Saturday, March 2, 2013

Say it ain't so

In my last post, I suggested that the Republicans step aside and let President Obama and the Democrats run the economy for a while; part of this suggestion included raising the debt limit - one last time - to $21.5 Trillion.

In the meantime, ‘Puter over at The Gormogons was making a different argument:

Let the Democrats spend whatever the heck they want, so long as they agree to pay for every penny spent in the year the funds are spent.  That's right.  Put the Balanced Budget Amendment or a similar piece of stopgap legislation back on the table. All current fiscal year expenditures must be matched by current fiscal year revenue, with no exceptions.

I think that’s a great idea but don’t see a way to actually do this, via Amendment or otherwise. I can’t imagine that the Senate will pass at all, much less by a two-thirds majority, a resolution calling for such an amendment. I also can’t imagine that two-thirds of the State legislatures will call for a Constitutional convention. Similarly, the Senate Democrats would never pass a piece of legislation enforceably calling for pay-as-we-go and, even if they did, President Obama would never sign it.

Perhaps, however, ‘Puter’s real argument is that putting a Balanced Budget Amendment front and center would force people to realize how much our current government costs and produce a revolt:

There's not enough money among current taxpayers to fund the government's expenditures, even if you took every penny.  Those who currently pay no taxes would have to pony up for their pet programs just like everyone else.

And there's the Democrats Achilles' heel.  Most Americans would refuse to pay the tax rates and amounts required to pay for our government's annual expenditures, and rightly so. Rather, Americans would insist government get rid of unnecessary programs, agencies and departments in favor of preserving the programs that are important.

This seems like a worthwhile exercise but it brings me back to a something I’ve wondered about ever since November: Why isn’t someone - the Republicans, a conservative interest group, the Tea Party - running ads pointing out stuff like this? The Right seems to hang around, being bad-mouthed by the Left, and then once the calendar hits a Presidential election year suddenly start running ads trying to dislodge those quick sound bites that have sunk in (“The rich should pay their fair share”) and replace them with ideas as foreign as Sanskrit (“There aren’t enough millionaires”). Why isn’t some organization spending money to present these ideas all year, every year, instead of waiting until the last minute?

I tend to think of print ads and TV ads (I’m old) which means spending money but of course there are other venues to explore that don’t require a cent. Perhaps a Twitter hashtag of “#88%” would be a nice place to start.

So if ‘Puter’s idea is about pointing out reality, I’m all for it. It would be more than helpful to tell people that the idea that we can get out of the financial hole we’re in by hand-waving and mumbling about the rich doesn’t add up. Someone other than just the rich is going to have to pay for it all the debt we’re racking up and maybe it will be harder for us to happily mortgage our kids future if we can’t keep lying to ourselves about exactly how big the bill will be.

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