This has been a big week in politics. Two events occurred that have a strong potential to disrupt the political norm and effect major changes. The first was the collective public yawn over the sequester. The Obama administration, and its allies in the Congress and the press have discovered that most people didn’t buy their arguments that the sky was going to fall if budget deficits were reduced by a small percentage.
Recent arguments by President Obama and other members of the “Increasing Debt Caucus” were interesting. First, they argued that we really didn’t have a spending problem in this nation, but a paying for problem. Then they pivoted, arguing that a bunch of bad stuff would result if the sequester occurred. The sequester occurred, and we’re all still standing, of course.
The reason the denial-followed-by-the-Chicken-Little argument failed by Obama and his allies is that the budget situation has simply become too dire to ignore. By the middle of next year, the federal debt will be well above $17 trillion, a $7 trillion increase in about five years. And, what fewer people understand — but that will change — is that the fed is artificially keeping the markets high by buying trillions of dollars in bonds and flooding the economy with money. As a result, traditional bank investments, such as a CD, yield less than 1 percent. This strategy contributes to the inequality of wealth and it poses a really dangerous inflation threat. Unless the fed can somewhere unload these trillions in bonds in a manner befitting Houdini, our jobless recovery will be threatened.
The second big event was Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster against John Brennan as director of the CIA. It was a game-changer in politics. The Kentucky Republican is automatically a political star, and a contender for the presidency in 2016. What Paul wants as a condition to an end to future filibusters on Brennan’s nomination is a promise from the White House for restraint on its drone policies. From the New York Times: “Repeatedly, Mr. Paul explained that his true goal was simply to get a response from the administration saying it would not use drone strikes to take out American citizens on United States soil.” (read)
My guess is that Paul and his allies (he was joined by several Republicans and one Democrat) will get that promise soon. The administration, through its cavalier responses to Congress on the drone program, finds itself in the position of arguing that it has the right to effect drone strikes on U.S. soil against U.S. citizens. (And we thought Dubya’s policies were bad!) On this argument, Paul has the high ground.
Three cheers to Paul, a Tea Party politician, for his sincerity and acting on his principles. Things are looking a little better in our nation’s capitol as a result. The president’s “boots on the ground” (think MSNBC) will go after Paul, and continue to hype sequester horror stories, but most of us aren’t buying it.