Debt-ceiling Fight Over

August 3, 2011

A final deal was passed by the House of Representatives on Monday, and passed by the Senate and signed by the president on Tuesday.  It raises the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion, enough to get the government through the 2012 elections, as President Obama wanted.

Michael Tanner has the details on the deal (which has some things in common with the one Boehner proposed last Monday).  He also gives some helpful perspective and numbers on America’s larger debt situation, and explains that the compromise bill’s first round of spending cuts aren’t spending cuts at all, but only a “reduction from the planned baseline increase in spending.” 

Tanner suggests that this compromise is as good as conservatives could have hoped for under current political constraints (Democrats still control the Senate and the presidency).  Jonah Goldberg examines what happened here politically, and strikes an optimistic note about where we go from here.  The National Review editors also offer their opinion on the deal and on where we go from here.

Rick Santorum says the deal doesn’t do enough to rein in government spending, and renews his commitment to a balanced-budget constitutional amendment.  Paul Ryan reminds us how bad things will get if we don’t start getting serious about reducing government spending and reforming entitlements.  As the American Thinker points out,

Moody’s, S&P, and other rating agencies have made clear that the issue is not the debt limit, but the debt itself — and America’s credibility in reducing it over the next ten years.

(emphasis and link to New York Times as source in original)

On his radio show today, Rush Limbaugh argued that this deal forces Republicans in the coming year to choose between tax increases and cuts to national defense, but I don’t know whether that makes this deal as bad as some people think.  In Mark Steyn’s cover story “Too Big to Win” (National Review, June 6th, 2011, page 32, currently available on his Web site, but that will expire), he wrote,

Here I part company somewhat from my National Review colleagues who are concerned about inevitable cuts to the defense budget. Clearly, if one nation is responsible for near half the world’s military budget, a lot of others aren’t pulling their weight. The Pentagon outspends the Chinese, British, French, Russian, Japanese, German, Saudi, Indian, Italian, South Korean, Brazilian, Canadian, Australian, Spanish, Turkish, and Israeli militaries combined.

Steyn isn’t the only one to argue that America’s paying for basically all of Europe’s national defense—while it may have seemed like a good idea when Europe was in ruins after World War Two and the Soviet threat loomed large—has done more harm than good, corrupting the nations of Europe and causing, in no small part, the mess they’re in today.  Steyn has called it “defense welfare”.

8 Responses to “Debt-ceiling Fight Over”

  1. Snoodickle Says:

    I am heartened to see that at least some conservatives acknowledge that cuts in our massive defense budget are necessary. The most logical solution is to quit getting involved in unnecessary wars. But for the wars that are necessary, it is imperative that our military budget is robust enough to fight those wars effectively. I read something today that says that unmanned spy drones that are to take the place of U2 spy planes cost 218 millions dollars a drone. Wow!

    • A reader Says:

      I’ve heard others express surprise at the Republicans’ apparent willingness to cut military spending. I agree with you; I think they’ve been very consistent in their call for reigning in government spending. Each side in this debate surely has preferences for certain kinds of government spending over other kinds. But when there isn’t money to spend, well… Republicans have done a good job of expressing (for those who have cared to listen to them rather than the Democrats’ characterizations of them) that although everyone can think of lots of things they’d LIKE the government to spend money on, it doesn’t much matter right now what we’d like.

      Spock, that Vulcan from Star Trek, says in the sixth movie “The Undiscovered Country”: “What you want is irrelevant. What you’ve chosen is at hand.”

      It seems to me that our debt problems will not be resolved until we can, as a nation, realize that what we want is irrelevant, given what we have already chosen. My heart breaks for people who may lose welfare support of one kind or another, but we’ve already chosen to allow ourselves to become dependent on programs that we cannot afford. We chose this harm long ago.

  2. A reader Says:

    From the first article you linked to: “Obama didn’t want to revisit the issue before his reelection next year—under the agreement, he won’t have to.” It’s nice that he won’t have that hassle until after his apparently inevitable reelection.

    What do you think about the deal?

    Also from that first article: “Although 95 Democrats voted in favor of the agreement, they argued that Congress should take a more balanced approach by raising taxes to protect entitlement spending.

    ” ‘The American people aren’t looking for a balanced approach, they are looking for a balanced budget,’ said Jeb Hensarling​ (R.-Tex.), chairman of the House Republican Conference.”

    I was talking to a politically liberal friend on Tuesday evening. She was dismayed at how much the Democrats seem to have surrendered. On the other hand, if Democrats and Republicans realize that the debt is a problem, Republicans are already the side fighting to reduce spending. Democrats, even if they know there is a problem, are politically less able to address it responsibly because their constituents are the ones dependent on and supportive of entitlements.

    • Right!

      What do I think? I guess I’m inclined to agree with others who have said that the deal is probably about as good as we could have gotten, and that it is better than nothing, but also that it’s disappointingly little—slowing down the canoe but we’re still paddling toward a very predictable fall right off the edge of the cliff, and all that.

      I think it’s especially disappointing because I remember that some people said, after the final deal on this year’s budget (this past April), that we should accept it as the best we could get and move on to the real battle, which would be the debt-ceiling fight. That budget deal had been a big disappointment to some Tea Party types even before its spending cuts were revealed to be “a little less than 1 percent” of what was “advertised”, so bad that the National Review editors retracted some of their praise of the deal and declared it “strike one against the speakership of John Boehner.” Then, in the much-anticipated debt-ceiling fight, we were again disappointed.

      But maybe it is a big accomplishment, as far as it goes. In any case, the way this has played out should compel anyone who’s paying attention not to vote for any Democrats in 2012, if ever. They’re a big obstacle to even modest cuts in spending, to say nothing of the radical cuts and entitlement reform needed to save the country.

      • Snoodickle Says:

        Actually, President Obama proposed over 4 trillion in cuts/closing tax loopholes, and the final deal (a Republican deal) was just over 2 trillion. Sometimes I think you are so driven by partisan politics that you ignore reality. Indeed, you are the most partisan person I know. I believe that you are so entrenched in your position, that you would not vote for a Democrat under any circumstances, even if they were a demonstrably better candidate.

        You ask how could anyone ever vote for a Democrat? I have asked you time and again, fiscal issues aside, how could you ever vote for a candidate hell bent on destroying our environment at all costs (as most Tea Party candidates are) if you truly care about the future of this country and mankind in general? You have yet to provide me a response.

      • You said a lot just now, but only the first sentence had any substantive content on the topic at hand:

        “Actually, President Obama proposed over 4 trillion in cuts/closing tax loopholes, and the final deal (a Republican deal) was just over 2 trillion.”

        “4 trillion in cuts/closing tax loopholes”? How much of it was spending cuts and how much was “closing tax loopholes”, i.e. raising taxes? Are you aware that you’re referring to a ten-year window—i.e., this is spending cuts and tax increases projected to total $4 trillion over the next ten years, if Congress doesn’t change anything (the odds of which are roughly nil), not $4 trillion’ worth of changes to next year’s budget? (A single year’s budget is less than $4 trillion.) How much of that would have been immediate, in next year’s budget, and how much would have been in the vague hypothetical future of the rest of the decade? You failed to say.

        As I’ve suggested to you before, if you want to understand what’s going on, you really must consume a balanced diet including at least some conservative media.

        According to Michael Tanner, the deal that was actually reached “will cut barely $21 billion from the 2012 budget, about 1.5 percent.” Do you think that’s enough spending reduction, at a time when the federal government is borrowing a third of the money it spends, so much that the credit-rating agencies are on the verge of downgrading the United States (causing unknown and possibly catastrophic damage to the country)? Do you really want me to believe that President Obama would have cut more in spending, or are you only arguing that he would have raised taxes more? As Tevyeh and I have repeatedly tried to explain to you, the problem is the United States’ out-of-control spending; raising taxes would at most go a fraction of the way toward balancing the budget, not to mention that it would destroy the economy in doing so.

        Last but not least, President Obama never even released a plan; as Mark Steyn has remarked, he doesn’t get credit for having a “plan” just because he was able to read the number “four trillion dollars” off the teleprompter.

        As for your last paragraph, yes, you send me a number of e-mails. In the most recent one that’s on topic, you said, “If you sincerely care about the future of mankind, how can you justify voting for these people? I’ll never understand it.” Then you linked to this, from the New York Times, which reports (albeit tendentiously) on the latest efforts by Republicans in Congress to curtail some of the overabundance of federal environmental regulations. (You entitled the message “A Dying Planet”. That was the whole e-mail.) As the Times piece itself notes,

        “[These efforts], explained Representative Mike Simpson, a Republican from Idaho, [are] a measure of his party’s intense frustration over cumbersome environmental rules.

        “‘Many of us think that the overregulation from E.P.A. is at the heart of our stalled economy,’ Mr. Simpson said, referring to the Environmental Protection Agency. ‘I hear it from Democratic members as well.'”

        There’s plenty to say about how this piece slants things—presenting these Republican efforts as “unprecedented”, while taking no notice of the fact that some of the EPA’s regulatory overreach (such as trying to redefine carbon dioxide as a pollutant, which this piece mentions) actually is unprecedented, and totally inconsistent with the original intent of the relevant legislation—but leave all that aside. Instead, let’s talk about your (the Progressive movement’s) readiness to assume bad motives of people. You say that “most Tea Party candidates” are “hell bent on destroying our environment at all costs”. What exactly do you think you’re saying when you say that? Do you actually believe in these straw men you tilt against in your head? Do you think that conservatives are some kind of monsters who hate the earth and want to destroy it for destruction’s sake, like some cartoon villain? That doesn’t make any sense.

        But explaining even as little as I’ve just explained takes a long time; giving a thorough and complete “answer” or explanation of everything that’s wrong with your question and how you’re thinking about things would take even longer. And it’s often not clear whether you even want an answer, or only ask rhetorically, to assert your moral superiority and feel good about yourself, in which case an answer adds nothing. And you send me a lot of e-mails. Should I spend hours answering every one? Why? Does that benefit either of us?

        Or maybe I should approach this the other way around. How would you answer a question like “how could you ever vote for a candidate hell bent on destroying our environment at all costs (as most Tea Party candidates are) if you truly care about the future of this country and mankind in general?”, or “Why must you take pleasure in cruelty to animals and cruelty to homosexuals?“, or, for that matter, “When did you stop beating your wife?”

  3. Snoodickle Says:

    I know, not think, that conservatives are ready and willing to destroy the environment for the sake of what they call their principles (less regulation, protecting the fossil fuels industry, etc.). Just look at Rick Santorum, whom you support. That should be enough to prove my point. Does this mean that conservatives are actively seeking to destroy the environment? No. They just don’t care and/or don’t have the foresight to see the destructive impact that their ill conceived policies will have on future generations. I’m sure many Democrats are guilty of this as well.

    P.S. Do you really expect me to believe that raising taxes on corporate jets and getting rid of the mortgage interest deduction are going to destroy the economy because you and Tevyeh say so? If those things really were going to destroy the economy, don’t you think that President Obama’s economic advisers would know that? Do you think you know better than economic experts? Don’t be foolish.

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