Budget Control Act of 2011

It’s hard to not be cynical on this plan. Instead of putting my spin on this plan, it is now your turn. We have great thinkers who read this blog. Let’s here from you. Here is the .pdf legislative language (all 74 pages). Have a read, tell us who is the big loser politically is and give us your comments.


Check Please!

I’m at that time in my observations of what is happening in Washington DC where I just want to ask for the check and get out of this dysfunctional restaurant where the floor show and the food are both equally bad.

Last night, we saw more finger pointing. The President placed the blame on the Republicans for not wanting a balanced approach that includes cuts to spending and increase in revenues, yet earlier in the day he backed the Reid plan which contained no revenue increases.

But wait, The Speaker of the House spoke right after the President and had his own spin on things. Among other things, he claims that his plan is born out of the “bi-partisan” efforts in Congress. Well Mr. Speaker, if it were bi-partisan efforts, why can’t your plan pass the Senate? Five Democratic votes out of a total of 193 Democrats in the House does not make it a bi-partisan effort.

The sad thing is that both parties are not telling the American people the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The truth is that regardless of what happens over the next week, the US credit rating is going to go down. Why? Well, it’s not about the debt ceiling. It is about the debt and our inability to get control of it. The Democrats and Republicans talk a good game, but neither one are serious. They are both part of how we got here. They are two sides of the same coin. How else can we answer the following questions:

  • Is removing a loophole that was created by lobbyist efforts really a tax increase?
  • Does a tax system that allows a $200 billion company to pay no income tax make any sense?
  • Does a government that spends money in other countries building their infrastructure while our own is falling apart make sense?

However, the markets see this country for what it is… an over-spending entity, that does not invest in itself or its people. It is an entity that believes you can strangle your own bad habits by cutting revenue sources ’till it hurts. The result will not be a default. That is not what the markets are worried about. The result will be the belief that we cannot get our fiscal house in order. In fact that result is already there. The steady decline of the dollar was the early sign. We pay more for things now than we did last year even though demand is soft. The next step will be the lowering of our credit rating which will trigger higher interest rates for the US to borrow. This will have a domino effect on other interest rates that are tied to government rates. The average consumer will see a steady increase in some of the rates they are paying. This begins a spiral effect that is tough in a good economy and could prove to be devastating in our current sluggish economy.

Remember this at the next election. It’s time to vote out the immature kids who can’t play nice. It’s time we vote in some adults who can bring in not the “Change we can believe”, but deliver on the “Change that we need”… fiscal discipline on all fronts.

The Constitutionality of the McConnell Debt Ceiling Plan

Isn’t it odd that the in the House of Representatives, the Republicans added a rule to read parts of the Constitution that justifies any new bill while the Senate Republicans want to defy the Constitution? Senator Mitch McConnell wants to allow the President to propose an increase to the debt limit in which Congress will vote on its “approval”. Unlike a bill that would come out of Congress and allow the President to sign it and therefore become law, the McConnell plan allows the President to veto a Congressional vote that is not in favor of an approval or “Disapproves” the proposal. According to the McConnell plan, this veto would then allow the president on his own power to raise the debt ceiling.

This is wrong on multiple levels. Politically, it is cowardly to see the desire to on one hand allow the debt ceiling to be raised, but on the other hand have a majority vote against it for political cover. Politics, however, has not always been the most noble profession and this is no exception. The big problem is with the Constitutionality of this this move. The framers of the Constitution were very clear about which branch has the ability to raise debt.  It is spelled out in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution that the branch with such power is the Legislature:

Powers of Congress
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

The McConnell Plan would transfer this power, albeit with a time limit, to the Executive Branch by enabling the President to usurp Legislative power and rule of law with the use of a Veto. The Constitution is very clear about putting the purse strings of the United States in the hands of the Legislature.  They understood that the body to authorize spending must be separate from the body that actually spends. The concentration of both authorizing and spending power in one person’s hands is too great.

James Madison warned of this in The Federalist Papers #47. He wrote:

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. Were the federal Constitution, therefore, really chargeable with the accumulation of power, or with a mixture of powers, having a dangerous tendency to such an accumulation, no further arguments would be necessary to inspire a universal reprobation of the system.

Madison warns us of placing powers in the hands of one branch that are not subject to the checks and balances of the others. Congress should not be able to circumvent the Constitution and cede power to the President (even if they wish to). It is odd that the very party that wants to see the President ousted from office in the next election is so willing to hand over their own power to the very same President.

Our only hope, if this plan becomes law, is that the Supreme Court in short order declares this plan to be un-Constitutional. However, that in and of itself creates a domino effect of issues surrounding any of the debt related activities that the President under the plan.

Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution states:

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

If the Supreme Court were to rule on the plan as un-Constitutional, what would happen to any debts taken under that plan? Is there a Constitutional crisis when two sections of the Constitution would conflict?

Given the limited time before the United States has to raise the debt ceiling and the Constitutional issues with the McConnell plan, I have to question the judgement of the very people considering it on both sides.

Episode 123 – GOP 2012 Romney’s to Lose, Bachmann’s to Win?

Who is going to challenge Mitt Romney for the 2012 GOP Presidential Nomination? Will it come from the evangelical right, as conventional wisdom dictates, or with everyone so far to the right, will the challenge come from the left, through Huntsman? Are Pawlenty and the others positioned properly? Is there a hidden anti-Mormon vote that will sink Romney and Huntsman? Do the Republicans want to beat Obama so badly that they’ll hold their nose and vote for anyone they think will win, including the chameleoon-like Romney? Does Ron Paul have a shot, and why does he keep winning straw polls? All these questions are dealt with in the show, plus the issue of remaining in Afghanistan and Pakistan, whether or not we should be declaring war on Libya, and what is it about the new Green Lantern movie that sends chills down our hosts spines? Always irreverent and informative, it’s PoliTalk. Best Friends. Vast Experience. Engaging political discussion…without the fighting!

Best Friends. Vast Experience. Engaging political discussion without the fighting…and with a few laughs. It’s PoliTalk, your weekly political podcast.

You can get the PoliTalk Podcast on iTunes and Zune

Of you can play right the show here by clicking on the play button below:


Defense Spending is Counterintuitive

It really struck me today when I read that President Obama’s defense budget for next year is $22B larger than this year.  Aren’t we drawing down wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?  Doesn’t that mean lots of extra troops and dollars to be put into other stuff, and the war on terror?  Why would we need more?

How about a new foreign policy based on the concept of restraint, recognizing the idea of “blow-back”, which more and more people are starting to talk about.

  1. Stop messing with other peoples stuff
  2. Then people will hate us less
  3. Which will lead them to stop messing with our stuff
  4. Which will lead us to stop feeling the need to mess with their stuff
  5. Repeat

Ron Paul has it right. The more we spend on defense, the more enemies we have, and the less safe we are.  Now its really probably some inflexion point on a curve somewhere where you increase safety up to a certain level then see the inverse, but it feels like we passed that point on the curve somewhere around the end of the cold war.

What do you think?

Guest Blogger Jeff

Four Questions About Medicare

I am generally a supporter of the Ryan budget and Medicare plan.  While I’m skeptical of how the voucher portion will play out – will it really ensure that viable Medicare offerings for seniors are available in the market at $15,000?  But I think it’s worth trying.  And in the absence of any other serious plan to curtail cost, I have nothing legitimate to compare it to.  I’ll state unequivocally that I would support any plan, Republican, Democratic, or other, that fixes the problem.  But let’s take a step back and understand the problem.

The problem with Medicare is that the federal government has promised to cover medical care to seniors at an unlimited, and uncapped cost to taxpayers.  That means, that no matter how many seniors there are, no matter what care they need, taxpayers have promised to pay.

Medicare is wildly popular among seniors – OF COURSE IT IS – ITS FREE AND THERES NO LIMIT!

This approach however is expediting the bankruptcy of our country.  The average Medicare recipient pays in approximately $150,000 in Medicare taxes over the course of their lives.  The average Medicare recipient receives $350,000 of medical benefits over the course of their life.  So society must pick up the $200,000 short fall, which is funded from the tax dollars of all American.   It’s easy to see how this can’t work long term.

Its time to ask the really tough questions which the Ryan plan has the insight to answer in the form of tactical action, but not the courage to point out and put on the table for honest discussion.

  1. Is it truly the responsibility of the federal government to fund unlimited health care for those 65 and over?
  2. Is it not reasonable to ask seniors to pay higher premiums and deductibles for the healthcare that they receive?
  3. Is it unfair to provide seniors a basic level of healthcare, and ask them to get their own supplemental insurance for things like organ transplants, hip replacements, or heroic treatments to extend life a few more months?
  4. Is it OK to continue to borrow more money for benefits today, and stick future generations with the tax burden of figuring out how to pay for it?

These are really uncomfortable questions.  They should be at the heart of the debate, and no one is talking about them.

The federal government should be 4th in line to cover catastrophic or end of life medical care for seniors.

Who should be responsible for seniors’ healthcare? In order?

  1. The senior
  2. The seniors family
  3. The local community and charities (including hospitals)
  4. The federal government (as a last resort safety net)

We’ve had for too long the idea that avoiding using the assets of seniors and their families to pay for healthcare is the right thing to do.  There is a whole cottage industry of lawyers and accountants who strategize of how to hide the assets of those over 65 so healthcare and long-term care is picked up by their neighbors.

We have to start asking if it is morally right to pass our burdens on to someone else, and then complain when they stop accepting that burden.

How do you answer these four questions?

Guest Blogger Jeff

Episode 122 – Obama Up Medicare In GOP Out

The Democrats turn the tables on Republicans and use health care to their advantage in winning a long-held Republican Congressional seat in New York. Why did things change? What does this mean for the 2012 elections? Are Republicans worried so much about singing to the choir that they’re missing the tone of the electorate? As President Obama continues to climb in the polls, will Republican pot shots continue to pay-off, or will they backfire? With so many candidates leaving the race, what are the Republican prospects in 2012? Always entertaining and informative, it’s Political — the political podcast. Best Friends. Vast Experience. Engaging political talk…without the fighting.

Best Friends. Vast Experience. Engaging political discussion without the fighting…and with a few laughs. It’s PoliTalk, your weekly political podcast.

You can get the PoliTalk Podcast on iTunes and Zune

Of you can play right the show here by clicking on the play button below: