A bright spot in a dismal vote

At least Andy Harris listened.

Today, Rep. Andy Harris voted against the debt ceiling increase. The plan did not require passage of a balanced budget amendment, which Rep. Harris feels is essential to bringing permanent common sense accountability to Washington.

“A balanced budget amendment is the only way to make sure the federal government spends what it takes in and lives within its means,” said Rep. Andy Harris.  “Over the past few weeks I have repeatedly voted for reasonable proposals to raise the debt ceiling that included passage of a balanced budget amendment. But I didn’t come to Washington to continue writing blank checks. Maryland’s families and job creators sent me to Congress to permanently change the way Washington does business.  I appreciate Speaker Boehner’s remarkable, historic efforts to craft a proposal to solve the debt ceiling issue.  But today’s debt ceiling deal just doesn’t go far enough to build an environment for job creation by requiring passage of a balanced budget amendment to bring permanent common sense accountability to Washington.”

Currently, the U.S. Government has a national debt of $14.3 trillion and runs an annual deficit of $1.65 trillion.

I have been told by someone close to the Congressman that Andy was “one of the ringleaders” in getting the BBA into the original Boehner plan that was quickly shot down by Senate Democrats, so it was fitting and proper that he didn’t vote for this version.

Unfortunately, Andy’s dissent was in vain since the measure passed 269-161 – Republicans passed the bill 174-66 while Democrats evenly split 95-95. But at least Andy got some face time on the evening news (from about the 17-minute mark through the end.)

So the country is “saved” from having to stick to a budget plan – after all, that which is cut can be restored at any time. But if there’s a Constitutional amendment passed it would be more difficult (but not impossible, of course) to overspend.

You know, almost a century ago we passed a series of Constitutional amendments in less than a decade. In 1913 we allowed the income tax (16th Amendment) and provided for direct election of Senators (17th Amendment.) Six years later we enacted Prohibition with the 18th Amendment and in 1920 women gained the vote (19th Amendment.) That’s a lot of radical change in what was considered the “progressive” era.

Perhaps 2013 will begin a new series of Constitutional amendments, beginning with the passage of the Balanced Budget Amendment. But truly progressive reform would continue with the enactment of Congressional term limits (extending the 22nd Amendment enacting Presidential term limits to the legislative branch,) repealing the 16th Amendment to pave the way for a truly fair taxation system (one based on consumption,) and several other ideas I’ve had before.

So the fight’s not over, but it gives us all some breathing room before the fight begins anew in the 2012 election.

Sold out again

Yep, it’s going down just about as I predicted it: the Republicans will cave. I figure enough of the centrists from each party will outvote the extremist Democrats who want to keep spending money and controlling our lives along with their temporary allies in the conservative camp of the GOP who understand it’s time to rein in government.

So we’ll make ‘cuts’ – but will they really be reductions in spending or reductions in the rate of increase? And why hammer on defense spending in a time when we’re in the midst of a Long War with radical Islam? Now I could agree to a certain amount of defense cuts but where we really need to cut is the superfluous bureaucracy I continue to harp on.

In the end, I don’t like the deal because Obama gets what he wants – the increase in the debt limit. Meanwhile, we as a nation have our bond rating decline and how many times must we believe the lie that Democrats will cut spending? They lied to Reagan and they lied to Bush 41, telling them “oh yeah, go ahead and raise taxes, we’ll cut spending.” They must have been standing there with their fingers crossed behind their back.

So, Andy Harris and any other Congressman reading this: vote NO. Hold out on the principles of those who sent you to Congress.

Otherwise, don’t be really upset or surprised to see a third party effort in 2012. Obviously that’s a Democrat’s dream because it ensures both Obama’s re-election and the restoration of a Democratic majority in the House. The Senate could hold Democrat as well.

To borrow a phrase from a fellow Pajamas Media writer, Tom Blumer, we’d be back to a POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) economy, and it would truly make us poorer. It makes things harder for me as a Republican trying to keep the TEA Party in the fold when the inside-the-Beltway boys stab us in the back again.

Perhaps the analogy I’ve been looking for

Yes, Washington has an addiction.

The sad thing is that we’ve been feeding the addiction by voting in a lot of the same people to Congress. But there’s also the bureaucracy which hasn’t met a problem they couldn’t milk into additional appropriations down the line – if they actually solved the problem there wouldn’t be a need for continuing the agency. Instead, it’s a rare day that we see any government agency go by the wayside.

But we need to place a LOT of government agencies into the dustbin of history to solve our overarching problem, which in a nutshell is we have too much of a centralized, federalized government. I didn’t allocate the term ‘Fedzilla’ from Ted Nugent for nothing.

It’s more likely that we’ll continue to feed the addiction, though. Conventional wisdom is that the usual Washington horsetrade will occur – give Obama and Democrats the higher debt limit they desire in return for promised spending cuts which never occur. I keep seeing Lucy pull that football away from Charlie Brown for some reason.

Believe it or not, regardless of what Washington does about the debt ceiling, the sun will come up on Wednesday and millions of Americans will do their daily work. Don’t let anyone tell you the sky is falling.

The impasse continues

The Republicans in the House keep pitching them, and the Senate keeps letting them go by. So where is the Democrats’ plan?

It looks like either one of two things will happen: we will go past the so-called deadline of Tuesday or Republicans will cave. I’d prefer the former but it doesn’t take a lot of pressure to make the latter happen, based on previous results.

Personally I’d like the spending cuts now because there’s one big problem with a Balanced Budget Amendment: you would never get it through the Senate given its configuration at the moment. And then to count on 38 states? Not happening.

(I’m not even going to get into the drawbacks to having a budgetary system based on a percentage of GDP. Suffice to say that we lock in profligate spending for perpetuity.)

To balance the budget based on the money we take in presently, we only need to reduce spending to roughly 2003 levels. Scary to think we’ve grown our government over 40 percent in less than a decade, under Presidents and Congresses of both parties.

So why not get to work on that? Sure, it will take some rather draconian cuts but isn’t it all about shared sacrifice? Come to think of it, a consumption tax would do a dandy job of making all of us share, wouldn’t it?

Until we get to that point, though, it’s high time to share the sacrifice all over the non-essential areas of government – leave us overburdened taxpayers alone!

The debt ceiling, locally

Gee, that Jim Messina from the Barack Obama recoronation campaign – always telling me what to do. Now he wants me to call Andy Harris:

The President spoke last night about the need for Congress to come together to meet our financial obligations by raising the so-called “debt ceiling” — that is, to make sure our country can pay the bills Congress has already racked up.

You’d think this would be fairly straightforward. For many years, regardless of party affiliation, presidents have asked Congress to do this when it’s been necessary — and every time, Congress has acted. Just as an example, Congress granted Ronald Reagan’s request to raise the debt ceiling 18 different times.

Here’s what’s happening: President Obama proposed the balanced approach of raising the debt ceiling paired with responsible steps to reduce our country’s long-term debt — asking oil companies, corporations, and the richest Americans to do their part rather than placing the entire burden on seniors and the middle class.

A deal has been close at times, but an ideological faction of House Republicans has been effectively holding our economy hostage — making extreme demands like ending Medicare as we know it, gutting Social Security, and rejecting any compromises that might make millionaires or big corporations pay their fair share to get our debt under control.

So last night, President Obama spoke to the nation and made a suggestion to everyone watching: Call Congress and ask them to do their job. Since then, there have been reports that the flood of calls and emails has been slowing down the phone systems and websites on Capitol Hill. But keep trying until you get through — they need to hear from you.

Well, I don’t have to call Andy to find out what he thinks – he already let me know, in no uncertain terms:

“By an overwhelming amount, Maryland families and businesses have contacted me to demand that the federal government get its fiscal house in order, stop spending more than it takes in, and balance the budget,” said Rep. Andy Harris. ” I disagree with the President – we need a balanced budget amendment, and I won’t vote to raise the debt ceiling unless a balanced budget amendment is part of the deal.  To create jobs in America again, we must stop the spending spree in Washington.”

Let’s return to Messina’s statement, which presumably is President Obama’s viewpoint.

First of all, he blames the legislative branch for “bills Congress has already racked up.” One problem with saying that is that we haven’t had a budget passed in 2 1/2 years because the Democrats decided not to do their duty when they ran the show in Congress. Yet Democrats passed budget-busting bills like the so-called stimulus and Obamacare. If the Pelosi/Reid Congress had simply maintained spending at the already generous 2007 levels they proposed, we wouldn’t be having this argument. Keep that in mind as I continue.

Of course, Obama has to bring Ronald Reagan into this by referring to raising the debt limit 18 times. Well, there he goes again. Remember who ran Congress and created the budget during those years? Yep, Democrats who were only too happy to vote for tax cuts but balked at cutting their precious social programs. I still remember how Reagan’s budget proposals were classified as “D.O.A.” every year.

More importantly, look at the phrase “asking oil companies, corporations, and the richest Americans to do their part.” There’s not going to be any “asking” about it if Obama gets his way – he’s just going to gouge their bottom line some more through higher taxation. I’ll bet he’ll be wondering why unemployment continues to go up. Sorry, that class envy card isn’t accepted here – not when the top 1% of wage-earners already pay more in tax than the bottom 95 percent.

So you can scratch the part about “extreme demands like ending Medicare as we know it, gutting Social Security, and rejecting any compromises that might make millionaires or big corporations pay their fair share,” since we shouldn’t fall for Mediscare or naively believe Social Security is healthy. (I already covered the “fair share” part in the last paragraph.) Instead, we should end Medicare as we know it and work to sunset Social Security because the government doesn’t belong in either health care or retirement. (Obviously those tasks have to be done over a number of decades, but the best time to start is now!)

I suppose my message is clear: go pound sand, President Obama.

Now as for Congressman Harris, my only quibble is that he shouldn’t vote to raise the debt ceiling whether there’s a balanced budget amendment with it or not. Make President Obama take the blame for any cuts he’d have to make, since he’s already hinting that seniors and the military will get it. You already have passed a plan, so there’s no need to make any other concessions until you see his proposal.

So if I’m going to call Congressman Harris’s office, it’s going to be with the message that there should be no increase in the debt ceiling and no compromise. Obama and the Democrats made their bed, let them lie in it.