Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Mechanics of Hostage Taking

Here is a bit from James Fallows on his The Atlantic blog explaining the mechanics of the Republican party's approach to "governing":
The debt-ceiling showdown represents hostage-taking, plain and simple. This is a "crisis" that need never have happened, regardless of which party controlled the White House.

You wouldn't know it from most news coverage, but there is no logical or legislative connection between the House Republicans' stated object of concern, the future budgetary path toward national solvency, and the bonds and notes the Treasury must keep issuing for programs this and previous Congresses have already voted into law. (Ie, additional debt.) It is a quirk of legislative history, not a principle of sound budgeting, that we calculate a "debt ceiling" at all, those debts being a predictable consequence of the programs Congress enacts. That's why increases in the ceiling in the past have been routine measures, or occasions for minor grandstanding. These minor episodes include then-Senator Obama's vote against an increase in 2006. That one passed, as of course did six other increases under George W. Bush (along with 17 18 under Ronald Reagan, nine under George H.W. Bush, and six under Bill Clinton). You can read historical details from the Congressional Research Service in PDF form.

Here's a comparison: Suppose, by similar quirk, there was an arbitrary ceiling on the amount of ammunition the U.S. military could buy each year. Or the amount of fuel for drones, bombers, and Humvees. Like overall national debt, these purchases are foreseeable consequences of previous political decisions -- in this case, about the wars the country decides to fight. But suppose that when the "ammo ceiling" came due for its routine extension, a group of legislators said they would refuse. No more bullets or jet fuel after August 2, and for good measure no more food for the troops, unless demands for radical change in future foreign policy were met in full. That would rightly be seen as blackmail, and as a reckless willingness to damage the nation for partisan ends. A similar reckless exercise in blackmail is underway now, with the difference that the consequences can be longer-lasting and worse.
Go read his post. He has 4 other reasons why the Republican party is to blame for the mess the US is in, i.e. why the credit rating is dropping, interest rates are rising, and countries are either refusing to accept US dollars and/or selling what US dollars they have for a currency whose government stands behind the notes.

Fallows also offers up this example of just how crazy & fanatical the Republicans are:
A Republican demand for $16 million in cuts from the FAA budget (plus some anti-union provisions) has led to an FAA shutdown that has in turn, as the NY Times reports, led to a $25 million per day loss in fees the airlines paid to the FAA. That is, zealotry on this point has already cost the government more than ten times as much as the cuts would have saved.
When you piss away more than the $16 million you claim to "want to save" by shutting down the FAA, you show a complete disregard for logic, proportion, and compromise. This is clear evidence that these Republicans would kill their own mothers if they thought that might further their ideology of "family values".

I simply didn't believe the Republican party was this fanatical and stupid. I now recognize I was wrong. One-third of the American people want to live in a banana republic and their wish is coming true. Sadly, the two-thirds who want to live in a first world country are unable to show the necessary muscle to shout down the crazies, so the US is now effectively being run by the Tea Party along with a centre-right so-called Democrat President but one who appears to be deeply in love with Republican "values" so he has simply abandoned his party in favour of allowing the Tea Party to set the agenda and decide what bills can be passed and when. Ridiculous!

No comments: