The Talking Dog

May 10, 2011, Promises, promises

Speaker of the House John Boehner addressed a group of plutocrats at the Economic Club of New York, promising trillions in spending cuts to offset any raise in the federal debt ceiling. I realize I was a tad blog-negligent by not talking about the debt-ceiling in my own take on the capitulation "compromise" that led to the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts in exchange for... in exchange for... well, that's just it... a very minor extension of unemployment benefits that seems asininely picayune in exchange for what Obama gave up on this (i.e., everything).

I both read (and anticipated) that the President's failure... that's F A I L U R E... to negotiate for an enlargement of the debt ceiling-- RIGHT THEN AND THERE-- would crop up in a few months. That is to say, the failure to link the two issues-- a tax cut that would dramatically increase the deficit, and the debt ceiling to legally permit the extra borrowing engendered by the tax cut-- was an act of egregious political malpractice.

And so... here we are. I'd be much more disturbed if I didn't know the whole thing wasn't an endless kabuki-- and I do-- but still, it seems that Speaker Boehner has to at least pay lip-service to the moron masses [Texas-]Tea Partiers by telling them that the price for tax cuts for the really rich that won't actually be of any benefit to most of the putzes who call themselves "tea party" increasing the debt ceiling will be "trillions in [unspecified] spending cuts." Well, let's see what's available.

Interest on the debt? No... inviolate legally. Defense? No... mandated by Halliburton Boeing God. Medicare? Well... kind of have to back off that... Social Security? Yup... "Discretionary spending?" Yeah, that's also what Boehner means. And the "discretionary budget"-- everything else-- is barely 20% of the federal budget... even if you cut it to nonexistence, and allowed highways and airports and schools and hospitals and what's left of our domestic infrastructure that hasn't yet fallen apart to fall apart, thing is... it's not that much money compared to either Defense, or the impact of tax cuts on high earners (and "high earners" can be defined as everyone above the median, around $40,000 for a family of four, a/k/a the so-called "middle class.")

This particular game of financial chicken was foreordained last December when "the tax deal" was announced; there seems no doubt that the Republican rank and file couldn't care less if their political posturing takes the country over the edge into default... the question is, does Republican leadership believe its actual constituency (the super-rich) really want that? Because if they do... they're going to step on the accelerator, and demand ever more "spending cuts" as their price... and Democrats will have to sell out constituency after constituency to prevent the ultimate failure- a default on Treasury paper. (And if Republican rank and file believe they are "underappreciated" viz the whole OBL thing... it will only be worse.)

Don't know. The Government's spending and deficits are, to be sure, out of control, but the real problems happen to be Defense and tax collection, the two areas that seem to be (by "bipartisan consensus")... "off the table." Where this stops, nobody knows. Fasten your seat-belts... this is going to be a bumpy ride. This has been... "Promises, promises."