Skip to comments.Conservatives Should End the Debt Ceiling Debate
Posted on 01/15/2013 4:27:03 AM PST by Kaslin
Watching the American scene in the 1960s, historian Daniel Boorstin, invented the idea of the pseudo-event. The rise of television and modern mass media had produced a transformation of the news business, so that what now mattered was not if an event was important, but only if it was newsworthy.
As Boorstin explained, the pseudo-event was orchestrated and planned to receive maximum public attention, even if the event itself was really unimportant. Pseudo-events merely look important, because the media and the public agree to act as if they are. As Boorstin explained, the pseudo-event is not something that happens by mistake, like a train wreck or an accident. It is something planted primarily for the immediate purpose of being reported. Lastly, Boorstin asserted, the pseudo-event is intended to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Sound familiar? The pseudo-event is the driving force of American political life today, and it is a game increasingly played by both major political parties. The fiscal cliff was the most embarrassing recent example of a pseudo-event. Democrats and Republicans alike conspired to create a fake political crisis that each party thought would work to its own advantage. Both parties gambled that public outrage over the loss of Bush-era tax cuts would create a manufactured political crisis that would give the party and its allies political leverage.
Democrats gambled that they would get new tax revenues out of the crisis, while Republicans hoped for spending cuts. In the end, the negotiated fix for the pseudo-crisis was a weak combination of increased tax revenue and promised, yet unspecified, spending cuts.
The entire enterprise was tantamount to a war game played with live ammunition. Both sides claimed a modicum of victory and promised to play the game to better advantage next time. Neither side was willing to deal with what the real crisis of governance represents. The fiscal cliff was just a dramatic distraction from the real crisis.
As columnist David Brooks argued, Far from laying the groundwork for future cooperation, it sentences the country to another few years of budget trench warfare. There will be a fight over drastic spending cuts known as sequestration, then over the debt limit and on and on.
As Brooks predicted, the same debacle is now being played out with the debt limit pseudo-event. Both parties are jockeying for position. The nation has already exceeded the $16.4 trillion borrowing limit previously set by Congress. A bit of financial finagling by the Department of the Treasury has bought just a bit of time before Congress must raise the debt ceiling once again. Otherwise the United States will default on its debt.
How did this happen? Congress approved the spending, as did the President. The spending, which necessitated the borrowing, was approved by the very people who will not debate whether to pay the bills they themselves created.
Federal law requires Congress to establish a limit to national borrowing, but the U. S. Constitution requires the government to pay its debts. The debt limit requirement is merely a matter of law. The pledge to pay the nations debt is a mandate of the Constitution. The debt ceiling is now a political abstraction, used by both parties to create a pseudo-event.
Conservatives should be particularly unwilling to participate in such a charade, and yet many do so, thinking they can use the pseudo-event to their advantage. It is a losing game, dishonest politics, and a failure of governance.
It is intended to direct the nations attention away from the real crisis and onto the pseudo-event. It avoids dealing with the real disaster that looms before us.
Once again, David Brooks nailed the real issue: Public debt as a percentage of gross domestic product was around 38 percent in 1965. It is around 74 percent now. Debt could approach a ruinous 90 percent of G.D.P. in a decade and a cataclysmic 247 percent of G.D.P. 30 years from now, according to the Congressional Budget Office and JPMorgan.
But, do politicians bear all the blame? Not hardly. The public has an insatiable appetite for pseudo-events and a horrified aversion to the truth. Why? We are approaching the point that voters will not deal with the issue because it will cost them their entitlements. They will be glad for their children and grandchildren to pay the catastrophic debt.
As Brooks explains:
Ultimately, we should blame the American voters. The average Medicare couple pays $109,000 into the program and gets $343,000 in benefits out, according to the Urban Institute. This is $234,000 in free money. Many voters have decided they like spending a lot on themselves and pushing costs onto their children and grandchildren. They have decided they like borrowing up to $1 trillion a year for tax credits, disability payments, defense contracts and the rest. They have found that the original Keynesian rationale for these deficits provides a perfect cover for permanent deficit-living. They have made it clear that they will destroy any politician who tries to stop them from cost-shifting in this way.
Given this political reality, fiscal conservatives are insane to believe that these pseudo-events play to their advantage. Each solution to a false crisis actually lets the American people and the political class claim a false victory even as the real crisis grows far worse.
Conservatives should point out that the Constitution demands the nation pay its debts, and that Congress and the President must take responsibility for the spending and the massive borrowing their actions mandate. Conservatives should point to the real crisis, stand on principle, and refuse to distract themselves and the American people with false crises and pseudo-events.
In the end, pseudo-events only serve to make the problem worse, never better. We cannot deal with the real crisis, if we keep playing the game of the pseudo-event.
I believe the only way to end this mess...is a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget, with no options out for the President, or the Congress. When you ask for lesser qualified leadership, and the candidate-winner doesn’t know what a budget is....you, the voter, are really the cause of the mess to start with.
I highly recommend his "The Americans, The Colonial Experience."
"Pseudo-events merely look important, because the media and the public agree to act as if they are."
...much like the constitution and paper money.
“The average Medicare couple pays $109,000 into the program and gets $343,000 in benefits out, according to the Urban Institute.”
This is the sort of justification the Marxist use all the time. “Look how much you get” sort of nonsense. The $343,000 benefit is inflated with fraud, graft, pork, administrative costs, etc. The average person might receive only $10,000 of true medical benefits for their money, had the government not been involved in the first place!
An excellent piece.
The message We the People need to send to those who are supposed to be representing us, loud and clear, is “It’s the unconstitutional spending, stupid!”
“Ultimately, we should blame the American voters. The average Medicare couple pays $109,000 into the program and gets $343,000 in benefits out, according to the Urban Institute. This is $234,000 in free money. "
Brooks is a) repeating Obama talking points (no doubt with a NYT editor at his desk, pointing a gun at his head) and b) being dishonest. Brooks is comparing undiscounted 1965 and 1975 dollars to current dollars, which are worth about 1/4 as much, or less.
And Brooks and Mohler both know that this situation was deliberately created by Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson bribing voters to vote Democrat, using government money to do it, but neither one of them is telling it like it happened.
$234,000 is less than six years of benefits for the typical baby momma on welfare, food stamps and WIC.
Nor is the question asked of where the ‘extra’ $$$ is coming from (as one HAS to presume the gov’t isn’t investing those contributions to accrue any interest to pay out)
IF there’s one pet peeve it’s I really wish we’d get away from using using the phony verbiage of D.C. - investments (spending), revenue (tax increased) and in your statement ‘government money’ (taxpayer money).
If we can break it down into their true components, the verbal battle CAN be won, but not by co-opting or hiding the details in ‘1984’ garbage.
I never lost money betting that this GOP would fail. But let me try once again:
Now that the R House has made an issue out of the debt ceiling and got O and Dems to focus their rhetoric on that, they should be less predictable and pass a short term debt ceiling but make the upcoming CR bill the issue using all the words O_Dems used against them:
1) Obama said congress forced him to spend that money
2) Obama said many times that Republicans should go after spending and not ‘default on out obligations’
Assemble videos of these compiled clips, post to youtube, get on all the TV shows with a hand viewer (I phone or I pad) if necessary and play them to illustrate the point.
How come Rs are not on TV pointing out that Dems say that entitlements will be cut unless more debt is authorized? Dont Dems claim over and over that those same entitlements are solvent for another 15 to 20 years? So pay them with the 'trust fund' instead of new debt LOL. My real point is to use this as a teaching moment, like O always does to beat Rs.
Beating O takes more than tough talk, a few symbolic 'No's and then caving again.
In the case of the budget, the GOP should be presenting the argument in the form of ‘questions’ for the Democrats.
“Is there a limit to the amount of government spending that we can sustain? If not, why? If so, what is that limit?”
“Can we tax our way out of our deficit and cumulative national debt? If so, show the numbers and how that works, and explain why you think that level of taxation will not disincentivize significant segments of the economy? If not, then what is the point of making tax rates the number one focus of budgetary debate?”
“What industries are driving the American economy, and what are we doing to encourage their growth?” If we are instead discouraging their growth, why are we doing that?”
The list is a long one, but each and every one of the relevant questions should be accompanied by succinct numbers, calculations, and charts. You don't argue with liberals without the facts in hand, and you have to argue with them publicly. The goal is to make them look to the public like the liars and head in the sand ideologues that they are. This is what Romney did to ‘the one’ in that first debate. I totally disagree with the premise that the public’s eyes glaze over and they don't pay attention when numbers are thrown out there. If that happens, you're not presenting the data compellingly enough. IMHO.
The author made it seem like the taxpayer was getting ripped off to the tune of $234000. I think the rip off is giving that much to someone for laying on their lazy butt.
Republicans need to flood the airways with advertising against saddling future generations with debt. Perhaps the amount of our current debt, then a line in the sand for those who are visual learners. Loud, emphatic noises for the audio, and crying babies for the kinesthetic.
“Ignorance is rarely dangerous. The most destructive force in history has always been the illusion of knowledge.”
Not sure I agree with that anymore.
I think “calculated evil” might be number one.
He claims Republicans share the blame for creating our most recent debts because they voted for a Continuing Resolution of the previous budget.
Think about that for a second.
If Republicans had voted “NO” on that budget, the government would have literally shut down.
Republicans would have been blamed - 100% - for that crisis.
So, according to the author, there is NO morally acceptable or Constitutional way for Republicans to cut spending!