Fund Your Utopia Without Me.™

05 October 2013

Going Out Of Their Way: Lake Mead Property Owners Forced Out Until Shutdown Ends

By Jacqui Heinrich

The government shutdown is being felt close to home for some locals. They say they’re being forced out of private homes on Lake Mead because they sit on federal land.

Joyce Spencer is 77-years-old and her husband Ralph is 80. They’ve been spending most of their time in the family ice cream store since going home isn’t an option.

The Spencers never expected to be forced out of their Lake Mead home, which they’ve owned since the 70s, but on Thursday, a park ranger said they had 24 hours to get out.

“I had to go to town today and buy Ralph undershirts and jeans because I forgot his pants,” Joyce Spencer told Action News.

The Stewart’s Point home sits on federal land, so even though the Spencers own their cabin outright, they’re not allowed in until the government reopens… 

I hope Obama and Reid rot in hell.  This is just spiteful.

PS:   Today, the House UNANIMOUSLY voted to give back pay to furloughed Federal workers. The Senate was supposed to vote on the bill this afternoon, but then Harry Reid shut that whole thing down and adjourned the Senate.

I am not particularly sympathetic to most government employees because I think they are pampered and superfluous. That said, I don’t really have a problem with paying them since this clusterfark isn’t their fault – although there are a lot of assh0les that should just be terminated, especially some of the pr1cks in the IRS and NPS.

The thing about the backpay bill is it puts Harry Reid and Senate Democrats in a tricky situation. If even Nancy Pelosi was willing to vote for a bill to pay the workers, how can Harry not permit the Senate to vote on it?

How are Federal workers going to feel about that when they learn that the reason there hasn’t been a bill passed to pay them is because of Mr No…Harry Reid?

Shoe. Other foot. Some assembly required.

Related:  Pics of the Day: Bend Off And Get Ready Because Here I Come...As Hard As I Can

Pics of the Day: Bend Off And Get Ready Because Here I Come...As Hard As I Can

Embedded image permalink

A scenic overlook at Mount Rushmore.  Please note that the road remains open.  The overlook is never manned and is merely an apron.

But, MrAssHO! really just wants to give you one right up the ass.  It doesn't matter how much it hurts you or even Progressive Democrats as long as he can take a shot at his opponents.

This is just petty.  I don't care who you are.  Of course, what else have we come to expect of King Barack Canute Obama?

Going out of his way to make it as painful as possible...on everyone.

Oh, and it's almost as if the White House reads BigFurHat's blog.  From a few days ago...


PS:   Today, the House UNANIMOUSLY voted to give back pay to furloughed Federal workers. The Senate was supposed to vote on the bill this afternoon, but then Harry Reid shut that whole thing down and adjourned the Senate.

I am not particularly sympathetic to most government employees because I think they are pampered and superfluous. That said, I don’t really have a problem with paying them since this clusterfark isn’t their fault – although there are a lot of assh0les that should just be terminated, especially some of the pr1cks in the IRS and NPS.

The thing about the backpay bill is it puts Harry Reid and Senate Democrats in a tricky situation. If even Nancy Pelosi was willing to vote for a bill to pay the workers, how can Harry not permit the Senate to vote on it?

How are Federal workers going to feel about that when they learn that the reason there hasn’t been a bill passed to pay them is because of Mr No…Harry Reid?

Shoe. Other foot. Some assembly required.

Debt Limit Brinkmanship Is Nothing New

Debt Limit Brinkmanship Is Nothing New

Don't know much about history? Time for a refresher course.
By Sean Davis

What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.

“Congress is trapped on the question of raising the national debt by one of its own legislative tricks — postponing disagreeable decisions until the last hours of rush to adjournment when there is no further time for deliberation and the situation is ripe for trading.”

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is. But that language isn’t from a 2013 news article about increasing the federal debt limit. It’s from a 1953 news article about President Dwight E. Eisenhower’s request to raise the debt ceiling by $15 billion, from $275 billion to $290 billion.

Everything old is new again.

rior to 1917, when Congress first established a federal debt limit via the Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917, Congress had to authorize each individual bond issuance rather than an overall amount of debt. In addition to setting a general limit on the total amount of outstanding federal debt, the 1917 law also set limits on what types of debt could be issued. It was not until March of 1939 that Congress eliminated those limits on specific bond issues and created the general federal debt ceiling that remains in place today. Congress set that debt ceiling at $45 billion.

Since that limit was set in 1939, it has been amended over 90 times, or an average of more than once each year. Republican and Democratic presidents alike have asked for higher debt limits, and Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike have sworn to undertake any measures necessary to block them.

Pew Research Center


The 1953-1954 Battle 


Eisenhower’s request in 1953 to increase the debt limit was not without controversy. He had just been elected, and the current debt limit of $275 billion had been in place since the end of World War II. Eisenhower used his very first State of the Union Address in February of 1953 to make a public appeal to increase the debt limit.

“The forecast presented by the outgoing administration with the fiscal year 1954 budget indicates that — before the end of the fiscal year and at the peak of demand for payments during the year — the total Government debt may approach and even exceed that limit,” Eisenhower said. “Unless budgeted deficits are checked, the momentum of past programs will force an increase of the statutory debt limit.”

AP 1954 Debt Limit

Even though both chambers of Congress were controlled by Eisenhower’s Republican allies, raising the debt ceiling was no easy lift, even for one of the most highly respected combat generals in American history. Whereas Barack Obama organized communities before he sought political office, Eisenhower commanded entire armies and used them to bring Hitler to his knees.

Although he first mentioned the need to raise the debt ceiling in February of 1953, Eisenhower did not formally submit his request to Congress until three days before the body’s scheduled adjournment that August. It turns out that waiting until the last second in the hope of increasing negotiating leverage is a bipartisan tradition that goes back decades.

The 83rd Congress, however, would not be bullied. Led by Sen. Harry F. Byrd (D-Va.), the Senate Finance Committee rejected Eisenhower’s request by a vote of 11-4. It would take another year before Eisenhower would get his debt limit increase approved by Congress, and even then Congress only gave him an additional $6 billion, rather than the $15 billion he initially requested.

And if you think the congressional debate over the current debt limit is heated, it’s nothing compared to the 1953 floor debate between Sen. Wayne Morse of Oregon, who opposed lifting the debt ceiling, and Sen. Homer Capehart of Indiana.

“The trouble with the Senator from Indiana,” Morse said, “is that he simply does not know what he is talking about…and I am going to wrap that record around the Senator’s political neck, whenever he makes any such false statement as the one to which I referred.”

 Morse Capehart

“There is nothing I would enjoy more than to have [Morse] try to wrap something around my neck,” Capehart responded. “If he tries to do it in Indiana, he will find that the people of Indiana still have left a little good common horsesense, and that they do not fall for hypocrisy.”

“I do not like hypocrisy, and I never have,” Capehart added.

“Then the senator should never look into a mirror,” Morse countered. Years later, Morse would refer to the portly Capehart as a “tub of rancid ignorance.” 

The 1977-1978 Battle

In many respects, the battle in 1977 over Carter’s request to increase the debt was very similar to Eisenhower’s struggle in 1953. Carter had just been elected, and, like Eisenhower, was blessed with both a House and a Senate that were run by his own political party. But just as Republicans were not eager to rubber stamp Ike’s request for more debt, neither were Democrats prepared to hike the debt limit without a fight.

In September of 1977, the debt ceiling was set at $700 billion, but due to the way the law authorizing that particular limit was written, that number would fall to $400 billion on October 1 if Congress did not extend the current limit. Unsurprisingly, Congress failed to extend it. Also unsurprisingly, several senators took Carter’s request hostage and attempted to use it as a bargaining chip for negotiations over natural gas deregulation.

“With the Senate entangled in a filibuster over natural gas prices, Congress let the Friday midnight deadline slip by without passing final legislation to raise the debt ceiling,” the Associated Press reported at the time. But it wasn’t Republicans who were responsible for the filibuster. Senate Democrats led the charge and threatened to continue filibustering for weeks if necessary.

As the Associated Press noted:  “‘Our intention is to continue…,’ said Sen. Howard Metzenhaum, D-Ohio, who is leading the filibuster with Sen. James Abourezk, D-S.D. ‘I guess we could continue the filibuster for another week, 10 days, maybe two weeks without much trouble.’”

They eventually relented, and a temporary debt limit increase was signed into law on October 4, three days after the statutory deadline. That was not the end of the fighting, however. Two more times — once in August of 1978 and again in April of 1979 — Congress allowed the temporary increase to expire, sending the debt limit back down to $400 billion. 

The 1990 Battle

The battle between congressional Democrats and President George H. W. Bush in 1990 most resembles the wrangling today between President Obama and House Republicans:  a difficult economy, mounting debt, and an impending government shutdown. Just as the current shutdown impasse appears likely to bleed into debt limit negotiations over the next several weeks, the 1990 impasse also included a shutdown fight wrapped with a debt limit crisis. But in 1990, the fight was instigated by Democrats who wished to raise taxes despite Bush’s famous “read my lips” campaign promise to block all tax increases.

In a span of just four weeks in the fall of 1990, Congress passed and President Bush signed six separate debt limit extensions. At the same time, lawmakers were embroiled in a fight over discretionary spending levels — a fight that would eventually lead to a four-day government shutdown.

“In a stunning defeat for President Bush and the leaders of both parties in Congress, the House early today rejected the new five-year, $500-billion deficit-reduction plan,” the Los Angeles Times reported on October 5, 1990.

“The White House ordered a shutdown of most of the government at midnight last night as President George Bush, in a high-stakes showdown with Congress, refused to act upon emergency legislation to temporarily continue funding for federal agencies,” Newsday wrote the next morning.

Although the government was re-opened after four days and remained open thereafter, the fighting continued for weeks, as the appropriations hostage was exchanged by congressional Democrats for the debt limit hostage. But even then, the wrangling was treated by congressional veterans as just another day at the office.

“We all know what happens over here,” Sen. Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said during an October 18 floor debate. “The debt limit bill comes up; the leadership puts it off until the last minute, for good reason. There are hundreds of amendments that are held out to tack onto this must-[pass] legislation. The result is that the Senate, on many occasions, works all night long for hours and passes all kinds of legislation, I submit, Mr. President, without the careful analysis that this legislation would ordinarily receive.”

In other words, hostage-taking and last-second negotiating were the rule, not the exception, when it came to things like the debt ceiling.

Congressional Democrats eventually got their way via the November 5 enactment of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990, which raised income tax rates and instituted statutory PAYGO measures that would lead to sequestration if deficit targets were not met. Two years later, Bush would be tossed from office, due in large part to his now-broken “no new taxes” campaign pledge. Congress gave him the debt limit increase he wanted, but the price he paid was his presidency.


As Congress and President Obama come ever closer to bumping up against the debt ceiling (most experts believe Treasury will exhaust its ability to keep debt under the limit sometime in mid-October), many commentators will claim that the brinkmanship over the debt limit is unprecedented and unimaginable. The real truth is that it’s neither.

Congress and the president have fought for decades, regardless of party, over the propriety of raising the debt ceiling. Many lawmakers in years past used the debt limit as a bargaining chip, knowing that holding it up could give them leverage unachievable through other legislative means. That doesn’t mean that a fight this year is necessarily a good idea. But it is helpful to be reminded that this is not the first time our elected officials have pulled out all the stops — including shutdowns or threats of default — to achieve their policy or political goals, nor will it be the last.

There is nothing new under the sun.

He’s Just Not That Clever

No need to think his destructive incompetence is intentional.

By Ross Kaminsky 

Because Barack Obama was elected on a campaign promise of fundamentally transforming the United States, and because our nation then proceeded to lose much of its international influence and domestic economic dynamism, it is easy to say “this is intentional. It’s just what he wants.”

Yet while Obama might, in his heart of hearts, not bemoan the loss of jobs and economic growth at home, and American power and prestige abroad, ascribing it to an intentional effort gives Obama credit for qualities and skills he does not possess.

Neocon David Horowitz entitled a recent fundraising letter for his Freedom Center “Urgent: Is Obama’s incompetence by design?”

It surely feels that way sometimes.

But politics has rarely seen an elected leader, a man of supposed vision (even if a dark one), a prophet of hope and change, so desperate to do anything other than his job (and so eager to be on the golf course) as the current American president. He is not capable, or does he work hard enough, to “design” such fecklessness?

To paraphrase Freud*, sometimes incompetence is just incompetence.

The current chaos over federal government funding and its morbidly obese half-brother, the debt ceiling, is notable for Barack Obama’s absence. He is nowhere to be seen (except possibly teeing off) other than an occasional bit of televised vitriol attacking the “Republican shutdown” and Wednesday’s faux-meeting to reiterate that he won’t negotiate with Republicans (but he will plead for a handshake and discussions with the president of the terrorist regime in Tehran).

This is not leadership. It’s not even a particularly good political tactic. It is the behavior of a bully and, to put it plainly, a liar.

Obama’s shutdown rhetoric are not the words of a man who is honestly open to hearing the ideas of others; they are the words of a petty tyrant, an Alinskyite thug, whose true opinion of the GOP was summed up in 2008 when he said, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”

Much has been written about how likely Republicans are to find a way to lose — and it’s not a bad bet based on history. But if the president is not the brilliant and devious manipulator that many give him credit for being, just a few smart Republican maneuvers might start the polls moving toward equal blame for all sides, and thereby push the president to stop jumping up and down with his fingers in his ears, yelling “I can’t hear you!” Passing small bills funding popular parts of government, as the House has done several times in the past few days, is a good start.

The president’s lack of leadership is entirely within character and consistent with his history. Even his signature piece of legislation, Obamacare, was written by senators and lobbyists, with the president waiting in the background, ready for an unearned victory lap, emotionally and functionally unable to lead the charge for one of liberalism’s most cherished policy goals.

Private health insurance is collapsing, along with your choice of doctors, as prices explode.Physicians are retiring early, cutting back hours, and refusing to take new Medicaid patients — just as Obamacare aims to turn millions of Americans into little more than glorified Medicaid enrollees. The rate of “U-6” unemployment (which includes underemployment) is mired at a painful 14 percent. The national debt is up 60 percent since this president took office, representing a staggering current burden of over $53,000 per citizen and $148,000 per taxpayer.

But none of this — not the true effects of Obamacare, not the jobs stagnation, not even the national debt — represents Barack Obama being successful even in the context of his own simplistic world view, best summarized in his own words: “I do think at a certain point, you’ve made enough money.”

After all, thanks to cronyism, clever lobbyists, and the true nature of Progressive policies, the people Obama most claimed to want to help, namely the lower rungs of the American income ladder, are stuck in a swamp of the president’s creation with only more punishment in sight. Median household income has plunged under this president, with a devastating 11 percent drop among black Americans. Obama has indeed redistributed our money: to unions, bankers, and political donors. He’s not even a good socialist.

Vanishingly few of the Democrats’ legislative or electoral victories are due to President Obama being notably cleverer than any other well-practiced politician-fabulist. Even the most committed ideologue needs a modicum of leadership skill to be an effective leader. Obama has none, and therefore isn’t one. The many negative results of his presidency are not by design. He’s just not that clever.

His diminishment of the U.S. in foreign affairs is equally accidental, pace the musings of many experienced political commentators.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Norman Podhoretz writes that Obama’s foreign policy failures, particularly regarding Syria, are actually “a brilliant success as measured by what he intended all along to accomplish.”

And Rush Limbaugh (in large part discussing the Podhoretz article), recently wondered, “[Is] the decline of America by design?” while adding a bit of self-congratulatory “I like being joined” — apparently he believes the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

Whether the United States has declined in every relevant aspect on the international stage is beyond debate. Even the New York Times was compelled to state the obvious when reporting on President Obama’s recent address at the United Nations: “In the morning, it was a somewhat diminished American leader who faced a skeptical audience of world leaders here.”

The Washington Post editorial board complained that Obama’s approach in that same UN speech “can only diminish U.S. influence…”

And a few weeks earlier, the liberal website Daily Beast discussed “How Obama Lost His Influence in Egypt.”

Conservatives frequently refer to Barack Obama’s dismissal of American Exceptionalism, his promise of more “flexibility” with Russia, and his assertion that “No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed” as evidence that a weakened United States is the intentional product of a considered strategy.

With his foreign policy being made by accident and gaffe and people with names like Vladimir, there is little reason to view Barack Obama as particularly clever or as an effective player on the chessboard of international affairs.

Instead, he is the subject of manipulation by every foreign leader from Mohamed “So this is what Mubarak felt like” Morsi to Vladimir “See my new Barack yo-yo” Putin to Bashar “Here’s my sarin (wink wink)” al Assad to Hassan “Shake this, Barack” Rouhani.

Obama’s apologetic calls for Islamic appreciation of a new American approach were not a subtly brilliant way to get jihadists to hate us even more.

His unscripted “red line” was not an imaginative ploy to make Secretary of State John Kerry look like a genius for his accidental off-ramp from a highway to a pointless, unwinnable war.

His disdain for American preeminence is not the cause of its waning; his fecklessness and stunning lack of leadership are.

After all, it remains likely that Obama, like many second-term presidents, will be forced by domestic politics, lame duck status, and various activities of foreign allies and opponents to focus the end of his presidency on foreign policy. For a man as profoundly narcissistic as Barack Obama, his inability to influence the stream of history any more than a thrown pebble influences the Mighty Mississippi will be personally frustrating and politically damaging (by even further reducing his clout at home).

It’s one thing to talk big on the campaign trail about taking the U.S. down a peg. It’s another thing when the main peg being lowered is your own influence.

Obama’s staggering incompetence on the international stage, careening from one unintended foreign policy consequence to another, is unmistakable because foreign affairs are almost exclusively the province of the president. He has no congressional human shields overseas.

Particularly for those still smarting from the Republicans’ inability to defeat a president whose first term was a tragi-comedy of stupid policies and their predictable results, it is tempting to ascribe a certain evil genius to the man who so often talks down the nation he dares to “lead” — a word used very loosely in this context.

But there is no aspect of Obama’s history, whether as a “community organizer,” undistinguished lecturer, state senator (frequently voting present), or president, in which he has demonstrated leadership, wisdom, or even a world view more sophisticated than that of a typical member of the College Democrats or its more radical predecessors.

Throughout George W. Bush’s presidency, Democrats mocked him as an idiot, a rube, even a chimpanzee. So why do conservatives routinely imply that Obama is a genius?

Those who oppose Obama make a mistake, both in terms of policy and politics, by ascribing his harmful impacts on the nation to Machiavellian cleverness, or by characterizing them as success by any definition — even his. Barack Obama has almost no idea what he is doing, why he is doing it, or how his actions affect ordinary citizens or the world around us.

While the most anti-American president in American history might not be too unhappy at the downward spiral of his nation’s international standing and economic strength, it is not by his design but rather a result of the sad accident of having (twice) elected a naïve, petulant, self-obsessed non-leader.

[One potential caveat: While Obama is not clever enough for his apparent imcompetence to be anything but real, some of his advisers/puppet-masters, like David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, are. For those enemies of America, Obama is just their front man, their very own Billy Mays, hawking a radical leftist vision in a pleasant container. The question then is what percentage puppet is our president.]

* The saying “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” is frequently attributed to Freud, but there is no evidence that he actually said it.

To Lead Is to Negotiate


A veteran of shutdowns and divided government reflects on today's Washington.

By Peggy Noonan

Acrimony, insults, the government shut down. Time to talk to a wise man, someone from the days when government worked. I turned to the famous Mr. Baker—James A. Baker III, U.S secretary of state (1989-92), secretary of the Treasury (1985-88) and White House chief of staff under Ronald Reagan (1981-85) and George H.W. Bush (1992-93). He spoke, by phone, from his Houston office at the law firm Baker Botts.

Looking at Washington, "I'm seeing, frankly, a sad situation." A brief shutdown won't be terrible—there had already been 17, he notes, since 1976, eight when he was at the White House or Treasury. But the longer this one lasts the more dangerous it will become.

The political problem: The president is failing to lead. His refusal to negotiate with Republicans over spending and the debt limit is "an obstinate position, it's not a leadership position." The Republicans made a mistake early on with a "maximalist" position on ObamaCare—they could not realistically achieve their aim of defunding when the Democrats hold the White House and Senate. But the president's position is a "pretty damn maximalist position itself, and people will say that."

Presidents, he notes, always negotiate in order to get an increase in the debt limit—its their job. "It's a failure of leadership to say, 'I'm just gonna sit here while the government remains closed,' or, with respect to the debt limit, 'I'll sit here and not negotiate and the catastrophic consequences I warned you of will just have to happen.' . . . He has the burden of moving forward. He's the leader of the country. He has to get the debt limit raised to avoid default."

Yet the GOP too bears responsibility for the impasse. "I don't think it was a very wise strategy for we Republicans to say we would not fund the government unless we defunded ObamaCare. I don't think that's a smart political strategy, and I think we'll pay a price for it. . . . If you're gonna make your stand, make your stand on something you can accomplish." When he worked for Reagan, he'd come back from a negotiation saying, "I think we can get this," and it was never all the president wanted. "Reagan would say, 'I'd rather get 80% of what I want than go over the cliff with my flag flying.'"

Mr. Baker says two GOP-backed changes to ObamaCare hold promise. "House Republicans are not wrong when they say we ought to eliminate the special privileges that members of Congress and their staffs have. . . . That would be tremendously popular in the country." The public also would support, and Democrats would likely back, eliminating the ObamaCare tax on medical devices.

He returns to the leadership problem: "When a president doesn't control both sides of Congress he has to deal with the other party. Ronald Reagan did it almost every day with Tip O'Neill." Nonnegotiation is bad politics. "Suppose we get past this budget debate and Oct. 17 get into a fight on the debt limit. I'm not certain the American people would not penalize the administration."

What should President Obama do? Own it. Lead. "Leading would be call [Speaker John] Boehner in: 'All right, this is a sorry situation for our country. Come on here and let's talk about resolving it.'" In this negotiation they should first explore an agreement on getting rid of the special provisions for Congress. Second, they could move to come to agreement on eliminating the medical device tax.

"Resolve this thing by getting into a room and making the government work. The leader of our government should be willing to get into a room and sit down with the opposition."

Why doesn't Mr. Obama do this? Baker spoke of "obstinacy" and political calculation. "This White House thinks it's got a bird's nest on the ground because we Republicans overreached when we said defund ObamaCare." The president thinks this works for him. "He could turn out to be right, and he could turn out to be wrong." Democrats "think this is a great political strategy. I'm not sure it is if it continues too long, particularly if it segues into the debt limit and he doesn't negotiate." The White House meeting of the president and Congressional leaders Wednesday night does not qualify as a negotiation. "They didn't do anything but parrot their respective positions."

Ronald Reagan faced a fiercely Democratic house throughout both terms of his presidency. "Those days were bitter, but we got into a room and we thrashed it out. The 'Gang of Five,' the 'Gang of 17'—we worked it out, each side gave a little, and we got the government working. Reagan—as you know, he had the reputation of being a conservative ideologue. But he wasn't, he was pragmatic." He worked with the other side and "won them over." How? "Horse trading, compromise and negotiation made the government work." Bill Clinton too "was willing to negotiate when he had a body controlled by the opposite party."

When people speak of Reagan and O'Neill, I said, it always comes across as covered over by nostalgia, as if the two were magical. "Hell no, I'm talking about practicality. Reagan, believe it or not—one reason he was so successful was he was pragmatic. He did what he needed to do to get things done."

Could Reagan have controlled today's GOP? "I think yes, he could have. You bet. Yeah, he would have." How? Baker's answer seemed to be: Through a personal application of peace through strength. "Somebody asked me about the tea party, 'Ya think Reagan would have [been at odds with] them or been in sync with them?' I think, Reagan would have probably led the charge! But remember how it was when he first came in. He understood that we judge our presidents . .  on the basis of what elements of their programs they get accomplished legislatively, how they make the government run, how they lead."

A sound strategy for the Republicans going forward would involve a shift in public perception. People will see the issue one way when they believe House Republicans are unwilling to pass a budget because of ObamaCare. When people see the issue as the president refusing to negotiate with House Republicans on the issue of the debt limit, things will change. The president's refusal to negotiate "could change the political calculus, the more so the longer it goes. . . . My political antennae tell me when the debate becomes the failure of our leader to negotiate . . . the mood of the country could flip." That would look like a true "abdication of leadership."

Does he worry about how all this is making America look in the world? "Yeah, sure, of course. It makes us look like we don't have our act together. And I guess you could say we don't."

He notes that Mr. Obama used to speak of how he admired Reagan. But Reagan tackled big problems—fundamental tax reform, fixing Social Security. "Why doesn't he do what Reagan did?"

04 October 2013

Pic of the Day: Chicago Tribune Nailed Barack Obama...In 1934!!!

Image preview

‘Young Pinkies from Columbia and Harvard!  It worked in Russia!'

Cartoon was in the 1934 Chicago Tribune. Look carefully at LOWER LEFT CORNER.

h/t I Am John Galt

Shutdown Simulacrum

Just because it’s a phony crisis doesn’t mean it can’t be made even phonier.

By Mark Steyn 

Way back in January, when it emerged that Beyoncé had treated us to the first ever lip-synched national anthem at a presidential inauguration, I suggested in this space that this strange pseudo-performance embodied the decay of America’s political institutions from the real thing into mere simulacrum. But that applies to government “crises,” too — such as the Obamacare “rollout,” the debt “ceiling,” and the federal “shutdown,” to name only the three current railroad tracks to which the virtuous damsel of Big Government has been simultaneously tied by evil mustache-twirling Republicans.

This week’s “shutdown” of government, for example, suffers (at least for those of us curious to see it reduced to Somali levels) from the awkward fact that the overwhelming majority of the government is not shut down at all. Indeed, much of it cannot be shut down. Which is the real problem facing America. “Mandatory spending” (Social Security, Medicare, et al.) is authorized in perpetuity — or, at any rate, until total societal collapse. If you throw in the interest payments on the debt, that means two-thirds of the federal budget is beyond the control of Congress’s so-called federal budget process. That’s why you’re reading government “shutdown” stories about the PandaCam at the Washington Zoo and the First Lady’s ghost-Tweeters being furloughed.

Nevertheless, just because it’s a phony crisis doesn’t mean it can’t be made even phonier. The perfect symbol of the shutdown-simulacrum so far has been the World War II Memorial. This is an open-air facility on the National Mall — that’s to say, an area of grass with a monument at the center. By comparison with, say, the IRS, the National Parks Service is not usually one of the more controversial government agencies. But, come “shutdown,” they’re reborn as the shock troops of the punitive bureaucracy. Thus, they decided to close down an unfenced open-air site — which oddly enough requires more personnel to shut than it would to keep it open.

So the Parks Service dispatched their own vast army to the World War II Memorial to ring it with barricades and yellow “Police Line — Do Not Cross” tape strung out like the world’s longest “We Support Our Troops” ribbon. For good measure, they issued a warning that anybody crossing the yellow line would be liable to arrest — or presumably, in extreme circumstances, the same multi-bullet ventilation that that mentally ill woman from Connecticut wound up getting from the coppers. In a heartening sign that the American spirit is not entirely dead, at least among a small percentage of nonagenarians, a visiting party of veterans pushed through the barricades and went to honor their fallen comrades, mordantly noting for reporters that, after all, when they’d shown up on the beach at Normandy it too had not been officially open.

One would not be altogether surprised to find the feds stringing yellow police tape along the Rio Grande, the 49th parallel, and the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, if only to keep Americans in rather than anybody else out. Still, I would like to have been privy to the high-level discussions at which the government took the decision to install its Barrycades on open parkland. For anyone with a modicum of self-respect, it’s difficult to imagine how even the twerpiest of twerp bureaucrats would consent to stand at a crowd barrier and tell a group of elderly soldiers who’ve flown in from across the country that they’re forbidden to walk across a piece of grass and pay their respects. Yet, if any National Parks Service employee retained enough sense of his own humanity to balk at these instructions or other spiteful, petty closures of semi-wilderness fishing holes and the like, we’ve yet to hear about it.

The World War II Memorial exists thanks to some $200 million in private donations — plus $15 million or so from Washington: In other words, the feds paid for the grass. But the thug usurpers of the bureaucracy want to send a message: In today’s America, everything is the gift of the government, and exists only at the government’s pleasure, whether it’s your health insurance, your religious liberty, or the monument to your fallen comrades. The Barrycades are such a perfect embodiment of what James Piereson calls “punitive liberalism” they should be tied round Obama’s neck forever, in the way that “ketchup is a vegetable” got hung around Reagan-era Republicans. Alas, the court eunuchs of the Obama media cannot rouse themselves even on behalf of the nation’s elderly warriors.

Meanwhile, Republicans offered a bill to prevent the shutdown affecting experimental cancer trials for children. The Democrats rejected it. “But if you can help one child who has cancer,” CNN’s Dana Bash asked Harry Reid, “why wouldn’t you do it?”

“Why would we want to do that?” replied the Senate majority leader, denouncing Miss Bash’s question as “irresponsible.” For Democrats, the budget is all or nothing. Republican bills to fund this or that individual program have to be rejected out of hand as an affront to the apparent constitutional inviolability of the “continuing resolution.” In fact, government by “continuing resolution” is a sleazy racket: The legislative branch is supposed to legislate. Instead, they’re presented with a yea-or-nay vote on a single all-or-nothing multi-trillion-dollar band-aid stitched together behind closed doors to hold the federal leviathan together while it belches its way through to the next budget cycle. As Professor Angelo Codevilla of Boston University put it, “This turns democracy into a choice between tyranny and anarchy.” It’s certainly a perversion of responsible government: Congress has less say over specific federal expenditures than the citizens of my New Hampshire backwater do at Town Meeting over the budget for a new fence at the town dump. Pace Senator Reid, Republican proposals to allocate spending through targeted, mere multi-billion-dollar appropriations are not only not “irresponsible” but, in fact, a vast improvement over the “continuing resolution”: To modify Lord Acton, power corrupts, but continuing power corrupts continually.

America has no budget process. That’s why it’s the brokest nation in history. So a budgeting process that can’t control the budget in a legislature that can’t legislate leads to a government shutdown that shuts down open areas of grassland and the unmanned boat launch on the Bighorn River in Montana. Up next: the debt-ceiling showdown, in which we argue over everything except the debt. The conventional wisdom of the U.S. media is that Republicans are being grossly irresponsible not just to wave through another couple trillion or so on Washington’s overdraft facility. Really? Other countries are actually reducing debt: New Zealand, for example, has a real budget that diminishes net debt from 26 percent of GDP to 17 percent by 2020. By comparison, America’s net debt is currently about 88 percent, and we’re debating only whether to increase it automatically or with a few ineffectual strings attached.

My favorite book of the moment is The Liberty Amendments, the new bestseller by Mark Levin — not because I agree with all his proposed constitutional amendments, and certainly not because I think they represent the views of a majority of Americans, but because he’s fighting on the right battleground. A century of remorseless expansion by the “federal” government has tortured the constitutional order beyond meaning. America was never intended to be an homogenized one-size-fits-all nation of 300 million people run by a government as centralized as France’s. 

It’s no surprise that when it tries to be one it doesn’t work terribly well. 

Debt Ceiling Fights? Designed By The Founding Fathers


— Wondering who to thank for the bizarre rules that allow Congress to approve spending, then later slam the door on new borrowing to pay the bills? Thank the Founding Fathers.

Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the exclusive powers to legislate and the power of the purse. In fact, Section 8 of the first article deals specifically with paying debts.

But the Constitution’s Article 2 empowers the president to carry out the laws passed by Congress and run the government at the levels authorized and appropriated by Congress.

In that simple civics lesson is the root of the problem. Congress passes legislation to spend, but it’s the president who must ensure those bills get paid. Those two objectives don’t neatly line up. President Barack Obama complains that past presidents haven’t been subjected to the types of conditions being asked of him in exchange for lifting the debt ceiling, but it just isn’t true. To the contrary, there’s plenty of precedent.

“In the past, Congress has responded to make sure that the Treasury can still keep borrowing, but debt and budgets have always been contentious,” said D. Andrew Austin, an analyst in government finance for the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service and the author of a brief but thorough history of the debt limit.

His research shows that fights over installing a new cap on the nation’s debt are hardly a new phenomenon.

“While the debt limit has never caused the federal government to default on its obligations, it has at times caused great inconvenience and has added uncertainty to Treasury operations,” Austin wrote.

The Constitution created the backdrop for fights between Congress and the president over spending and taxes, but the actual statutory limit on just how much debt the federal government can incur began almost 100 years ago, with the Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917.

Before then, Congress had from time to time given the Treasury Department authority to issue bonds to raise money for special projects. And Congress had authorized borrowing for specific reasons such as for building the Panama Canal.

The issuance of long-term Liberty Bonds changed the game. They were authorized so that the federal government could better hold down its borrowing costs as it funded America’s entry into World War I. In 1919, the debt ceiling was about $43 billion, but at the close of the fiscal year debt actually stood at about $25.5 billion, with Congress reluctant to borrow all that was authorized.


Several decades of congressionally mandated debt limits followed, and it gave Treasury officials more autonomy to issue debt. Austin’s report notes that at the start of World War II, the U.S. debt ceiling of $45 billion was just 10 percent higher than the $40.4 billion in actual debt. Actual borrowing matched up more neatly with authorized amounts. Until the cost of World War II exploded, that is. By 1945, the debt ceiling was set at $300 billion.

The debt ceiling actually fell, to $270 billion, after the war and stayed there until about 1954. The Korean War was paid for through higher taxes, not more debt. And between 1954 and 1962, the debt limit fell twice and increased seven times. It didn’t return to the World War II high-water mark again until March 1962.

From that point forward, there were 69 changes to the debt limit through the end of the 2007-2008 fiscal year, including the largest single-chunk increase, $984 billion in May 2003, as America borrowed to pay for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq while also cutting taxes.*

During the 1980s and early 1990s, there was brief respite from the politicization of the U.S. debt ceiling. Lawmakers had grown tired of passing spending increases and then voting against raising the debt ceiling for their profligate spending. It made them appear hypocritical in front of the voters, and that second vote to allow more borrowing never played well back home.

In 1979, up-and-coming Missouri Democrat Dick Gephardt, who later became House majority leader, won a parliamentary ruling that allowed any final vote on a budget to automatically raise the debt ceiling.

The so-called Gephardt Rule was welcomed by both major political parties because it eliminated the need to take that separate and politically costly vote to raise the debt ceiling. Over time, it lost its luster because senators amended the budget passed by the House, meaning it had to come back to the House for another vote, which had the same effect as voting to raise the debt ceiling.

The Gephardt Rule, however, ended when Republicans took back the House of Representatives in the 104th Congress and in 1995 Georgia Republican Newt Gingrich became House speaker. He saw an opportunity to use the debt ceiling for political leverage.

“It was looked at by conservatives as another opportunity to take a whack at the fiscal situation . . . since the Senate was historically amending the debt limit,” said William Hoagland, a former Republican staff director for the Senate Budget Committee.

Since the demise of the Gephardt Rule, whichever political party controlled the Congress has generally used the debt ceiling as a political tool, returning to the 1970s practice of increasing spending but also voting against raising the debt ceiling.

In one example, Sen. Barack Obama took to the Senate floor on March 16, 2006, in opposition to raising the debt ceiling while George W. Bush was president.

“Increasing America’s debt weakens us,” Obama argued then.

That month, China held $635.4 billion in U.S. government debt. By this July, that number had doubled to nearly $1.28 trillion.

Some experts actually see value in the frequent fights over raising the debt ceiling, because they force the two major parties to bridge divides.

“In fact, debt limit increase bills have served not only as vehicles for bipartisan fiscal reform measures, but catalysts for subsequent negotiations about debt reduction,” wrote Anita Krishnakumar in the 2005 edition of the Harvard Journal of Legislation.

“Upon careful evaluation, it is clear that the statute retains enduring value.” 

* Not quite...

From the Congressional Research Service:

On 02.17.09, the debt ceiling was increased by $789 billion (P.L. 111-5)
from $11.315 trillion to $12.104 trillion.

On 12.28.09, the debt ceiling was increased by $290 billion (P.L. 111-123).

On 02.12.10, the debt ceiling was increased by $1.9 trillion (P.L. 111-139).

On 2 August 2011, President Obama signed the Budget Control Act of 2011 into law, which increased the debt ceiling by $2.1 - $2.4 trillion in three stages.  Upon his signature, the debt ceiling was increased by $400 billion.  The second tranche of $500 billion was triggered on 22 September 2011.  On 01.12.12, presidential certification triggered a third, $1.2 trillion increase on 28 January 2012.

Federal debt reached its limit on 12.31.12. 'Extraordinary measures' were estimated to allow payment of government obligations until mid-February or early March 2013. H.R. 325, which suspended the debt limit until 19 May 2013, was passed  by the House on 01.23.12 and by the Senate on 01.31.13.  Obama signed it into law on 02.04.13.

According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, those 'extraordinary measures' amount to about $550 billion, which means that $6.7 trillion has been added to the national debt under the Obama presidency and we now have an estimated $17.25 trillion national debt.

For those keeping score at home, that adds up to $5.929 trillion in debt ceiling increases and 'extraordinary measures' on Obama's watch, which has lasted 4 years, 8 months, and 15 days so far.


Per the CRS:

06.28.02: $450 billion (P.L. 107-199)

05.27.03: $984 billion (P.L. 108-24)

11.19.04: $800 billion (P.L. 108-415)

03.20.06: $781 billion (P.L. 109-182)

09.27.07: $850 billion (P.L. 110-91)

07.30.08: $800 billion (P.L. 110-289)

10.03.08: $700 billion (P.L. 110-343)

That totals to $5.365 trillion in debt ceiling increases over a span of 8 years.

Again, Obama has increased the debt ceiling by $5.929 trillion in 4 years, 8 months, and 15 days.

But, you see, according to JustTheЯ3t@rD, $5.929 trillion is 1/3rd of $5.365 trillion or something.