As I’ve watched the debt ceiling debate and coverage over the past week a few thoughts have come to mind.
First, too many in the GOP’s tea party wing fail to understand simple wisdom such as not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good and you can’t get everything you want when you control only 1/2 of 1/3 of the government. Over the past 7 months, Washington has moved from talk of a clean debt ceiling vote and calls for a second, bigger stimulus, to an acknowledgement by the most fiscally irresponsible president since FDR that we need to trim the size of government. (For the record, I don’t think the president actually believes that, but simply that he’s bowing to the political reality of the moment.)
Second, I was talking to a relative earlier this month about the nation’s debt situation when I mentioned that it’s always been the responsibility of the party in power to muster the votes to pass debt ceiling hikes. This relative, who is a Christian “social-justice” Democrat type expressed bewilderment that such a responsibility would be a politicized one. I attempted to explain to him that that was just the way Washington worked.
Thanks to the Washington Examiner’s Byron York, my simple observation has been confirmed.
A look at Reid's record, however, shows that in the last decade his own voting on the issue of the debt ceiling is not only partisan but perfectly partisan. According to "The Debt Limit: History and Recent Increases," a January 2010 report by the Congressional Research Service, the Senate has passed ten increases to the debt limit since 2000. Reid never voted to increase the debt ceiling when Republicans were in control of the Senate, and he always voted to increase the debt ceiling when Democrats were in control.
Other Democrats have also accused Republicans of partisanship in the debt fight. "It's time for bipartisan leadership, not partisan gamesmanship," said the number-two Democrat in the Senate, Richard Durbin, after Republicans pulled out of budget talks with President Obama. And Obama himself described the debt debate as a "partisan three-ring circus" -- leaving no doubt that it is Republicans who are practicing partisanship.
At look at Durbin's record shows that he, too, has voted along absolutely partisan lines. In the last decade, Durbin never voted to increase the debt ceiling when Republicans were in control and always voted to increase the debt ceiling when Democrats were in control. As for Obama, there were four votes to raise the debt ceiling when he was in the Senate. He missed two of them, voted no once when Republicans were in charge, and voted yes once when Democrats were in charge.
York also notes that the GOP minority leader in the Senate’s votes on the debt limit increases have not been as perfectly partisan as his Democratic colleagues.
Along the same lines, this video of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) with guest appearances by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is also informative. Note that Kerry’s basic argument defending extremists such as Reid and Obama is that they were simply politically posturing, so it’s OK.
Finally, a couple of notes to burnish my RINO credentials.
First, those in the GOP caucus who refuse to raise the debt ceiling no matter what—get a grip.
Second, I haven’t seen the text of the proposed Balanced Budget Amendment that the majority of the GOP appears to be in favor of, but I think it’s a bad idea. I can think of numerous situations when it would be necessary not to have a balanced budget in a particular year (a major war, for instance). If the BBA was designed with outs and caveats that could accommodate such an emergency, then I have little faith that clever politicians would find a way to exploit them even in normal circumstances.
The BBA also has the potential to invite a mischievous Supreme Court into budget and taxing process (e.g. Nevada).
Finally, a BBA seems an analogous policy prescription to the failures of many public school administrators in the past to use simple commonsense when it came to pupil discipline and brought us so-called zero-tolerance policies which substituted poor judgment for no judgment (rather than for good judgment).
I suspect the debt ceiling will be raised in the next few days, but that’s not really the most pressing danger when it comes to the U.S. government. It’s the size and trajectory of government spending and debt. The debt ceiling is really irrelevant to whether the nation loses its AAA credit rating.
Two things need to occur: government’s profligate spending must stop and the economy needs to start growing. The tea party and GOP can take pride in the fact that they’ve pushed the government into taking some first steps on the former. The latter is one more election away.