Why Republicans are not budging on debt ceiling

There’s a valuable column from MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough today in the Politico (read) Within its critique of hyperbolic media criticism of congressional Republicans, it gets to the heart of why Republicans in Congress are determined to have a showdown with President Obama on raising the debt ceiling. The answer — they were elected in 2010 to stop the growth of government, and they promised not to let government raise the debt again. 

I have no idea which party or pol is going to come out favorably from this debate. But Scarborough is absolutely correct when he writes, “For 50 years, the federal government has grown at a sickening rate. Whether Republicans or Democrats run the White House, Washington’s establishment always gets its way — bigger budgets, bigger deficits and higher taxes.”  The Tea Party revolution is not about abortion, gay marriage or cheap light bulbs, it’s about stopping the insane growth of government — a bipartisan deed — that has occurred over generations. Pols either elected in 2010 or affected by the Tea Party revolution are not going to accept a “compromise” plan that raises taxes and spending and then “promises” to cut spending 20 years hence, or 10 years hence. They only have to reflect on the past 50 years to know that any promise of cuts that includes the word “future” is bull.

Scarborough includes deficit numbers for the past 30-plus years, which is incidentally about the time pols and the public have been worrying about the debt and growth of government: “In 1980, the annual budget was $590.9 billion. By the beginning of the next decade, the yearly budget was $1.253 trillion. In 2000, the budget was up to $1.789 trillion in annual outlays, and by 2010, it was up to $3.456 trillion. After a decade of Obama’s budgets, the CBO projects our annual budget will explode to $5.451 trillion in 2020.

“Many Republicans now in Congress have been around long enough to see annual budgets explode from $500 billion under Reagan to $3.45 trillion under Obama. They have also seen the top marginal tax rate go from 28 percent under Ronald Reagan, to 31 percent under George H.W. Bush, to 39.6 percent under Bill Clinton, to 35 percent under George W. Bush. Considering that the size of Washington’s annual budget has doubled in the past decade, more than a few Republicans see no need to ask taxpayers for more money to feed the federal government’s voracious appetite for spending.”

Most of the GOP House and Senate signed no-tax pledges. They promised the electorate the growth of government would stop. The debt ceiling debate is the test as to whether they meant it or are just full of hot air.

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25 Responses to Why Republicans are not budging on debt ceiling

  1. Owain says:

    I find it galling to have the President lecture congress (i.e. Republicans), saying things like “This is about Congress going ahead and biting the bullet,” and “At a certain point they need to do their job.”

    Excuse me? Obama is required, by law, to submit a budget proposal to Congress. The one he submitted in February was voted down in the Senate by a vote of 97-0, and he hasn’t bother to submit a new one since.

    Meanwhile, Republicans in the House passed a budget, which was voted down by Democrats in the Senate, but the Democratically controlled Senate has failed to pass a budget since 2009, even though THEY are ALSO required by law to do so.

    It would seem that Democrats, not Republicans, are the ones who need to do their damn jobs. Had they done so, we wouldn’t be facing the current situation. But it seems that is exactly how the President has planned it. How else could he demand $1 Trillion in new taxes otherwise.

    Mr President. Do your damn job.

  2. Midwinter says:

    I’m just glad the Republicans elected in 2010 didn’t run on setting fire to Washington, D.C. or they’d be out there right now setting fire to the bushes.

    The GOP got swept in on the theater of the Tea Party (which, of course, has its origins in a rant by a talking head ON THE FLOOR OF THE CHICAGO SECURITIES EXCHANGE! THOSE POOR HEDGE FUND MANAGERS!) and now finds itself with no room to maneuver because of increasingly narrow ideological beliefs.* I seem to remember Obama warning them about painting themselves into a corner, and that’s what they’ve done: they have no option but burn the place down.

    * not even Norquist, in a remarkable interview today on Diane Rehm, would say specifically what bits of government he thought should be eliminated.

    • LMA says:

      A floor trader on the Chicago securities exchange is not a hedge-fund manager. Since you don’t understand the difference, your opinions can’t be worth much.

  3. D. Michael Martindale says:

    Midwinter, a $14 trillion debt isn’t burning the place down? At what amount do you figure excess starts?

  4. midwinter says:

    I know! Instead of paying last year’s debts, let’s just default on it and see how the markets respond.

    That is my definition of burning the place down. Owing lots of money? Bad. Not paying back your debts? Worse.

    • LMA says:

      This is foolish. Failing to raise the debt ceiling doesn’t create a default in debts. In fact, the best way not to default on debts is not to keep borrowing. Literally everyone knows this. Except for the idiots, I mean.

      Stop to think. Why have a limit on borrowing if it MUST be increased whenever it is reached?

  5. Mark Sparkman says:

    Raising the debt ceiling won’t increase government spending — it will just allow us to pay for what we’ve already spent. But if we default and the US credit rating goes down, the interest on those debts (the ones we already owe) will increase. That will increase our overall debt. In what way is defaulting going to help the problem?

    • Owain says:

      Not raising the debt ceiling does not mean default. There are sufficient tax revenues coming in month to month to service the debt, pay social security, medicare, pay salaries for the military, and other essential services. Other things, such as a lot of porkbarrel spending would be delayed. Foreign aid, could be curtailed. NPR, Planned Parenthood, and other pet projects would just have to figure out how to function without their handouts. In other words, it would be forced budget reductions on things we can do without.

      Sounds like exactly what we need.

    • hawg says:

      “Raising the debt ceiling won’t increase government spending — it will just allow us to pay for what we’ve already spent”

      why didn’t the last debt ceiling allow us to pay for what we’ve already spent?

      • Mark Sparkman says:

        We incurred more obligations. Costs tend upward. But I am not making the argument that gov’t should just keep spending this way; only that the debt ceiling is not the proper battleground. Failure to meet our current bills will not help the US economy. To segue into Owain’s argument: default may not occur, but the banks are already making noises about lowering the US credit rating if the ceiling isn’t raised. It is there that the damage will be done, whether or not the US technically defaults.

  6. JayH says:

    In 2010 The Corporation for Public Broadcasting received $420 million from the federal government. Roughly $90 million of that went to NPR.

    Planned Parenthood received $363 Million in government grants and contracts. (3% of their services are abortion related).

    The price of a single Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF): $95 millon.

    The amount of money earmarked for Iraqi reconstruction, that went missing in 2005: $9 Billion

    During the Bush administration, the debt ceiling was raised 5 times.

    • LMA says:

      I think that a lot of Bush Administration policies were indefensible. This is not a reason to continue doing even more indefensible stuff. By the way, what is your comment on the fact that sen. Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling when he had the chance?

      • Lang says:

        LMA, me thinks hell hath partly frozen over… We agree on an issue.
        That issue is I also think that a lot of Bush Administration policies were indefensible, and that this is not a reason to continue doing even more indefensible stuff.
        My only question. Did you vote for Bush to do his indefensible stuff?
        If you did vote for George Bush Jr, did do you regret it? Would you give the Senator Obama the same margin of error you might lend yourself in a voting conundrum.

        • LMA says:

          I might lend myself into a voting conundrum? What language is this? It ain’t English.

          • Lang says:

            OK, LMA sure you got me! I am horrible at typing. I typed the word “lend” instead of “find. I am however honest, and you can not say as much about yourself. I would rather be bad at typing than be a self-assured egotist that can not be honest and answer a simple question to save his spellchecker….. Tell me again… How are ancient people who lived in the Americans really Jews? For all of your frothing at the mouth and vitriol you have never answered this question.

  7. Owain says:

    “As for the deficit, CBO shows that over the first three years of the Obama Presidency, 2009-2011, the federal government will borrow an estimated $3.7 trillion. That is more than the entire accumulated national debt for the first 225 years of U.S. history. By 2019, the interest payments on this debt will be larger than the budget for education, roads and all other nondefense discretionary spending.”

  8. Owain says:

    In case you are wondering what that level of deficit spending looks like graphically, follow the link and look at the graph.

    We are so screwed…

  9. JayH says:

    “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”
    — Vice President Dick Cheney, February 14th, 2005

    I don’t remember the Tea Party back then, but then again we had a white president.

    • Owain says:

      And then Obama proved Cheney wrong by incurring truly STUPID deficits so far in his administration.

      A quote from 2005 means nothing. Cheney may be an awesome individual, but not even he could have foreseen the folly of Obama. The deficits of 2009, 2010, and the projected deficits for 2011 are ruining the country.

    • Owain says:

      Of course, maybe I’m misunderstanding your point. Are you saying that having a black President has been a bad thing?

      How racist of you.

    • hawg says:

      and again,(and again, and again, and again….) liberals are the ones bringing up race.
      it’s getting kind of embarrassing, dontcha think?

  10. LMA says:

    Deficits matter, or don’t, according to levels of debt and spending as a percent of GDP.

    Liberals complain about deficits (remember, Obama campaigned on a promise to cut the deficit in half – funny, right?) when they want to raise taxes or oppose a cut in taxes. Conservatives complain about deficits when they want to restrain spending. For a long time, deficits were in the range of the low hundreds of billions. After the Republican trending elections of 1994, a combination of tax increases, spending restraints and a strong economy put the federal budget briefly in surplus.

    That was a far cry from the situation today. “Based on the 2010 U.S. budget, total national debt will nearly double in dollar terms between 2008 and 2015 and will grow to nearly 100% of GDP, versus a level of approximately 80% in early 2009.” The GAO, Treasury Department, and CBO all say that the U.S. is on an “unsustainable” fiscal path. Not the word “unsustainable.” That means, you know, it matters.

    As the debt ratio increases, the exchange value of the dollar will fall leadng Paying back debt with cheaper currency could cause investors (including other governments) to demand higher interest rates if they anticipate further dollar depreciation. Paying higher interest rates could slow domestic U.S. growth. [The quotation and other facts cited here are from a Wikipedia article, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_public_debt. Anyone is welcome to challenge the use of Wikipedia as a source, but then you should be willing to say what you think the different facts are. This article appears well sourced to me.]

    Higher interest rates will lead to higher costs of debt service, which will expand the percentage of federal revenues required to be devoted to debt service. And eventually, inflation will kick in.

    “The public debt-to-GDP ratio in March 2010 is about 60 percent of GDP; CBO projects it will reach 90 percent around 2020 under policies in place in 2010. If growth slows, all of the economic challenges the U.S. faces will worsen.”

    A year to year deficit is by itself unimportant. A structural deficit (what we have now) is important because year AFTER year it is unsustainable. There’s that word again. It means that something really, really has to be done. Most of the American public has come to the idea that spending needs to be cut, and cut drastically. (“[M]ost voters nationwide (52%) continue to feel that failing to make significant cuts in government spending is more dangerous in the short-term than the government defaulting on the federal debt.”)
    [http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/weekly_updates/what_they_told_us_reviewing_last_week_s_key_polls] You’re welcome to disagree with a majority of likely voters of course, but you might at least say what you think the answer is instead of what they prefer.

    That is unless all you care about is stuff like, “Wull, Dick Cheney was a bad guy, so there!” ;^)

  11. Gfrenfroe says:

    When a credit card company will not extend a higher limit and you don’t have the money for the minimum payment they will raise the interest rate and make it harder to pay back. It seems from the posts I’ve been following that that is the deficit ceiling case in a nutshell if you’re talking about the money.
    But when it comes to who to blame, that is where the opinions have really become nasty.
    We rely on government services every single day and those are definitely not free. But it is these very services that are taken for granted as natural facts that give our society its cohesion and enables us to specialize in our chosen fields and excel.
    The simple act of turning on a faucet and getting clean water comes from government agencies. Controlling the Ogden river in any year is not the responsibility of a private enterprise. The smooth flow of traffic through responsible management, improvement and maintenance of the road system is something we expect but object to pay for through taxes.
    The point is without government services we as a society would be weaker.
    Who is to blame for the fiasco of the debt ceiling debate that will force the President to raise the ceiling by himself and send all the fringes into a rant? The answer is that no one in particular is to blame but we must have a witch to burn to satisfy some primal need.

    Remember when you go to the Chinese outlet store that we call Wal-Mart you are helping to grow and support a government that is trying very hard to haul their country out of the abyss of Maoism and provide a sense of security for the people that number more than a billion within their borders. It is too easy to demonize Wal-Mart as a singular entity. They have modernized a logistical system that makes it cheaper to transport commodities from around the world to feed our collective voracious maw.
    This monetary dilemma has a long term solution. Buy American. Drive less and failing that drive at the speed limit. Less money to Saudi Arabia is more money in our collective pockets. Invest in energy independence. Become engrossed in your local government. Applaud the successes and study the failures of government to find a better course. Read more. Study science.
    Of course I’m being simplistic. But so is pointing out one person to be the scapegoat for a downward trend of an increasingly polarized society.

  12. Midwinter says:

    Don’t be a jerk. Unless you don’t want to address the substance of what I said. Then being a jerk is an efficient way to avoid having a reasonable discussion.

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