks that “ordinary people” don’t know what the debt ceiling is, and is perfectly happy to exploit their ignorance.

  107. In 1861, I suspect you’d also have assumed the Anaconda Plan was going to work and that the American Civil War would be over by Thanksgiving. Sadly, reality is so disobliging.

    I’m not an expert on the Civil War, but I thought it was those opposed to the Anaconda Plan who thought the war would be short; they derided Scott’s plan because it would take too long compared to a decisive strike.

  108. compromise – comment found on fark.com by some farker

    “To put it another way, Mr. Obama is insisting on compromise rather than capitulation. His offer requires concessions of both conservative, and progressive values. And even requires more concessions of progressive values than conservative values.

    The GOP offer requires only sacrifices of progressive values, and no sacrifice of conservative values. It is not a “compromise,” but rather is a “demand.”

    boehner took a stand which required him to not compromise – PERIOD. makes for impossible negotiations

  109. “The Congressional Budget Office has pooped all over it”

    Huh? You really need some remedial training in basic English Comprehension because that’s not what the article says.

    From the CBO:

    “The CBO reported Tuesday, however, that the most recent proposal from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, would cut spending by $850 billion rather than the $1.2 trillion proponents claimed it would save. Boehner’s plan calls for at least another $1.6 trillion in deficit reduction partly through tax and entitlement reforms to be proposed by a congressional commission — generating total savings of $2.8 trillion or more.”

    So, Boehner wants more income through taxes. Yes, despite what Obama says, the GOP’s plan does include tax increases.

    BTW, what is the President’s plan other than raise taxes and more spending?

    We wouldn’t be in this mess if it weren’t for Barack’s unprecedented level of spending.

    We wouldn’t be in this mess if Reid and Pelosi had actually passed a budget between 2008-2010.

    So the President spends like a drunken sailor giving money to his Crony’s (the UAW through GM while Bond holders and non-union workers get illegally screwed) and we have to have the government take an unprecedented level of the GDP in the form of job-killing taxes in the middle of a recession?

    Who’s the ignorant, moronic extremist again, Scalzi?

    Answer: go look in a mirror.

  110. This is why I continue to think political parties are a Bad Idea. If it wasn’t for party posturing, would we still be having this debate, or would we have just gone and fixed the problem by now? In theory, our representatives in congress are supposed to act on our ideals/desires/whatevers, but instead of going to their constituents for a position on things, they go to their party mantra (generally). If representatives were beholden to the people who elected them, rather than their party affiliation, wouldn’t we get more crap done? Isn’t the Party Line just an easy way out? If my representatives said, “I’m voting for X because it’s what my district wants” instead of “Democrat/Republican/Tea Party blathering,” I’d be a lot happier. Sure, it would lead to fewer quick & easy majority decisions, but in a lot of ways isn’t that a good thing?

    I guess that was a bit off topic. My vote to solve the debt crisis is to stop being dumb.

  111. history is littered with the ruins of empires shattered by labor unions.

    –koch brothers industries civic studies textbook submitted to texas public achool boards for consideration.

  112. It’s true, a Constitutional Convention would probably be a dicey proposition, given the prevailing moods. Perhaps it would be better to outsource the process? Maybe ask the Swiss to write a new set of groundrules for America? After all, they’re a conservative, generally religious people with more automatic weapons than the Mexican cartels. And yet their democracy works pretty well, even though it took them longer than it should have to invite the Swissettes to join the party.

    I know that’s thinking outside the box, but have you taken a look lately at what the box is full of?

  113. @126 – I hate to feed the troll, but gee whiz dude, get real. Let’s talk facts, not personal attacks. The deficit problem is mostly due to the policies (unnecessary war) and tax cuts of the Bush Administration. A good portion of the (much smaller) portion of the deficit contributed by the Obama administration has been to help the economy and those damaged by the Bush policies. We had a huge surplus when Bush got in and the Republicans took both House and Senate, a huge and mounting deficit when he left – that is the main contribution to today’s deficit problem. So saying it is Obama’s fault is not true.

  114. Scorpius@126:

    BTW, what is the President’s plan other than raise taxes and more spending?

    What is up with all these Tea Party defenders misstating history? I’ve seen this assertion by a commenters on this blog repeatedly, and it’s simply not true. The Christian Science Monitor describes the offer made by Obama weeks ago as follows: “It would reduce the US deficit by at least $4 trillion over 10 to 12 years – by far the biggest bite out of the deficit of all the options. It would include spending cuts, tax increases (which Republicans detest), and cuts in the cost of entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security (which Democrats abhor).” As I stated above, David Brooks (who is a conservative) has even said that it was
    “The Mother of All No-Brainers”
    for the Republicans to take this deal, describing it as “trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred billion dollars of revenue increases.”

    And that describes Obama’s offer weeks ago. The current proposal by Senator Ried–which is backed by the president–is even more conciliatory toward your position.

    Stop lying. Please.

  115. Scorpius @126

    So you’re saying that the current deficit as all Obama’s fault? I suppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were free up until 2008 then? and Medicare part D (with the provision that the federal government must pay full retail for drugs) didn’t cost tax payer’s a cent? And Obama’s “spending” also caused the Bush tax cuts? And the recession too?

    The current deficit aside, “this mess” has been building for decades and sticking your head in the sand and blaming Obama isn’t going to help anything. Unless you’re just deliberately trolling, in which case my bad for feeding the troll.

  116. #126: BTW, what is the President’s plan other than raise taxes and more spending?

    It’s not his plan. He can’t offer one since he’s not part of the legislature. Stop spitting and start reading.

    We wouldn’t be in this mess if it weren’t for Barack’s unprecedented level of spending.

    A lie easily proven false. The Bush tax cuts and the wars were each more money spent than everything in Obama’s combined current spending levels.

    So the President spends like a drunken sailor giving money to his Crony’s (the UAW through GM while Bond holders and non-union workers get illegally screwed) and we have to have the government take an unprecedented level of the GDP in the form of job-killing taxes in the middle of a recession?

    If you’d bothered reading, oh, I don’t know…anything, you’d know that GM made such a profit thanks to their stimulus that they’ve already been able to pay back all of the money they were given by the government. Shocking! And as myself and others have pointed out multiple times, those “job-killing” taxes were actually higher when we had a budget surplus and very low unemployment. Not to mention that Reagan and Bush 1 raised taxes, so even if you (wrongfully) don’t want to give any credit to Clinton for all of that, they still raised taxes during a recession (multiple tax raises, actually) and it didn’t kill jobs, but in fact did the exact opposite.

    Who’s the ignorant, moronic extremist again, Scalzi?

    Answer: I will go look in a mirror.

    FTFY

  117. Marco, political parties we have today are an outcome of the electoral college and the election process being a majority-vote-wins process. implement a condercet system or instant runoff system and you remove that pressure that polarizes parties.

    but even nations that have instant runoff elections stil have political parties. because ultra right wing philosophies are diametrically opposed to most progressive-liberal philosophies.

    parties are not what is causing this problem. but this problem does highlight the differences among parties.

    fox news had reported that something like a third to half of republicans in the house would vote against ANY proposal no matter what was in it. Boehner is leader of a party that he has no control over. much of this has been posturing by boehner to convince these republicans that they have to compromise something to get something passed. but these guys dont want anything passed. they want a default because in their minds a default and resulting crash would be Obamas fault.

    so part of the problem iant party lines but that boehner cant control those in his party.

  118. Erik @133

    I suppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were free up until 2008 then?

    As far as the Bush Administration was concerned, they were. They didn’t count the cost of those wars in any accounting measures or budgetary considerations at all during Bush II’s tenure, knowing full well that by the time their acknowledgment was unavoidable they themselves would be out there and joining the chorus of those blaming their successors – and that’s exactly how it worked out.

  119. “the House GOP needs to come up with a plan that is palatable to the Senate and the president …”

    Or maybe, just maybe, the Senate and the President should recognize the will of the people as expressed in the most recent election and support the budget and debt solutions that have already passed the House. Why did the Senate kill “Cut, Cap, and Balance” on a procedural vote instead of bringing it to the floor for debate.

  120. Eric:

    Or maybe, just maybe, the House GOP should recognize the will of the people, etc. as expressed in the latest round of polling.

    Better arguments: you need them.

  121. John, reverse the sides and a tea partier would make the exact same argument about your side: “at this point, as others have noted, wanting ever-increasing debt is willful ignorance — you have all sorts of people who can explain to you why it will cause default and disruption, and you just won’t listen.” This is how politics is. You can always find an “expert” to explain why you should do both policy X and policy not X.

    If people are unanimous, there is no political fight. Tea partiers really do believe that your side — the side advocating business as usual, or ever-increasing debt — is the side that will lead to default or destruction. It is true that it would be painful to be austere now. However, it will be also in the future. Your side has a subtle argument: that we can escape from the iron political logic of democracy. (I certainly don’t believe it.)

    Nonetheless your possible wrongness does not make you a nihilist, unless your motive is destruction.

    As for the word “evil”, yes I injected it here. I did so in response to your use of “nihilism”, which you still refuse to back off of. Well, in my opinion nihilism is evil. Furthermore, most people understand that, which is why calling someone a nihilist is an insult. If you call tea partiers nihilists, you are calling them evil, and it is an insult to them. I’ll agree there is a tiny step between the two concepts, but I am rather curious if you would assert that nihilism is not necessarily evil. (Evidently, you do, since you concede that tea partiers “mean well and have good intentions”.) What sort of person means well, but wants to destroy for the sake of destruction? Can you give even one example? If you have one, do you believe that a popular mass movement can be like that person?

    As for the supposed ignorance of the tea partiers: again, polls show they are better educated that the average American. Of course they may still be “ignorant”; ignorance is relative and nobody is omniscient. Nonetheless, I suggest humility when attempting to evaluate the ideas of a group of well-educated people whom you cannot possibly know even a small fraction of.

  122. Or maybe, just maybe, the Senate and the President should recognize the will of the people as expressed in the most recent election and support the budget and debt solutions that have already passed the House

    Or maybe, just maybe, the House should recognize the will of the people as expressed in the election of 2008 and support the budget and debt solutions suggested by Obama.

    See how that works?

  123. CLP@#132:

    + One trillion. In a weird way (and this is probably going to make liberal Democrat heads explode) but Andrew Sullivan is right: Obama is a pragmatic conservative while the GOP seem like a pack of radical ideologues whose estrangement from reality would be funny if it wasn’t so damn dangerous.

    And watching the GOP posture about fiscal responsibility is akin to watching a teenager playing with their purity ring while solemnly explaining how blow jobs and anal don’t count. Not really. And apparently binge spending is only bad when Democrats do it.

  124. Craig Ranapia:

    I’ve been saying that Obama’s a moderate Republican from back when such a beast existed for a while now.

  125. Or maybe, just maybe, the Senate and the President should recognize the will of the people as expressed in the most recent election and support the budget and debt solutions that have already passed the House.

    Oh please. The Senate and the President are under no moral obligation to do any such thing. You can argue that it’s dumb politics to go against the will of the people, but that’s a different matter.

    I’d also point out that the people tend to be in favor of Obamacare (or it’s provisions) and a slight majority want higher taxes on those making over $250,000 a year and the GOP doesn’t seem to give two hoots about that (“We don’t care about the polls” they say).

    Why did the Senate table the vote? I honestly don’t know. However, there was an up or down vote to table it (rather than it being done in committee) and this is hardly the first time that the party in charge has done some wierd-ass procedural thing rather than the alternative. This time it happened for something you like. Next time it will happen for something you hate and I doubt we will hear you complaining then.

  126. #139: Or maybe, just maybe, the Senate and the President should recognize the will of the people as expressed in the most recent election and support the budget and debt solutions that have already passed the House

    The “will of the people” is a useless argument. The people’s will often ends up poorly (insert Godwin’s Law here). Besides, the newly-elected representatives were notably not elected to reduce debt by removing entitlements to the ultra-poor and elderly. They were supposedly elected to create jobs, which not a single Republican lawmaker in either the House or the Senate has done in either a bill or co-sponsorship.

  127. Leonard:

    “a tea partier would make the exact same argument about your side”

    I’m sure they would. However, just as a creationist would kvell that evolution “is a theory, just like Intelligent Design,” the fact they would like to position themselves as no different doesn’t mean they are. My side, as you put it, has more economist and economic planners of all political stripes on it, as well as most business interests. Almost everyone but the tea partiers agree that default would be a very bad thing.

    Incidentally, Leonard, don’t think I don’t see the cards you’re attempting to palm there. This isn’t actually a discussion about “austerity” vs. “ever-increasing debt,” with the virtuous Tea Partiers on one side and everyone else on the other. Right now, it’s “people willing to wreck the economy right now to get their way,” vs. “People who understand the political process requires politics.” And that has ignorant nihilists on one side and everyone else on the other. If you read the site here, you’d see I have no problem with austerity as a general concept if it’s necessary. Doing it the Tea Party way, however, is like stopping the car by driving it into a wall.

    “If you call tea partiers nihilists, you are calling them evil, and it is an insult to them.”

    Well, no. If I call them nihilists, you think I am calling them evil, which is different than me calling them evil. I am not responsible for what goes on in your brain. Likewise “evil,” isn’t an insult, when someone is actually evil; it’s merely an adjective. However, I am not calling the Tea Partiers evil; I’m calling them nihilists. I’m not required to accept your declension of what “nihilist” in this case means, although I will say that if you equate nihilism with evil, I’m sorry you continue to attempt to defend a bunch of nihilists.

    “I suggest humility when attempting to evaluate the ideas of a group of well-educated people whom you cannot possibly know even a small fraction of.”

    Oh, bah. The ideas of the group are evident by their actions, which in this case are to turn back every attempt at compromise in order not to precipitate a default. One doesn’t need humility to see when the car is being driven into a wall, or to comment upon it.

  128. #141: As for the supposed ignorance of the tea partiers: again, polls show they are better educated that the average American.

    An argument you have made continually without any shred of evidence to back it up.

    Of course they may still be “ignorant”; ignorance is relative and nobody is omniscient. Nonetheless, I suggest humility when attempting to evaluate the ideas of a group of well-educated people whom you cannot possibly know even a small fraction of.

    The same goes for your argument. Besides, as John explained, the ideas of his side have already been evaluated and proven right by both actual scientific data and historical outcomes.

  129. As to the on-going debate about Tea Partiers being “ignorant nihilists” with the apparent opposing argument being that a poll found them to be “better educated” than the “average American:

    I’m pretty sure our host didn’t mean to equate “ignorant” with “stupid”; there are plenty of smart folks out there espousing “ignorant” (i.e., undocumented, uninformed) concepts. Look how long the “trickle-down theory” of tax-cutting has been around (Reagan, Poppy Bush and all that “voodoo economics stuff way back in the early ’80s) that has practically been laughed out of every viable school of economics, but still is a mainstay of GOP platforms on every level, down to dogcatcher. Our Governor of the Great State of Florida was on TV this morning trying to defend his position of treating “government like a business” while saying he was all for NOT extending the debt limit, which if you listened to him long enough, just about anyone would have come away thinking he was “ignorant”, not necessarily “stupid”.

    The Tea Party in its various forms, from well-meaning (“I just don’t want my kids having to deal with all this debt”) to outright insane (“Obama is from Kenya! He’s a Muslim! He hates America! He hates white people!’) has become “ignorant” because it has pushed a goodly number of Republican lawmakers into a corner they don’t think they can get out of over the debt ceiling because they think they’ll lose the next election or, heaven forbid, Obama will win the next one because they actually (shudder) “compromised” by allowing some long-overdue tax exemptions or deductions written into the tax code over the decades by various elected representatives of the “People” who were better at representing their well-endowed patrons who pushed money into their election accounts every couple of years. I think there probably ARE a bunch of GOP Representatives in the House who would compromise, who think it is in the country’s best interests to give a little here, take a little there with the other side, but cannot now because the Tea Party has, in its narrowly-defined view of economics, thinks that all debt is bad and all government spending, no matter who for, is inherently evil. Doesn’t matter that Reagan and just about every Republican President since HAS preached the necessity of raising the ceiling; if the Democrats are for it, they are a’gin it.

    If the end result is pushing us down a fiscal cliff, then yes, I think the Tea Party-types are “ignorant nihilists”.

  130. Or maybe, just maybe, the Senate and the President should recognize the will of the people as expressed in the most recent election and support the budget and debt solutions that have already passed the House

    The “will of the people” is a useless argument.

    Not really. Last time I looked, “the will of the people” elected 100 Senators and one President as well. Whatever your party/political affiliation, I’m sure there are times when a bicameral federal legislature and a directly elected President is a royal pain in the arse. Diddums, to coin a phrase. Bitch all you like, but you work with what you’ve got.

  131. Matthew@130:

    Perhaps it would be better to outsource the process? Maybe ask the Swiss to write a new set of groundrules for America?

    Um, yeah right. Given how angry some people are when our judges cite foreign court decisions or international norms, I don’t think this suggestion is even remotely feasible. (Plus, it’s unconstitutional–Article V specifies two avenues the for amending the constitution, and outsourcing to the Swiss ain’t one of them.)

    Craig@143:

    + One trillion. In a weird way (and this is probably going to make liberal Democrat heads explode) but Andrew Sullivan is right: Obama is a pragmatic conservative while the GOP seem like a pack of radical ideologues whose estrangement from reality would be funny if it wasn’t so damn dangerous.

    Thanks for the kind words. I’m a liberal Democrat (not to be confused with a Liberal Democrat, hehe) but I really like Andrew Sullivan’s blog. I don’t always agree with his positions, but he seems pretty reasonable and fair. And I while I wouldn’t go so far as to call Obama a “conservative” (at least not in the American sense), I think Sullivan is right that he’s a lot more moderate than people think. Even his health care reforms were similar to things the GOP was proposing a decade or so ago.

    This whole effort to paint the president as being from the far left really annoys me. Not just because it’s not true, but because it’s unfair to those of us left of the president. It doesn’t acknowledge how much ground we’ve given up in the name of actually getting things done. (Don’t get me wrong: I’m not resentful about having to cede this ground; I understand how democracy works, and I understand I’m not living in Europe. But being told by the Tea Party that I haven’t ceded anything, when I’ve compromised a hell of a lot, because they don’t want to compromise any–well, that makes me angry.)

  132. #150: Not really. Last time I looked, “the will of the people” elected 100 Senators and one President as well.

    I wasn’t saying the will of the people itself can’t be trusted per se, but that what results from the election is not necessarily expressed, which in this case is true, as legislators have not actually done what they claimed (unless of course, it was “fight with Obama,” which no doubt was the unofficial platform many did run on).

  133. leonard, the tea party thinks we do not need government. they are indisti.guishable as far as I can see, from libertarians. no government except to regulat physical violence. everything else should be legal. no market regulation, instead laissez faire capitalism will find the best solution. regulation will always find a worse solution.

    this is their beliefs. it is completely unsupported by history and in fact much of history says they are wrong.

    in their minds it is teue and in their minds they are fighting the good fight against an over regulating over spending government (any spending beyond policing physical violence is over spending as far as they are concerned).

    in their minds they are the good guys.

    in the minds of everyone else, they are nihilists. they dont believe in mathematically proven concepts like the tragedy of the commons and regulation. they dont believe in the prisoners dillemma and strategic moves that can improve the game. they thi.k being completely selfish will solve every problem (except physical violence. they suport governemt police enforcing laws against violence).

    they are nihilsts (assuming nihilst means they dont think we need government). they dont want to destroy government for the sake of it. they want to destroy government because they dont understand basic game theory that explains the tragedy of the commons. they want to destroy government because they have a grossly over simplistic view of reality.

    this over simplified view tells them that givernment regulation is bad. so they think they are good.

    but the facts are that regulation is REQUIRED for an economy to survive selfish actors.

    they think selfish actors behaving badly can be dealt wih by nothing more than individual boycotts.
    but they are wrong.

    no one is saying they want destruction for destructions sake.

    they want to destroy what they see as evil but everyone else sees as a major advantage of modern living.

  134. Scorpius:

    Who’s the ignorant, moronic extremist again, Scalzi?

    Answer: go look in a mirror.

    You just called your host an ignorant, moronic extremist ? Way to go, buddy.

    For your severely lacking education, our host has not used the word “moron” or “extremist” so far. He has used “ignorant” and “nihilist” in referring to people who’re cheering for a default, because that’s an ignorant nihilistic thing to do.

  135. I propose a thought experiment. Let’s say that some part of the US suffered a horrific disaster, on the scale of Japan’s recent earthquake and subsequent nuclear problems (the Cascadia fault leveling most of the Greater Seattle area, a hurricane running over Manhattan, whatever). What would the GOP/Tea Party stance be on the federal government assisting the afflicted area? Doing something to raise revenues to pay for the fixes (tax cuts will not bring in money to help pay for assisting people, repairing infrastructure, etc.)? We already saw a bit of this with Hurricane Katrina.

  136. Leonard, I think the Tea Partiers you refer to are making a whopper of an assumption that “our side” is all for advocating “the side advocating business as usual, or ever-increasing debt “. That is a traditional strawman that was worn out years ago.

    What is being advocated is not imposing draconian restructuring of our government in the face of a trumped-up crisis. The President offered what conservative commentator David Brooks called the mother of no-brainer compromises: 4 Trillion in cuts for 1 Trillion in revenue. Much of those cuts were to be structural cuts to Medicare and Medicaid entitlements. Senate leader Harry Reid’s new plan is ALL cuts, and is endorsed by House Minority Leader Pelosi. The facts just don’t support the Republican belief that the opposition is all about untrammeled expansion of spending. If you try to argue otherwise, I’ll point you at the last time we had a surplus (Clinton administration) and who blew that surplus wide open (2nd Bush Administration).

    Accuse the Democrats of believing that government can solve problems, yes. Accuse them of being wrong about that part/all of the time, that’s fine too. That is something which can be debated. But stating AS FACT that “our side” (centrist Independent, in my case btw) represents “the side that will lead to default or destruction” is provably false.

    What will soon lead to default and destruction is not our current spending policies, which will continue to be addressed by the pull and tug of representative democracy. No, what will lead to default in destruction is failure to pay debts that Congress has already accrued. The money is spent. Compromises have been offered and shunned by a faction who will brook no compromise, all for the sake of some future idealistic dream of a federal government reduced to something that can be “drowned in a bathtub”.

    If you think nihilism is evil, then stop supporting the side that is being willfully ignorant. Our government and our people need time to work out problems and arrive at a consensus of how best to move into the future. That means compromise. That means political movements not engineering a crisis just to force things their way.

    That means we all have to hold our noses and try to acknowledge that the other guy may have a point and work together. That means guys like me (centrist Independents) get to communicate with each side saying “they may have a point, we need to cut back on entitlements” and with the other “taxes are pretty low, they should probably go back up to pre-Bush levels”.

    The crisis isn’t the debt ceiling. The crisis is that one side who refuses to compromise and who are willing to risk the current national security and the financial health of our nation for a ideologically driven fantasy of a pre-FDR national government.

  137. Scorpius:

    “Who’s the ignorant, moronic extremist again, Scalzi?

    Answer: go look in a mirror.”

    (Checks mirror)

    Nope, not me!

    And, well. That’s a relief, isn’t it.

    Also, as Josh suggests, you’ve maxed out your “being impolite to your host” card for the day. Hope you enjoyed it!

  138. John – I see shooting zombies wasn’t exciting enough so you decided to play Moderation. I have to say that I actually have started skimming the comments on threads like this just for your replies to some of the more egregiously silly arguments. It’s a cheap form of entertainment I admit, but hey…

  139. Wow, thanks, iPod.

    As I was saying: now I’m confused, because I thought the Tea Party was a grass-roots mmovement of Just Folks who shared the simple (meaning ‘uncomplicated’, not ‘stupid’) beliefs that taxes should be lower and the government should spend less and be smaller.

    But you’re telling Scalzi that he should approach this common-man movement with humility and a sense that their well-educated selves are so far above his tiny understanding?

    Why, it’s almost as if the Tea Party here is actually a group of well-educated and well-funded right-wingers and not the Silent Majority awakened at last.

  140. The House speaker, John A. Boehner, told a radio host on Wednesday that Republicans should support his plan for a debt ceiling increase because “Barack Obama hates it, Harry Reid hates it, Nancy Pelosi hates it.”

    Speaking on “The Laura Ingraham Show,” Mr. Boehner sought to shore up support for his plan, which has come under fire from conservatives and Tea Party members in his caucus.

    – The NY Times

    He does know there has to be SOMETHING in the bill that Democrats might agree to, right? I mean, he knows this deep down. And yet the standard GOP tactic is to act as if they had enough power to make the bill become law no matter what, and act as if they had a vast, overwhelming majority of Americans behind them in all cases.

    This is not true, actually.

  141. I think John likes to play Moderation on Hardcore, or even Insanity once he finishes it the first time. I hear he’s pre-registered for Moderation II: Collector’s Edition (it comes with a special mallet!)

  142. Josh@160: I’m glad John Boehner is telling people that, if that’s what it takes for him to get enough Republicans to compromise and avoid default.

    Already, some major Tea Party leaders are openly contemplating trying to oust the speaker for his willingness to compromise. According to recent polling by Pew, 53% of Republicans say they want lawmakers who agree with them to “be willing to compromise, even if that means they strike a deal [they] disagree with”, as opposed to 38% who want such lawmakers to “stand by their principles, even if that means the government goes into default”. (Among Americans in general, the numbers are 68% for compromise versus 23% against.) That’s why I feel sorry for John Boehner: he can’t do what most of America and most of his party wants (compromise), because he’s being held hostage by the Camellia sinensis crowd.

  143. Josh @ 160:

    “The House speaker, John A. Boehner, told a radio host on Wednesday that Republicans should support his plan for a debt ceiling increase because “Barack Obama hates it, Harry Reid hates it, Nancy Pelosi hates it.”

    That does seem to sum up their political philosophy these days, doesn’t it? “If they hate it, it’s good; if they like it, we’re against it.”.

    I mean, there are quite a few things that Obama has done that I disagree with, and some that I’m downright appalled by, but my reflexes don’t have me whacking my knee on something every time he opens his mouth. (That didn’t have that reflex even when Bush was in office, despite the provocation. There were actually a couple of things he did that I approved of, though I can’t bring them to mind at the moment. Oh wait, here’s one: more than once he made a point of reminding people that “Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, is a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others.”)

  144. John, you seem to have a private definition for “nihilist” which you aren’t sharing. As such, I have no further argument about your use of the word. I have given you my definition, which is as official and “expert” as can be, obtained from m-w.com.

    As for the politics, I disagree with your characterization of the two sides. As far as I can tell, what’s really at stake here is “austerity now” vs “more austerity later”. But even accepting your characterization, you are making a totally unwarranted distinction between the two sides. Both sides are engaging in politics. Whether the tea party is actually willing to wreck the economy remains to be seen (I doubt it). But at least they are willing to let you think they are; and evidently you fear it. Well: this is brinksmanship, and you can hardly argue that brinksmanship is not a part of politics. It’s a game of chicken, and in chicken one way to win is precommit yourself. If both sides play the same strategy, it’s a disaster; but if only one does (and both know it), then he wins. In the case of raising the debt ceiling, the Republicans at least arguably are using the tea party to precommit, whereas the Democrats have no similar strategy available. Indeed, this is why we are here at all, given the political weakness of Republicans.

    Jesse (#148), you want a link? Here’s the wiki article, from which you can find particular links, including this one. Incidentally, notice that tea partiers are considerably more religious than average Americans; as such they simply are not nihilists by any standard definition.

  145. Two or three things…

    Firstly, the only poll I found that discusses the education level of Tea Partyers puts their education level at pretty much the same as Republicans in general, and an only slightly higher level of education than Democrats. It was, in fact, pretty interesting to see how close the breakdown was education-wise between the parties.

    Secondly, I shudder at the thought of having a new constitution. Setting aside the question of whether it should be done, and whether we could get enough people to *agree*it should be done to actually have a constitutional convention, and then whether we could get enough people to agree to the New And Improved Constitution!(TM) once it was written, the idea of having modern legislators work on it is appalling. The current constitution is pretty succinct. Take a look at some modern legislation. Like, say, the health care bill, which ran to how many pages?! Then apply that wordiness to a constitution. Then extrapolate to the thought of how anyone would be able to interpret such a morass.

  146. Leonard:

    “John, you seem to have a private definition for ‘nihilist’ which you aren’t sharing.”

    Oddly enough, Leonard, no one else here seems to be having a problem understanding me, so the suggestion that the definition I’m using is somehow private is both silly and not in evidence considering how many people are participating in the discussion here. As for the reliance on the “dictionary definition,” allow me to share with you my thoughts on that tactic. As my lexicographic friends would be happy to tell you, a dictionary is descriptivist, not prescriptivist.

    “Well: this is brinksmanship, and you can hardly argue that brinksmanship is not a part of politics.”

    It’s an interesting theory, but not one I see much evidence for. The Tea Party folks do not seem interested in strategic positioning; they seem interested in not budging from their position at all. That’s like playing chicken with a telephone pole; the telephone pole isn’t going to move.

  147. of all the things on the list of things to call tea party folk, the word “wrong” ought be number one.

  148. Oops, and: And yet the standard GOP tactic is to act as if they had enough power to make the bill become law no matter what, and act as if they had a vast, overwhelming majority of Americans behind them in all cases.

    I am so. Fucking. Tired of this.

    I mean, it’s not exactly a new tactic. But it seems like Repubs and their echo chambers started inserting it into every other paragraph during the Bush era. Dems in general seem unable or unwilling to point out how often it’s bullshit. And of course the mainstream media is no help — even when their own polls strongly contradict the supposed willofthepeople crap, they keep things to the he-said-she-said politics-as-a-sport storyline.

  149. Mad Librarian @ #155:

    I can answer that! I live near Joplin, the city that got hit by the tornado in late May (currently, IIRC 158 dead and $1 to $3 billion in damage). Congressional Republicans chose to hold federal aid to Joplin hostage, insisting that it be paid for with budget reductions elsewhere before they’d even consider it.

    I’ll stop there lest I cause Scalzi to institute a curse filter just for me.

  150. Or maybe, just maybe, the Senate and the President should recognize the will of the people as expressed in the most recent election and support the budget and debt solutions that have already passed the House

    Well, now that someone has decided to fling THIS turd in the punchbowl, let’s discuss it.

    While voting may have given a slight majority to Republicans in the House of Representatives, the Senators and the President were also elected and sent to office with the will of the people behind them. However, the will of the people is a very fickle thing that can be changed at any moment. What if the will of the people said that WE as a nation should start flinging nukes around? Would this policy be good for us as a nation? Should our elected leaders give in to this just because it is the will of the people? (Yes I know this is a highly specious arguement but no one has yet invented a sarcasm font or tag).

    Should we go on the will of the people at the time of the election or should we go on the will of the people at the time of crisis? The main thing to recognize is that while the will of the people a year ago may have been one thing, it will change as events move onward.

    If the flinger of this Or maybe, just maybe, the Senate and the President should recognize the will of the people as expressed in the most recent election and support the budget and debt solutions that have already passed the House turd really believes in the elected leaders following the will of the people, then it is the side who favors some spending cuts along with raising taxes who will win the day, no matter what expert Republican fluffer Rush Limbaugh may say. Seriously, go ask the average Americans around you about whether or not the rich (especially corporations) should be paying a bit more for taxes… you might be surprised.

    But why, Why, WHY, you ask, should they pay more taxes? Well one arguement is that when it comes to the Commons (the things that every person needs/uses), a large corporation uses way more of it than any individual person: roads, air, water, land… think about it.

    Here in my beloved South Carolina, the Republican governor at the time decided to cut property taxes… not that I or anyone was really against this, but places like my local county (a wretchedly Rebulican hive of scum and villany… oops wrong universe)… ahem! As I was saying, my county discovered that they were going to fall several millions of dollars short in the budget because of the property tax cut. So, to make up said funds, they decided to institute a road use fee. Every vehicle that was licensed in the county would have to pay a $25 dollar fee, from cars like like John’s Mini, up to dumptrucks and semis. The problem that was quickly raised by several county board members and by car owners in general is that this very large vehicles cause much more damage to the roads than someone’s moped. The solution proposed was to have a scale based on weight or size of vehicles… which most everyone–including county board members–thought was a fairly decent solution for all. Until the Republican head and a couple of his buddies shot it down saying it was their way or no way. Hmmmmm… sounds like this debt mess to me as far as attitude.

  151. The problem with brinksmanship is that by definition it happens near the edge of a cliff. It generally happens in international diplomacy, in contexts where a bad step or two can lead to lots of people dying. I could be mistaken, but I’d like to think the Republicans don’t really want to be seen that way.

    (Though, given the Reservoir Dogs reference in their little pep rally, I could be wrong about that.)

  152. anyone demanding will-o-people stuff have to demand that Al Gore be made retroactive president to replace junior, or be called a hypocrit.

  153. No no Greg… will of the people is only applicable as policy when it is backing Republican wishes… otherwise will of the people is just a bunch of noise from them thar American hatin’ pinko commie Leebrools.

  154. Leonard@164: Wait, your argument that the Tea Party isn’t nihilistic is that, not only is the Tea Party willing to play chicken with the world’s economy, but that they’re following a pre-commitment strategy while doing so?

    Yes, perhaps the person who starts a game of chicken by disabling the steering in their car doesn’t actually intend to cause a car crash. But I think it’s fair to say they aren’t demonstrating much care about avoiding them, either.

  155. John, it’s easy to get agreement preaching to a choir. They’re not picky. I pinged you for using a word wrong. I expect you at least to admit that your usage does not match any dictionary definition. You and I are political opponents. If we wish to have a productive conversation, the least we can do is attempt to understand each other. I am making the attempt. I really do want your definition of nihilism, because I really do think your use of it was unsupportable. However, I am willing to listen to you make your case.

    You are putting me off with “well, my side seems to understand me.” Then you make the suggestion that I have no understanding of nihilism outside of a dictionary. I use a dictionary not only because I am a hopeless pedant, although that is true. I use it because I try to get agreement on the most basic things first. I am not trying to steal a base here; I am using what I regard as the most likely thing that you and I might agree on (namely, that m-w.com is expert and authoritative enough that both of us can agree to use it). I am always surprised, and disheartened, when I run into people that won’t even do that. How can one have a meaningful conversation with Humpty Dumpty?

    As for how one does brinkmanship: yes, you must give the impression that you are unwilling to budge at all. That is exactly how you do it. I certainly do not think this is evidence of any sort of overt or conscious strategy by the tea partiers (meaning the masses). It’s just what they believe: we must stop borrowing some time and why not now. The brinksmanship is at the higher level — the politicians. They meet with Obama and say, look at our base! We simply cannot agree to what you’re saying because of them. You’ll have to meet us over here.

  156. Leonard, would you like a bigger shovel to help you with that hole you’re digging?

  157. Leonard:

    “John, it’s easy to get agreement preaching to a choir.”

    Well, no. People here have all sorts of political inclinations, which you will see if you spend any amount of time here. Unless you’re defining “choir” as “people who don’t need to haul out a dictionary every time Scalzi uses a word in a way they don’t approve.” In which case, yes, I’m preaching to that choir.

    Accept the fact that I find your use of the word “nihilist” in this context limited, please. I have already accepted the fact you find my use of the word far too expansive. Let’s move on.

    “As for how one does brinkmanship: yes, you must give the impression that you are unwilling to budge at all.”

    However, that is different than not actually being willing to budge, which has been the case here, by every indication. Likewise, “brinksmanship” does imply intention; if you’re suggesting the TP folks aren’t aware they’re engaging in brinksmanship, I would submit to you that in fact they are not.

  158. “we must stop borrowing some time and why not now. ”

    Why now?

    If you have bills to pay, and can get a loan that you have the means to pay, why would you stop paying the bills and decide that’s the answer? Why lose your house and your car just to meet some artbitary goal of not getting further into debt?

    While also refusing to get a second job or ask for a completely fair raise at work?

    Because that’s the Tea Party position, in half assed analogy. It’s stupid, and no sensible person would do it. Anyone who talks spending cuts but refuses to look at raising taxes or cutting military spending isn’t serious about cutting debt – all they want is to spend less in taxes, period.

  159. CLP, if I understand corectly, Leonard is arguing tea party folks arent nihilist because they “are more religious than average americans”.

  160. Leonard,

    Obama has spent most of this fight meeting Repubs more than halfway, only to have them back way up and whine yet again about his unwillingness to compromise. That’s how we all ended up this close to the edge of the cliff.

    At this point, it’s beginning to look like the hostage-takers have already decided that they’re going to jump, and they’re now arguing amongst themselves whether or not to push the nuke detonator on the way down.

    P.S. Do you really think a definition of “nihilism” is a “most basic” part of this discussion? Seriously?

  161. Leonard@175: Limiting oneself to the definitions in one particular dictionary will make vast swathes of discourse impossible. Dictionary editors attempt to catalogue the uses of various words (and in the case of an abridged dictionary like Merriam-Webster, only the most common uses), but sometimes they fail to get it all. Don’t believe me? Try looking up snark, meh, Bose–Einstein condensate, small-cap, or De Rham cohomology in the abridged version of Merriam-Webster. Even the Oxford English Dictionary is not comprehensive.

    Anyway, I won’t attempt to speak for our gracious host, but when he talked about nihilism in his post, I took him to mean “total and absolute destructiveness, especially toward the world at large and including oneself”, as the Random House Dictionary defines it. But I would submit playing “you didn’t use this word right” games with Scalzi–a man who makes his living with the skilled use of words, for crying out loud–is not conducive to understanding his viewpoint or having a productive conversation.

  162. I had never heard the term applied to politics. but I am able to google and read the results. What I gathered ‘nihilsm’ meant in a political sense was ‘believing we dont need some government function that pretty much everyone else views as fundamental to why a government exists’.

    for example, I recall a conversation I was having with a libertarian a while back where I suggested the food and drug administration was an organization that everyone agreed was overall net positive. you replied that he ought to be able to buy food with botulism in it and just go to another restaurant after the food poisoning took its course.

    he was a regulatory nihlist.

    he saw no benefit to it whatsoever and only saw the negative effects that it might create.

  163. Leonard:

    John, it’s easy to get agreement preaching to a choir.

    It’s also too damn easy to mock someone playing ‘my dictionary is bigger than yours’. It wouldn’t win you many points in a half-way decent high school debate, so what makes you think it’s going to work here?

  164. Every time I hear pundits talking about the current situation I think of how it must have been in July of 1914. Nobody wanted a war, nobody thought there would be war yet they continued to play their parts until they set the world on fire.

    I also see parallels to the Weimare Republic (sorry John I don’t think it is overheated – allow me to compare). The nation was in a lot of turmoil. Times were hard, lots of poverty and unemployment. The uber-wealthy were trying to protect their position & saw in the National Socialist German Workers Party a bulwark against the Communists who were making inroads because of the conditions. They thought they could use the little paper hanger to take over the government for their own purpose. That is directly the same as Norquist and the Kochs using the teabaggers. But once they were turned loose it didn’t work out so well.

    True, a lot would have to go wrong yet to end up ay 1932 but this current situation demonstrates how little control the wealthy have over the Frankenstein monster they have created. The wealthy do not want a default because it would be bad for business but those ignorant nihilists think it would actually be a good thing and a large number of Republican Congresscritters (and even a few Dems) are scared to death that they will lose their jobs if they don’t obey.

    The incessant demand (primarily from the beltway pundits) for a ‘third-party savior’ could easily give rise to a popular person about whom we really know nothing (think Jesse Ventura in MN) who, because he is a blank slate, is all things to all people. That could open the door to the sort of dealing that made a paper hanger into a Fuhrer. Overheated, sure – but not unimaginable.

  165. Can an ignorant Brit ask a procedural question?

    Why does it actually matter what the Tea Party representatives want? I mean, if Boehner can get just 30 Republicans to agree to a compromise plan, then surely Obama can get the 193 Democrats on side, and then there’s a majority in favour.

    (I’m aware there must be something very wrong with the above analysis – but this discussion seems like a reasonably good place to find out what it is…)

  166. Interesting that no one seems to care HOW we got into this problem. And lets not go there with the “inherited….” crap

    I already wrote both president and my Representatives, not that it will do any good.

  167. Yep: how we got here is a bit beside the point[1], but yes, “inherited” says most of it.

    [1] except inasmuch as it instructs us how to avoid it in the future, of course.

  168. Yep:

    “And lets not go there with the ‘inherited….’ crap”

    Yes, by all means, let’s not consider two wars and an unfunded medicare entitlement and a lax regulatory environment that precipitated a crisis requiring hundreds of billions in a bailout. Because remembering is silly.

    Yep, if you want to try to dictate the discussion, try not demanding people pretend to be stupid right from the outset.

    Beyond that, the discussion of how we got here is not exactly on point to how the politics of any debt deal right now. Which is one reason it’s not a topic of discussion. We like to keep discussions focused here.

  169. @185 The solution you propose is politically impossible for Boehner. He is Speaker at the sufferance of his caucus; the Republicans can pick someone else at the drop of a hat. If he went that route, especially on something this major, he’d be signing his political death warrant.

    It is possible that if things got dire enough, he’d do it, but I tend to doubt it, especially given the procedural restrictions of the US Senate. Since a super-majority (60 votes) is necessary to pass things there (well, actually to cut off debate and vote, but that’s a different story) and Democrats only control 53 seats, the only way that Boehner could fall on his sword in an effective way is if seven Republican went along, too. It isn’t nearly as politically difficult for them to do so, but looking at the current make up of the Senate (and the political impetus to block the President of the opposing party) means that it is unlikely to come to pass.

    We’re probably looking at a “majority of the majority” situation here, and it is unclear that there’s a solution for diagram that includes (1/2 R+1)+xD=218 (the number needed for passage.)

  170. Can an ignorant Brit ask a procedural question?

    Why does it actually matter what the Tea Party representatives want? I mean, if Boehner can get just 30 Republicans to agree to a compromise plan, then surely Obama can get the 193 Democrats on side, and then there’s a majority in favour.

    That isn’t an ignorant question at all. The answer is Obama & Boehner could probably craft a bipartisan vote like that. Shortly thereafter Boehner would be ousted from his position as Speaker of the House by his caucus and each of the 30 Republican “defectors” would find themselves faced with strongly funded primary challengers in 2012.

    The reason Boehner keeps pushing the “we can’t compromise” button is that HE can’t compromise or his politcal future is effectively over.

  171. Tim M @191:

    Boehner’s political future is already ending, one way or the other. It’s all downhill from here. At this point, he’ll be lucky if he can crash-land with any pretense of grace.

    On a related note, I wonder how many congresscritters (and those behind them) have already made arrangements to profit from the damage they’re preparing to do.

  172. I’m just hoping that ‘refugee from the former United States’ doesn’t come to denote real people in my lifetime…and especially that it doesn’t come to denote ME.

  173. To expand on the not at all ignorant question – lots of people ask that question since the number of teabaggers is pretty small.

    The teabaggers carry excess weight for a couple of reasons.
    First they donate a lot of money to people they like
    Second they volunteer a lot of time to people they like & those types of people make endless phone calls & go door to door to get their guys people to vote
    Third & most powerful – American voters are lazy & disinterested, particularly for the primary elections that can happen when 2 or more people from the same party are running for the same office. Before the general election there would be a run off between those people from the same party. Often times only 10% of the voters will show up for these elections so having just a handful of dedicated people who will go come hell or high water can decide the outcome. Besides losing his role as head of the House of Representatives he could lose the the majority entirely because a lot of the wingnuts that would win based on a tiny number of dedicated wingnuts would lose badly in the general election.
    The teabaggers cost the Republicans control of the Senate in ’10 because of loonie-toon candidates that won primaries but failed badly in elections they should have won. One ended up having to run an ad stating she was not a witch (seriously!) and another had to backtrack for calling for an armed rebellion against the government among other idiocies.

  174. I wouldn’t count Boehner out yet, Bearpaw. He seems to be making headway on his current plan with both the old guard and with the TP Freshmen.

    He is an experience political operator who has been steadily gaining power in the House for 20 years. He’s showing he still has some political moves left.

    I think his plan is one of the worst offered, but it has the single virtue that it might make it through the House and prevent a default.

    If the Senate and/or the President reject it, then I am not sure what will happen since I don’t think even Boehner’s wiles will convince his caucus to vote for any compromise.

  175. Tim M.:

    Even if Boehner wins this, he loses. He’ll try to pin the results on the Dems, of course, but at this point only wingers are going to buy that. They’ve taken the economy hostage and now the situation is going to hell and if we’re really lucky he and his gang will be the only ones hurt. But he’s having trouble controlling them and there’s no way they’re *all* going to surrender peaceably, so … well, who knows what the final body count will be.

    Unfortunately for everybody, Obama and the rest of the Dems are shitty hostage negotiators.

  176. @Xopher 193
    Oh you won’t become a refugee of any sort. Well not unless you make a conscious choice to be one, this crisis isn’t on that level. It is however America’s “Suez” moment. This is the point where America reaches out to casually do what it has always done and discovers it doesn’t have the power to do it any more. In your lifetime you’ll see your country’s influence shrink, and shrink, and melt away from the top tier as all the other countries realise they don’t have to do what it tells them any more. It’s just an integral part of the natural rise and fall of nations. Welcome to the real new American Century.

  177. I hope this isn’t mallet worthy, but to briefly wade into the “nihilist” debate, whenever I read that word I think “No, Donny, these men are nihilists, there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

  178. Overall, the thread seems to enthusiastically endorse compromise.

    The Civil War was mentioned.

    The Civil War was arguably the end result of a series of compromises made to accommodate the continuing existence of slavery.

    Pretty strong evidence that compromise is not always good or even effective.

    Anyway, in the end, the debt ceiling will go up.

    And, truthfully, the entire debt ceiling debate is a sideshow. The real issue is that the fiscal path we’re on is unsustainable.

    Eventually, we’ll probably address the debt and deficit with a revised tax code (no more mortgage deduction for 2nd and third homes, etc…), changes to entitlements (retirement age moves up, higher income threshold for payroll deductions, means testing for medicare), and a fair number of cuts to defense (unless we see another spectacular attack on American soil).

    But competing interest groups on both sides are going to make it a long and ugly fight: a politically uncivil war for the 21st Century.

  179. Caughill:

    Ooh, I can play that game! The Civil War was indubitably the end result of the South being unwilling to compromise on freeing the slaves.

  180. End Bush tax cuts for the rich.
    End the war in Iraq (and withdraw the 50k-100k of ‘support’ personel we plan to lleave there indefinitely)
    end the war in Afghanistan. Even the pentagon acknoleges there is no al queda presence in aghanistan. and the taliban are afghan locals who dont give a shit about america except when american troops bomb their wedding parties. i.e. they have never been a terrorism threat.
    stop the illegal wars in libya, yemen, and every other goddamn place.

    put them together and this would solve the vast majority of financial problems the gvt is facing.

    but mostly, end Bush’s tax cuts for the rich.

  181. Caughill @200: I’ll submit that the logic in your first three paragraphs is extremely faulty.

    “Overall, everyone seems to enthusiastically endorse feeding your kids. However, the obesity epidemic is arguably caused by kids eating too much food. Pretty good evidence that feeding your kids isn’t always good or even effective.”

    “Overall, everyone seems to enthusiastically endorse water. However, drowning is arguably caused by water. Pretty good evidence that that water isn’t always good or even effective.

    I mean, come on.

  182. For those who brought up the NYT’s estimate of the Bush vs. Obama deficits: you do know that that is a literal cut-and-paste of a chart released by the White House, right? And considering it gets a lot of the numbers wrong and lumps things like “education” into “security spending” under Bush it’s pure propaganda.

  183. For those who brought up the NYT’s estimate of the Bush vs. Obama deficits: you do know that that is a literal cut-and-paste of a chart released by the White House, right? And considering it gets a lot of the numbers wrong and lumps things like “education” into “security spending” under Bush it’s pure propaganda.

    Don’t trust me? Then Google it

    Oh please. You’re making the assertion, you provide the proof.

  184. silbey:

    Does rather sound like the “herp derp read a history book” or “if you’d just read _Atlas Shrugged_” (I have) I get when I argue with Internet Libertarians.

  185. Back in the day Nixon was using executive authority to not spend appropriated dollars when the tax revenue estimates fell short. Congress passed over his veto a law that Presidents must spend all dollars appropriated. I have been waiting for a President to declare the law an unconstitutional curtailment of inherrent executive power asserting that only an amendment to the Constitution can so curtail a President’s power NOT to spend appropriated dollars. Any chance of Obama doing that as a solution to the current debt crisis? Would that not be the wise thing to do? Just asking.

  186. Scorpius, if its so bleeding obvious to prove the graphic is wrong, why not paste a link to a reputable site?

    oh and while you are at it, maybe you could find a blindingly obvious explanation why the 200 richest Americans should only pay 17% taxes. Why cant we raise their tax rate?

    if you average the marginal tax rate over the last hundred years, you get an average like 60%. Why is raising taxes nonnegotiable when rates are far, far below that average?

    it must be blindi.gly obvious because all the republicans in congress are toeing this line. maybe you could scrounge up somwthing to explain this too.

  187. As Warren Buffet has said many times – Why is it that I pay a lower rate of taxation than my secretary? The last 30 years have proven that lower taxes do not pay for themselves and do not create jobs. The only time we got more more jobs was after the Clinton tax increase. President Reagan signed the largest tax increase (in terms of GDP) since the original tax code when he raised the FICA rates to hide the true cost of his income tax cuts, Thats the $3Trillion plus SS surplus they now want to take away because they spent it in Iraq and additional income tax cuts. That didn’t create jobs because it was a tax on jobs.

  188. Gary@211: The problem is that cutting the government enough to fall under the debt ceiling would make a lot of modern government impossible. Megan McArdle (a libertarian blogger who holds no brief for the Obama Administration) made a list of some of the consequences that would occur if the debt ceiling wasn’t raised and the president prioritized “debt service, military payrolls, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.” Her list includes:

    * “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.”

    * “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.”

    She also posted this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63vyrsCGyGE The guy talking was an advisor to the McCain campaign.

    I have airline tickets for August 5. I’m a bit worried, if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, that there isn’t going to be an air traffic control system that day.

  189. CLP @ 215: I have airline tickets for August 5. I’m a bit worried, if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, that there isn’t going to be an air traffic control system that day.

    Don’t worry. The Invisible Hand ™ will guide your plane safely from takeoff through landing.

    Also, too, it will be the wind beneath your wings.

  190. All hail the invisible hand! The magic that disproves the objective math in the tragedy of the commons! The smoke and mirror that gives me moral cover to be a selfish twit.

    If ever anyone was guilty of creating God in their own image, the folks who worship the Invisible Hand are it.

  191. @Greg,

    I’m in and out. But the Income tax rate for the “top” is 35%. The Top short-term capital gains is 35%. The top long-term is 15%. Either you have your facts wrong, you’re not understanding the difference between income, short-term, and long-term capital gains, or someone is unfairly manipulating the data.

  192. It’s not easy being a professional liar and scare monger.”

    I know, poor Obama.

    http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2011/07/scaring-seniors.html

    That link does nothing to demonstrate that the NY Times chart is biased.

    What it actually does link to is quite a mendacious piece of writing. The “assets” that the article talks about are bonds issued by the Treasury. In other words, the money came, the Treasury borrowed it, and left bonds (I would say “IOUs” but I’d be accused of being a professional scaremonger). The only way to redeem those bonds is–wait for it–to raise the debt limit so that the Treasury can sell more bonds and use the cash to pay Social Security. Obama’s not lying to say that Social Security checks are threatened by the refusal of the GOP to raise the debt limit.

  193. why the sam hill does that link not work…..

    Here it is again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTzMqm2TwgE

    The lying liar would be Robert Reich, who served Ford, Carter, and Clinton.

    “Much of their income is capital gains, subject only to a 15% tax.
    According to the IRS, the richest 400 Americans pay only 17%.”

    apparently, the IRS cannot be trusted either…

  194. Scorpious, that link in 220 was in response to your post at 218, in case you were wondering where the numbers came from…. Actually, I tried linking it twice before, but my freaking phone will not copy/paste right to save its life.

  195. By the way, the sense of nihilism I took John to mean is pretty close to the basic sense – “Nothing really matters.” -> “Any strategy for winning, even a negative-sum strategy, is acceptable.”

  196. After just watching (2240 EDT) the House leadership cancel a vote on their plan because they can’t get enough Republican votes for its passage I think the argument over the use of the word “nihilist” is now overcome by events. The phrase Mr Scalzi used–ingorant nihilists–should be more appropriately expressed as something along the lines of “insane clown posse” (Too bad that’s already taken)

  197. So the “Majority Leader” couldn’t get his own party to back a bill that attached historic (if economically insane) additions to a bill that had been mostly a ho-hum formality the previous dozens of times. Because, well, because a significant part of his party are some combination of ignorant, mean, and bat-shit crazy.

    If Obama invokes the 14th — which I highly doubt he will — this would be the perfect time to do it. Aside from the rabid minority — which would get their usual loving coverage from Fox et al — most Americans would probably be thankful.

    (The shootings during August would be a downside, of course, as would the tedium of Impeachment Theatre: The Sequel.)

  198. Because of the popularity of your Being Poor post, I just had to share a link to an opinion piece that is an offense against all that is decent. I was so outraged I had to share this somewhere. My head exploded when I read such “gems” as:

    “It isn’t the rich who are paying less than their fair share in taxes. To the contrary, they’re paying much more than everyone else. It’s America’s poor who get free health care and new SUVs who aren’t sharing the sacrifice.”

    WTF?????????

    http://lsureveille.com/cm/2.3471/2.3471/2.3471/2.3471/to-the-point-it-s-time-for-the-american-poor-to-share-the-same-sacrifice-1.2608312

    Folks, the columnist prints his email address and there’s a place for comments. Please don’t let this shocking ignorance go unchallenged.

  199. For those pushing the 14th Amendment thing, take a closer look at the text. Asserting that it allows the President to unilaterally issue more debt to pay for existing obligations is a gross over-extension of the plain text.

    I wish there was a simple way out like that; it would enable me to watch the internecine warfare in the Republican majority in the House with complete enjoyment, instead of mingled with existential dread. But scholars as respected and left-leaning as Lawrence Tribe have said that it is a no go, as has the Attorney General and the Department of Justice (who clearly would have an interest in asserting it’s OK.)

    I think the ramifications of last night’s implosion of the Boehner plan are essentially unknowable at this time. It would seem to strengthen the Reid/ Obama hand, but they haven’t been playing nice with House Dems so it isn’t clear that they’ll get their support when the time comes; I’d bet the Progressive Caucus (with about 100 Members) is unlikely to go with a deal like the one Reid is suggesting,and they’ll need some of those votes to get something through the House. Of course, that’s assuming that Boehner is willing to fall on sword, which I argued above he wouldn’t do.

    Boehner is now modifying his plan to make it more tea-party friendly, but since the last one was already DOA in the Senate, I don’t know how that helps. Eventually, both bodies have to agree on the same plan, and that generally means something between the two. In today’s overheated world, that is not necessarily the case. Boehner may be in a position where he modifies his bill, and then says to Obama– this is all I’m getting; it’s either this or default. Obama, ever the cautious pragmatist, might take it.

  200. Nat @227: “Boehner may be in a position where he modifies his bill, and then says to Obama– this is all I’m getting; it’s either this or default. Obama, ever the cautious pragmatist, might take it.”

    Agree, it may come to that. Hopefully though, the President won’t bend over for the Tea Party fanatics. Poll after poll have shown that the majority of Americans want the debt ceiling raised, programs like Social Security and Medicare basically left alone, and the Fed. budget issues addressed by a combination of spending reductions and increased revenue (e.g. let the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy expire, end tax subsidies for Big Oil, etc…).

    The Tea Party (in the House and otherwise) is a rabid minority of, wait for it,… ignorant, nihilistic ideologues who are holding a gun to the head of our economy. They’re like suicide bombers who don’t care who they hurt, incl. themselves, as long as they remain ideologically pure.

    You don’t negotiate with terrorists, you fight them.

    Now please excuse me, I’m going to go enjoy a slice of schadenfreude pie and watch the Republican Party implode…

  201. “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.” – H. L. Mencken

    The saner people who voted in a large freshman class of teabaggers are going to learn this well.

  202. Nat Mund @ 227: For those pushing the 14th Amendment thing, take a closer look at the text. Asserting that it allows the President to unilaterally issue more debt to pay for existing obligations is a gross over-extension of the plain text.

    I have and it’s not. It’s a moot point, anyway. It’s not Obama’s style. For some reason he’s okay with putting our military into extended hostilities without Congressional approval, but for something like this? Not so much.

  203. well, if we default and the economy tanks then Obama isnt getting reelected. this is probably the real motivation behind republican obstructioism, defeat Obama 2012. Obama knows this so he might invoke some presidential power to extend the ceiling. at which point the republican obstructionists will howl that such action proves obama is a kenyan socialist. Obama must know that as well. so you would think he would be doing everything in his speechmaking power to make it clear every day that it is republican obstructionists that are the cause of the problem so when he has to raise the ceiling, he is the hero.

    The more I think about it, the more the tea party seems to be nothing but a ‘defeat Obama 2012′ single cause party. and they are willing to make the country pay any price to achieve that. including setting the economy on fire.

    which would explain the complete obstinant refusal to raise taxes. taxes are at one of the lowest rates in a hundred years. raising taxes makes sense to any sane person who wants to fix the economy. but if your goal isnt to fix the economy, but rather wreck it to blame Obama, then not raising taxes would be a perfect approach.

    as far as democracy giving people what they want good and hard, I can only hope that Wisconsin learned this and are doing their best via recall elctions to fix it. dont know what would happen at the federal level.

  204. @ 230 Here’s the Lawrence Tribe piece I mentioned earlier.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/08/opinion/08tribe.html

    I find his arguments very persuasive; I won’t reconstruct here, but Professor Tribe essentially argues that a reading that allows unilateral Presidential authority to issue new debt admits no limitations, and using that same reading would allow the President to do whatever he (or she) believes is appropriate, including levying taxes or making changes to statutorily authorized programs.

    I agree with you, for what it’s worth, that Obama wouldn’t do it even if there was more cover for him doing so. His “go slow” approach seems alternately thoughtful or paralyzed, and certainly doesn’t include going out on a limb like this.

  205. I find it amusing that Professor Tribe is advocating for a legalistic piece of nonsense which allows a Democratic President to unilaterally act without the support or approval of the other 2 branches of federal government, when there is no way on God’s green earth he’d support a Republican attempt to do the same. He’d be screaming bloody murder about an Imperial Presidency, etc etc.

    Question, how can the New York Times, et al seriously describe Obama and Reid’s proposals as a “compromise” when their proposals are essentially designed to raise taxes and make symbolic cuts in spending? The only changes to their proposals has been the recent 2.2 trillion cut proposal which only takes effect 10 years down the road, which future Congresses will ignore because it suits them to do so.

  206. their proposals are essentially designed to raise taxes

    Average top tax rate over the last hundred years: ~60%

    Max top tax rate over last hundred years: ~90%

    Current top tax rate: 35%

    Taxes paid by richest 400 Americans last year: 17%

    Exactly what is wrong with raising taxes on millionaires when they’re paying some of the lowest rates in history?

    Cue (1) crickets chirping, (2) changing the topic, or (3) right wing blather and spin.

    make symbolic cuts in spending?

    By all means, lets get away from the symbolism. What specifically would be the biggest cut you would propose, how much, and why?

    Remember, cutting “waste” is purely symbolic handwaving. Lets hear the big ticket item.

  207. Greg @235

    I know this is going off topic a bit from the debt ceiling, but I think this is interesting.

    “Each household in the top 400 of earners paid an average tax rate of 16.6 percent, the lowest since the agency began tracking the data in 1992, the Internal Revenue Service statistics show. The top 400 paid $23 billion in taxes in 2007, up from $18 billion a year earlier, and a bigger amount than any year since 1992.”

    This is from the link that Sherry Thompson @224 provided; I think it striking that while the rate the richest 400 paid fell, the amount increased almost 5 billion dollars. This is a bit of a small sample size, but it is interesting that the amount collected increased even though the taxation rate plummeted.

    Another link that shows the overall percentage of taxes paid by income bracket

    http://ntu.org/tax-basics/who-pays-income-taxes.html

    Again, the top 10 percent in income adjusted by adjusted gross income paid approximately 70 percent of all taxes for 2008, which is the last year I could find available tax data.

    I’ll be blunt, I think the left has an Ahab like obsession with making sure that the “rich” get nailed with the highest tax rate possible while ignoring the results that you get from such obsessive compulsive shenanigans. You guys keep on harping on about the percentage rate while ignoring the fact that lowering taxes lessens the marginal cost of these rich folks of hiring tax lawyers, lobbyists, etc to write loopholes into the tax code to lower their overall tax bill. It all looks so nice and simple from a simple mathematical perspective, but the only way the government can grab that extra money is to strip them of all tax deductions and raid the bank accounts. That simply won’t happen and is illegal and unethical besides.

    For all of Obama’s grand gestures on spending, you don’t hear him mention cutting back on implementation on Obamacare or even delaying it even further. The one item I believe Obama and I could agree on is the extra jet engine for the F-35, which is unneeded.

    There are more things in the federal budget I’d love to cut, but I’m at work and don’t have the time now to go into detail. Basically, my viewpoint is that federal spending on higher education, farming, housing can be devolved to the states over a period of time. I think we need a more nimbler defense budget that doesn’t go total overkill on heavy weaponry, carriers, etc but gives us enough deterrence force to make potentially hostile nations such as China, Russia, North Korea and Pakistan think twice about starting hostilities. I think we need an intelligence budget that doesnt spend oodles and oodles of money for gagetry that can count the number of peckerwoods in the West Texas hillside but cant give us insight into the thought process or intentions of Vladimir Putin, etc. I think we can wind down the numbers in our nuclear arsenal but spend the necessary money to make sure the deterrent still works and to improve on reliability and delivery.

  208. Christopher Shaffer:

    The most obvious reason why those top earners had a lower rate but paid more in total was that they got richer. This is quite plausible; we’ve all seen news stories about top CEOs getting more and more compensation, likewise stories about the increasing gap between rich and poor.

    Obama’s not going to cut back his healthcare program because it’s supposed to save money.. That’d be a pretty stupid thing to do.

  209. Also the Right’s Ahab-like obsession, blah blah, with never raising taxes ever.

    It seems the teabaggers want a Constitutional amendment that requires a 2/3 majority in both houses to raise taxes. Because that obviously worked so well for California.

  210. I find it amusing that Professor Tribe is advocating for a legalistic piece of nonsense which allows a Democratic President to unilaterally act without the support or approval of the other 2 branches of federal government, when there is no way on God’s green earth he’d support a Republican attempt to do the same

    I find it amusing that you’ve misread Professor Tribe so thoroughly that you think he’s arguing the opposite of what he is. Speaking of (Ahab-like) blinders…

  211. Kevin Williams,

    Part of California’s problems stem from the fact when required by law to balance their budget, they papered over the differences between revenue and expenses by borrowing and accounting gimmicks. It’s only when the economy tanked when it did, did they seriously look at cutting back expenditures.

    Part of Boehner’s debt plan did include 800 billion in new revenue, but our wonderful President kept trying to get more taxes with no decrease in expenditures. That is part and parcel of the problem with Washington politics; they don’t go after wasteful spending, obsolete programs or mismanagement with any serious intent. They convene some grand PR show to keep the media amused and look for ways to increase spending for their own pet programs that will help them get re-elected.

  212. Christopher @236: the National Taxpayers’ Union is hardly an unbiased source, however ‘nonpartisan’ they claim to be. The fact that its present used to work for ALEC says pretty much all one needs to know about his credibility. (ALEC, for those who haven’t head the pleasure of dealing with them, is the arm of the insurance/big business coalition that tries to get pro-big-business legislation passed.)

  213. I forget who said it, but:
    “I wish someone would explain to the Republicans that ‘bipartisan’ doesn’t mean ‘twice as partisan’.”

This is the place where you leave the things you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s