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What I’d Love to See in the Next State of the Union Address

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The president had been speaking for nearly an hour, and his 2013 State of the Union address did not seem to be ruffling feathers overmuch. “But,” he said to himself, “That will soon change.” After having covered his plans for our nation in regard to economics, tax policies, climate change, defense spending, foreign policy, gay rights, abortion rights, and election reform, President Obama continued:

“Now I’d like to address the next political battle we’ll be facing here in Washington: the debt ceiling. Our economy will hit the present ceiling in late February or early March, and the Senate Minority Leader and the Speaker of the House have both made it abundantly clear that they’re going to use the debt ceiling as an opportunity to extract spending cuts from almost every facet of the federal budget except for defense. I’ve stated for some time now that we’re not going to have that fight anymore. The last time we had this debate, it wound up costing the American people the first credit downgrade we’ve ever had, and while that particular downgrade didn’t turn out to be catastrophic, a second downgrade may very well lead us to places we really don’t want to go.

So let me be clear: we’re not going to have this fight. There will be no long, drawn-out negotiations. There will be no late-night last-minute desperate deal-brokering to avoid the first default in our nation’s history. What’s more, I’m taking the decision out of my own hands completely.

He turned to address the Republican senators and representatives who were seated on his left, “I’m leaving that particular decision up to the House of Representatives.”

The president paused until the murmurs punctuated by shouts and not a few curses died down before he repeated himself,

I’m leaving the decision strictly up to the House of Representatives under the leadership of House Speaker John Boehner, and we will see what decision you will make. I have asked the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to introduce a bill to raise the debt ceiling, and to keep the bill clean without anything at all added to it. Furthermore, I have signed an executive order, it’s sitting right here in front of me, that states that the current president will not sign any bill into law raising the debt ceiling unless it’s a clean bill without any amendments. Furthermore, if I were to sign such a bill, the executive order stipulates that the current president, that’s me, remember, must resign within thirty days. As of now, I’m not allowed to sign anything but a clean bill.

Howls of protest erupted from the Republicans, while the Democrats were largely silent, shocked speechless that their president would put the nation’s economy in the hands of the Tea Party-influenced Republicans in the house. Again, the president waited for the ruckus to die down and then continued, “So to those from the other side of the aisle, you wanted to be in charge, so I’m giving you the opportunity to make what is perhaps the most important decision of my presidency, without any input whatsoever from me. That’s right, after this speech, I’m done with this subject. You’ll either present me a clean bill to sign to raise the debt limit, or you will not. If you do not do so, then it will be your decision to force this nation into default. It’s as simple as that.” 

Shouts and curses erupted once more from the Republicans, and there was scattered laughter and applause from the Democrats. But the president wasn’t done.

Now we all know how much you hate me, how it’s almost dogma among Republicans that I’m somehow out to run America into the ground. You seem unable to believe that I want what’s best for the nation. None of you can imagine yourselves voluntarily doing something that would make me look good; in fact, before I even took the oath of office the first time, your leaders made a pact to obstruct everything I tried to do, without exception, no matter what. Now I want to raise the debt limit, for nearly all economists of note point out that if America defaults on her debts, we will go back into recession, and the rest of the world probably will, too. Of course I don’t want another recession, and I doubt you do either. But if you send me the clean bill to raise the debt ceiling that I want to see, you’ll make me look good. What’s more, if the American economy continues to improve as it currently is, that will reflect even better on my administration. And none of you can stand the thought of that. 

On the flip side of the coin, if you decide to not raise the debt limit, you can ruin my legacy, for we all know that in the final analysis, it’s the president and not Congress who bears the blame. You’ll be able to claim that because I didn’t negotiate with you, that you weren’t able to agree to raise the debt limit. The only real question is, which is greater – your desire to preserve the health of the American economy, or your hatred of me? If it’s the latter, then the nation and the world will go back into recession because we, the elected officials in this chamber, chose; chose not to pay our bills when we certainly had the means to do so. But hey, you’ll have ruined the legacy and greatly weakened the prestige of my administration. Maybe that will be worth a worldwide recession to you.   A wise Republican once said, ‘Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.’ Well, I’m taking a page from President Lincoln’s notebook. I’m giving you that power, and this choice is going to test your character. That is all I’m going to say on this matter. Good night, and may God bless us all, and may God bless the United States of America.

President Obama walked smartly from the congressional chambers to jeers, boos, and curses from the Republicans, mitigated only somewhat by half-hearted applause from the Democrats.

Two hours later found President Obama seated at his desk in the Oval Office, and the only other person present was Vice President Joe Biden, red-faced, and barely maintaining his composure in the face of such an ill-advised gamble. The vice president began,

Mr. President,were you really being serious? Are you really leaving it up to Boehner and his pack of idiots in the House? I mean, you’re risking America’s, and the world’s, economy on the hope that they’ll actually do something intelligent! This is Boehner and Cantor and Paul Ryan and the whole lot: they haven’t done anything intelligent since before you won the first time! All they want to do, all they’ve ever wanted to do, is to destroy you. They’re scared as hell of you, and you’re giving them the power and opportunity to drive the nation into default because it will make you look bad? I’m sorry, Mr. President, but I think you made a bad bet, because I’m fairly certain they really would force America into default if they thought it would hurt you. I’d bet every penny I’ve ever had that tomorrow morning, every conservative pundit from Limbaugh to O’Reilly to George Will will find excuses why refusing to raise the debt limit would be a great thing for the American people, and then every hick, hillbilly, and redneck this side of Sacramento will force their congressmen to vote against any hike of the debt ceiling! Tell me you’ve got something up your sleeve, please, sir! 

President Obama calmly replied as he began flipping a large silver-colored coin up in the air,

Joe, I’ve got precisely nothing up my sleeve. But I didn’t make any bets, either. If they raise the debt limit, nobody but you and I and a few people at the mint will know this coin exists. On the other hand, if they refuse to raise the debt limit, I deposit this coin a few hours before midnight when the deadline’s about to pass, and then I show the American people that the Republicans were willing to destroy the American economy if they could destroy me along with it.

 

The president saw Joe Biden’s sudden predatory smile, and added one more item. “By the way: I’ve got a fund-raiser in Seattle next month. The laws there have changed, and it’s been a long time since I had some decent weed; care to join me?”

The vice president’s smile grew noticeably wider.

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About Glenn Contrarian

White. Male. Raised in the deepest of the Deep South. Retired Navy. Strong Christian. Proud Liberal. Thus, Contrarian!
  • http://danmillerinpanama.wordpress.com Dan(Miller)

    Gracious goodness me or my! I seem to recall Senator Obama saying something just slightly different in 2006. I think it had something to do with leadership failure. Surely, there is no leadership failure now, with him in the White House! That couldn’t possibly be!

    Or is it, as suggested at the Snopes link, that President Obama has undergone a change of heart?

    Our views do, of course, er, mature with age and he was younger then.

  • http://danmillerinpanama.wordpress.com Dan(Miller)

    I am beginning to suspect that my comments, like those of some others, are not welcome here.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Dan, as long as you abide by the comments policy, as you always have, your contributions are more than welcome.

    There have been technical issues recently which have involved many regulars being unable to post, but I thought they had been resolved. If you continue to have problems, please shoot Chris Rose an email with details of the IP address you’ve been trying to post from.

  • http://danmillerinpanama.wordpress.com Dan(Miller)

    Thanks, Doc.

    I wrote as I did because I had posted a comment and got the message that if it was OK it would appear eventually.

    It’s probably in the spam filter since it had three links.

    Dan

  • Dr Dreadful

    Well, there are two anti-spam filters and hopefully the one yours is caught in is the one we comments editors have access to. I’ll take a look and liberate it if I can.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Success!

    Dear readers, please disregard comments 2-5…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dan –

    Yes, Obama did vote against raising the debt ceiling back then. Of course, when he voted thus he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that there were more than sufficient votes to raise the debt ceiling – it was going to get raised in any case. This made his vote nothing more than a protest vote, just as many Americans vote for someone other than the Democratic or Republican party knowing full well that there’s absolutely no chance that the one they voted for would get elected.

    The House Republicans, on the other hand, know full well that if they vote against raising the debt ceiling, the nation will go into default (unless Obama does an end run using the $1T coin or the 14th Amendment). This means that theirs is NOT a protest vote – it’s one with real-world consequences.

    You can claim “hypocrisy!” all day long, but the situation is different to the point that it becomes a matter of comparing apples to oranges.

  • http://danmillerinpanama.wordpress.com Dan(Miller)

    Glen, I was delighted to read your confirmation that President Obama is not guilty of hypocrisy! Not even the smallest particle of a transitory illusion that he might ever have such an inconceivable flaw had ever even considered the remotest possibility of occurring to me.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dan –

    I’m glad you agree! See, we really can agree on some things – I bet we could even agree on what we think of Congress! But I’d really like to hear your personal opinion on whether you think it would be a good idea for the Republicans to refuse to raise the debt limit if Obama refuses to give them what they want.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Glenn… wow!

    I imagine there’s a healthily-sized band of voting-age entomologists who are actually quite keen on head lice and cockroaches, but being less popular than The Donald takes some doing. It’s a stunning achievement by Congress.

    It’s almost enough to make me want to get my US citizenship so that I can be proud of my elected representatives. Almost.

    Cracking article, BTW, Glenn, if rather far-fetched. As Warren would no doubt agree, nothing wrong with the occasional flight of fancy here on Blogcritics! ;-)

  • Glenn Contrarian

    But Doc, it is still truly a point of pride that:

    the elected body still managed to beat out John Edwards, lobbyists, telemarketers, the Kardashians, North Korea, Lindsay Lohan, playground bullies, Fidel Castro, meth labs, communism, gonorrhea and the Ebola virus.

    For the life of me, with the possible exception of Fidel, I can’t disagree with any of those….

  • http://danmillerinpanama.wordpress.com Dan(Miller)

    Glen, re #9. You ask whether I think it would be a good idea for the Republicans to refuse to raise the debt limit if Obama refuses to give them what they want.

    That strikes me as rather inverted. The Congress “gives” the President appropriations and may, in its discretion, “give” him a higher debt ceiling. My views on what should happen, and what will probably happen instead, are provided here.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dan –

    It’s pretty obvious by your blog that you personally think that the Republicans in the House should show some ‘testicular fortitude’ and not raise the debt ceiling. Problem is, that debt ceiling isn’t necessary to prevent additional spending – it’s necessary to pay for what Congress has already spent. This results in what is known as a default. America has never defaulted before, and that is why regardless of our economic troubles, America’s treasury bonds are seen as the safest on the planet.

    This default that you would have the Republicans force on America truly is analogous to a household refusing to pay its bills for what it’s already bought. So what happens when a household refuses to pay its bills? The credit score of the man and/or the woman gets downgraded…and they are forced to pay higher credit rates…

    …and this is precisely what happened the last time the Tea Party’s intransigence caused a credit downgrade: it cost the American taxpayers $100B…and that was just the cost of ONE downgrade from AAA to AA by ONE rating agency (Standard and Poors).

    That $100B cost was from a relatively minor downgrade due to our political squabbles, and did not involve an actual default. A default, on the other hand, would cost the American taxpayer much, much more.

    Here’s the thing, Dan – America has been in significantly worse financial straits before and you know it. Our debt-to-GDP ratio was worse after WWII than it is now, and what did we do? We raised taxes, and by the end the 1950’s we nearly had the entire debt paid off.

    Furthermore, the Right’s claims of Obama’s “fiscal irresponsibility” is nothing more than a strawman. Why? Right now we’ve got a lower federal taxpayer burden than at any time since the Truman administration, our corporate taxes are lower than 1972, the pace of the growth of our government is lower than at any time since Eisenhower, AND (from Investors Business Daily):

    Believe it or not, the federal deficit has fallen faster over the past three years than it has in any such stretch since demobilization from World War II.
    In fact, outside of that post-WWII era, the only time the deficit has fallen faster was when the economy relapsed in 1937, turning the Great Depression into a decade-long affair.
    If U.S. history offers any guide, we are already testing the speed limits of a fiscal consolidation that doesn’t risk backfiring. That’s why the best way to address the fiscal cliff likely is to postpone it.
    While long-term deficit reduction is important and deficits remain very large by historical standards, the reality is that the government already has its foot on the brakes.

    In other words, looking at the OVERALL numbers, Obama’s MORE fiscally responsible than Bush 43, Bush 41, Reagan, OR Nixon. But of course that’s not something that anyone on the Right would ever want to hear.

    So…Dan – now that you have been made aware that a mere downgrade from AAA to AA cost the American taxpayer $100B, is a full-fledged default what you really think America needs? Is it really?

  • Igor

    @13-Glenn: good argument.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Igor –

    Thanks – but I wonder if Dan will catch the economic caveat in the second sentence of the paragraph I pasted from Investors Business Daily, that stated that the only time our deficit has fallen faster was when we were falling into the second dip of the Depression.

    Dan(Miller), as a fellow Navy veteran, should understand that the metaphor “Ship of State” also applies to the economy – it doesn’t respond well to oversteering, to too-great attempts to force it in one direction or the other…and that’s what a default would force on the economy.

  • troll

    Glenn #13 – do you have figures on what the downgrade actually has cost to date as opposed to the 2011 projections you linked to?

  • http://danmillerinpanama.wordpress.com Dan(Miller)

    Glen,

    If you think the economy of the United States is doing fine under President Obama, we disagree. We have excessively high Federal spending now, the Federal deficit is higher than ever before and continues to grow like Topsy.

    As this 2012 edition of Federal Spending by the Numbers shows, total federal spending for fiscal year 2012[1] reached $3.6 trillion, or 22.9 percent the size of the entire U.S. economy. In the past 20 years, federal outlays have grown 71 percent faster than inflation. The average American household’s share of this spending is $29,691, roughly two-thirds of median household income. This relentless growth is projected to continue, pushing total government outlays to $5.5 trillion a decade from now, and to about 36 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the next 25 years.

    You say that the debt ceiling isn’t necessary to prevent additional spending – it’s necessary to pay for what Congress has already spent. Obviously, what has been spent has been spent; what has been appropriated but not yet spent has not yet has not been spent. To the extent that appropriated moneys have been spent without incurring debt, they are not part of the debt and the debt ceiling has little relevance.

    Meanwhile, the private sector (being stifled by regulatory and tax uncertainty) is weak and the debt ceiling drama could (as noted in my previously linked article) provoke a constitutional crisis that we do not need should President Obama refuse, as he has said he would, to negotiate on spending cuts.

    An Army veteran rather than a Navy veteran (Comment #15), I agree that over-steering is bad. Yet that is what our Federal, State and even local regulators appear to be doing to the private sector. Politically favored businesses (most recently in the fiscal cliff legislation such as “green” and motion picture businesses) are rewarded with tax breaks and subsidies. That distorts the market in politically favored directions. To ameliorate the problems, massive revisions to the Internal Revenue Code and the IRS regulations are needed as well as other reductions in Federal regulation of business. If you were to consider starting a new small business (or to expand one with forty-eight full time employees) would you think now a propitious time to do it? I would not.

    The Executive Branch is only one of the Federal branches. Article I of the Constitution delineates the duties and functions of the Legislative Branch and Article II delineates those of the Executive Branch. President Obama needs to keep firmly in mind which duties and functions are his and which are those of the Legislative Branch.

  • zingzing

    dan, you know exactly what argument glenn will make to what you say, and what parts of the more complex truth he will leave out. to that, you will answer with your own half-truths that knowingly leave the bits of the truth which would unpleasantly make your point invalid. and thus we go ’round and ’round, talking a bunch of bullshit and not getting anywhere closer to understanding what is really happening, and therefore nowhere closer to a solution to the problems we face, because if we were actually to do so, it would prove what a bunch of know-nothing, proudly opinionated hypocrites we are. (and i’m not just talking about blogcritics, or america, i’m talking about the whole lot of us, who would rather argue ineffectually amongst ourselves than admit that our cherished beliefs could possibly be wrong.)

  • http://danmillerinpanama.wordpress.com Dan(Miller)

    Zingzing, Robert Frost wrote

    We dance round in a ring and suppose,
    But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

    As in many things, I suspect he was correct.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    zing –

    you know exactly what argument glenn will make to what you say, and what parts of the more complex truth he will leave out

    zing, I am sincere in all my posts – I don’t post anything other than what I believe to be true. The proof of this lies in the several times – more than is the case with everyone else on BC Politics combined, it seems – that I’ve been willing to admit when I’ve been wrong, and have given sincere gratitude to those who showed me my errors. Dan may be right – I’ve got to research some more, and if he’s right, I’ll have to post an admission. It’ll be far from the first time, and it won’t be the last.

    Given that pretty much all of us on BC Politics are intelligent, then how can any one of us continually claim that one is right and the other guy’s wrong? Hell, even Warren’s right sometimes, and if he’s right and I’m wrong, I’ll admit it – I will not allow what I personally think of him to keep me from admitting when he’s right!

    Think about it, zing – pick a common BC Politics resident – Clav, Doc D., Baronius, troll, yourself, or any of the lot. How often do you see any one of them or yourself admit error? Not too damn often, is it? So how can that happen when Clav and Baronius (and Dan M.) are quite intelligent and educated, as are Doc D. and yourself, but out of the lot of you, I’ve seen maybe one mea culpa every several months, and NEVER on a major issue.

    But I have done so – just ask Cindy. I’m 0-and-2 when it comes to major debates with her! The key is that I have no qualms about such an admission and I freely give her the credit she deserves.

    Dan’s quote from Frost applies to any man who admits error rarely or never – and this applies to almost all of you. I, on the other hand, am neither overly prideful nor insecure, and that quote does not quite so strongly apply to me.

    You can question my beliefs and (what I believe to be) the facts that I bring to the table, but to accuse me of deliberately leaving out parts of the truth is tantamount to accusing me of insincerity, of obfuscation, of deceit.

    Lastly, did you post your accusation because you really believe that I deliberately leave out parts of the truth? Or did you do so because you wanted to stick with the “we’re all human and we all have the same failings” line in order to seem non-partisan in your post? I strongly suspect it’s the latter, and I hope you can see the false equivalency for what it is.

  • Zingzing

    Glenn, I think we’re all guilty of it, and you’re no more innocent than anyone else in any way that matters in the end, although I agree that you’re one of the more likely amongst us to admit fault. There’s parts of every divisive political debate that makes a strong position untenable, but we all downplay those parts in our arguments in order to do… something… but just what that is, I’m beginning to feel, is just dragging our damn feet.

    The fault of every political “solution” to any problem is easily identifiable; for example, (to shit on my own positions,) getting rid of guns in our society will mean that criminals will gain an edge, abortion kills babies, a green economy will create havoc in our current economy, stopping rampant military spending will weaken our defense, etc, etc, etc. these things are true.

    That I think the other side of those arguments are more important doesn’t really matter. We all talk right past each other, not only here, but in our country’s political debate, and in our countries’ political dealings with each other. I know political debate is important, but I think we (humans in general) are very bad at it, mostly because we’re incredibly dishonest and constantly try to pull the wool on each other, even though everyone can see the bullshit flying. There has to be some point where we stop simplifying shit down to whatever fits our opinions and start dealing with reality and I think we’ve all gotten very far away from that in the way we deal with and make political arguments. We’ve gotten to the point where we all seem to think that opinion is truth, while facts play second fiddle, just cherry-picked to fit in, all other facts ignored on a scale of convenience.

    Politics is the most depressing comedy sometimes. I just happened to be in a bah humbug mood about it when I wrote that comment, and you just happened to be the one on the other side of the comment that I read at the moment I snapped. Even Dan was an innocent bystander in that. Sometimes I just get sickened by the whole charade. No offense intended to either of you. I’m just as guilty. And no, I don’t have any alternatives (that aren’t vile) to suggest.

    Maybe it’s just impossible for a complex society to be well-adjusted within itself and with the world at large. We’ve always got to have our foot on someone’s neck, no matter what the issue. Sigh.

  • Zingzing

    Maybe tomorrow I’ll wake up thinking that political gridlock just creates slow change that we’ve all argued to the point where that slow change has become acceptable, and that’s the way things should be. But today it just looks like so much yammering and melodrama and we should be better, or at least not so fucking stupid.

  • Cindy

    Or you may wake up and wonder if what you have noticed serves any purpose.

  • troll

    with all this honesty going on I guess that I should try again…re #13 Glenn – have you any info on what impact the downgrade actually has had on treasury bond yields – the factor used to generate the 100B projection?

  • Igor

    Most of our financial distress stems from the unnecessary fruitless wars in the middle east and the unnecessary fruitless tax handouts to the rich. Both products of the late unlamented George W Bush administration. And the wars go on! And the tax gifts to the rich go on!

    Now some people are so crooked they want to cut Social Security (which has never cost the USA one red cent) to pay for those trillion dollar mistakes.

    At the very least we should end the Iraq and Afghanistan expenses and end the tax giveaways.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Hell, even Warren’s right sometimes

    I did promise Baronius I’d be kinder to Warren, but honestly I can’t recall an occasion where he’s been right about anything substantive.

    pick a common BC Politics resident – Clav, Doc D., Baronius, troll, yourself, or any of the lot. How often do you see any one of them or yourself admit error? Not too damn often, is it? So how can that happen when Clav and Baronius (and Dan M.) are quite intelligent and educated, as are Doc D. and yourself, but out of the lot of you, I’ve seen maybe one mea culpa every several months, and NEVER on a major issue.

    Glenn, I can’t speak for the others, but I’m perfectly willing to admit fault if it’s shown to me that I am wrong and why. I give you credit for copping to your mea culpas with regularity, but frankly I think the difference between us has a lot to do with our respective approaches to argument.

    I think before I type: I’m not going to start pontificating about something online unless I’m reasonably sure of my ground (or earnestly in search of edification). You’re pretty good about that yourself when writing articles; but when commenting you regularly assume the role of the proverbial bovine male let loose in the kitchenware department at Macy’s. Consequently, your screw-ups are often very easy to point out.

    Frankly I’m not demonstrably wrong online very often, and if I am, then you will find my views evolving slowly rather than in some sudden great epiphany, since not only must I be convinced that I’m wrong but I also would like to be competently shown what the truth actually is.

    And as far as “major issues” are concerned, take guns for instance. I get convinced that I’m wrong on that one approximately every other day, which is why you will often find me arguing for gun control on one thread and then defending the Second Amendment on another.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    zing –

    Again, beware of the false equivalencies, for now you’re putting yourself on the “just as bad as everyone else” list…and you’re not. You know in your heart that you’re not.

    I believe that almost everyone on here is as strictly sincere as I am – and this applies to the conservatives as well as the liberals. That’s why you almost never see me accuse someone of lying. That’s what the anonymity of a blog like this gives us – the freedom to be truthful. When we’re face to face, we have to be so careful about what we say because there’s things we simply dare not say…but in anonymity there is freedom to bare what’s in our hearts.

    That’s why rather than assume that the other guy is deliberately being untruthful in whole or in part, until I see actual proof that the other guy is not being honest, I’ll assume that he’s being – at least in his own view – completely forthright.

    Now I’ve got to look more closely at what Dan posted.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc –

    but when commenting you regularly assume the role of the proverbial bovine male let loose in the kitchenware department at Macy’s. Consequently, your screw-ups are often very easy to point out.

    LOL, and I can’t gainsay you in the least on that.

    One note, though – you said your views change only slowly rather than through epiphany. That reminds me of a lesson I had way back in Psych 101, about the different ways that people learn. I don’t pretend to know squat about psychology, but the lesson pointed out that many people learn by building detail upon detail, whereas others learn by gestalt, by grasping the overall concept and then digging down from there. I don’t know if you’re the former, but I’m clearly the latter – I do learn by epiphany, great and small…and it’s a pain in the ass, really, because while once every so often I come up with something intelligent, most of the time I do make a completely unnecessary scene in the china shop until some detail-oriented person like yourself or Clavos points out my rank ignorance or logical clumsiness…for which I am grateful.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Glenn, you’re correct that I tend to learn slowly, but that’s not to say I never have epiphanies. I just don’t act on them as fast as you do.

    I’ll give you an example involving an issue on which I have done a complete 180: drugs. Long ago, back in Blighty, I worked at a large central library in suburban London. My views on illegal drugs were conventional: they were evil and dangerous and the full might of the law should be brought to bear to stamp them out.

    Then, one day, I happened to pick up a series of leaflets that had been donated to the library by a local drug clinic. The information in the leaflets was presented in a way I wasn’t used to. There was not the expected “drugs are bad and you need to get off them because they’re addictive and your health and life are in danger; here’s how we can help”. Instead, the information was presented in a calmly factual, even-handed, completely non-judgmental way. The leaflets listed the various common types of narcotic on the market, with clear, concise information about what class or family of drug they were, what they were made from, what forms they came in, how much you could expect to pay for them, the legal penalties for possessing or dealing them, their physical and psychological effects, why people took them, how relatively addictive they were, the health risks and benefits associated with them, and how to use them safely and responsibly. In a separate section of the leaflet were explained the various services provided by the clinic including addiction counseling and rehabilitation, legal advice and prophylactic services.

    It was a strikingly different approach. It was as if the clinic saw nothing fundamentally wrong with drugs per se at all. It was as if they were looking at them in just the same way as alcohol or tobacco. Huh.

    This got me thinking, over time, about why society accepts the consumption of booze and cigs but not certain drugs that are, in some cases, less unhealthy. I looked into the history of illegal narcotics and how they came to be illegal in the first place (as a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, I was already aware that once upon a time opium and cocaine had been as freely available as headache medicine). I read debates between drug advocates and representatives of law enforcement, and learned that, at least in the case of “milder” drugs like marijuana, even police officers whose job it was to combat them had difficulty justifying their role. From there it was a natural step to contemplate the fantastic cost of a global “war on drugs” that had made little if any impact on the rate of drug abuse and had, if anything, made it worse and created the biggest crime wave the world had ever seen.

    I’m now at the point where I’m firmly convinced that all narcotics should be legal, that if this were the case most crime would disappear overnight, and most importantly that every adult should be able to make their own free choice about their use and/or abuse of drugs.

    Contrast that with your own volte face on race which, although (I’m guessing) it didn’t happen overnight, was still a lot more sudden than the process I described above.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dan(Miller) –

    If you think the economy of the United States is doing fine under President Obama, we disagree.

    It could definitely be doing better, but the disagreement lay in what would make it better. Except for the stimulus (one-third of which was tax cuts, remember) and Obamacare, the president hasn’t gotten to do what he felt needed to be done to grow the economy. But if you’ll look at Europe’s economic troubles, it becomes obvious that austerity measures don’t grow an economy – they shrink it. They embraced austerity, and now they realize it was the wrong path to take.

    We have excessively high Federal spending now,

    And this was NOT the case until the Great Recession hit. As you can see, before the GR hit, our federal spending as a percentage of our GDP was significantly lower than it was from 1982-1997 UNTIL the Great Recession. Looking at ONLY the dollar amount of federal spending is misleading – one must look at the level of federal spending as compared to the GDP.

    the Federal deficit is higher than ever before and continues to grow like Topsy.

    NOT true, as the numbers here clearly show. In 2009 – the last year of Bush budgets – the deficit had jumped to $1412.69B. This year it’s projected to be $901.40B, and by 2017 it’s projected to be $612.44B. So, I’m sorry that Obama didn’t slash the deficit in half by the end of his first term (as he promised (when he didn’t know just how great the Republican obstructionism would be)), but it looks like he WILL slash the deficit by MORE than half by the end of his second term.

    An Army veteran rather than a Navy veteran

    Ah. Oh well, nobody’s perfect.

    I agree that over-steering is bad. Yet that is what our Federal, State and even local regulators appear to be doing to the private sector. Politically favored businesses (most recently in the fiscal cliff legislation such as “green” and motion picture businesses) are rewarded with tax breaks and subsidies. That distorts the market in politically favored directions.

    Do you really want to have an argument over the level of regulation? I mean, right now – thanks to the LACK of enforced regulation – instead of having robust competition within the banking sector, we’ve got a small number of banks that control most of the entire sector. Same thing – and to an even greater extent – with health insurance. And don’t get me started on what happened thanks to Clinton’s repeal of Glass-Steagal (which he signed (and thus owns) after it was passed with a veto-proof majority by the Republican controlled Congress).

    And when it comes to tax breaks and subsidies, excuse me, sir, but you left out the huge tax breaks and subsidies given to Big Oil and Big Defense…and that reminds me: your reference points out time and time again how defense spending is falling, as if that’s somehow a bad thing. Now it’s ‘only’ 18.7% of the budget, and it’s being “crowded out” by entitlements…never mind that the 18.7% of our budget we spend on defense is still FORTY PERCENT of all defense spending worldwide. If you want to cut spending, the FIRST place you should be cutting is Defense – and you can take my aircraft carriers first, and then take the hundreds of M1A1 Abrams that the Army doesn’t want and doesn’t need but that Congress insisted on approving just so we can keep the defense factories open.

    If you were to consider starting a new small business (or to expand one with forty-eight full time employees) would you think now a propitious time to do it? I would not.

    Does that mean I should shut down the Adult Family Home I began running this past August? Here’s a clue, Dan – high taxes are NOT necessarily a bad thing, because the lower the taxes, the greater the level of income inequality. But perhaps you think that income inequality isn’t a bad thing. The Walton family will surely agree, since they have more money than the bottom 40% of American citizens and pay so little that their employees – who are WORKING people, remember – often must depend on public assistance to live. In 2009, in Ohio alone:

    The Department of Job and Family Services tapped into its centralized system that caseworkers use to issue benefits and reported to Hagan that 15,484 Wal-Mart workers and dependents received Medicaid benefits in June 2009, and 12,872 Wal-Mart workers and dependents got food stamps.

    Dan, the last president to have a budget surplus was Clinton. Before him it was LBJ, and before that it was Eisenhower and Truman…and in all cases we had significantly HIGHER taxes. Since the years immediately preceding the Great Depression, we’ve never had a budget surplus when taxes were low, but the Depression, the 1982 Recession, and the Great Recession DID come not long after taxes were slashed below 30%.

    Is that absolute proof that high taxes are good and low taxes are bad? No…but it sure as hell is a fairly strong indication.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc –

    Contrast that with your own volte face on race which, although (I’m guessing) it didn’t happen overnight, was still a lot more sudden than the process I described above.

    True enough, and well said. In that case, I would say then that we all learn by detail and by epiphany, but it’s a matter of degree, of proportion of one to the other.

  • http://www.lunch.com/JSMaresca-Reviews-1-1.html Dr. Joseph S. Maresca

    The debt ceiling was raised a number of times under President Reagan. Times were different. We did not have huge foreign wars on the table. In addition, the economy grew and President Reagan and Tip O’Neill came to a good agreement on preserving Social Security essentially for another three decades.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dr. Maresca –

    The debt ceiling was also raised 19 times under George W. Bush, when we were still in Iraq and our war in Afghanistan was much more active than today.

    And as I pointed out, refusal to raise the debt ceiling would have disastrous consequences – not only in America but worldwide.

  • http://danmillerinpanama.wordpress.com Dan(Miller)

    Glen,

    I mistakenly referred to the national deficit rather than to the national debt. The national deficit is an annual figure representing the amount by which federal spending for the year exceeds federal revenues and uses borrowed funds. The national debt aggregates cumulatively the amounts which remain owed. The “debt” and “deficit” are very different in quality and quantity, as comparison of the table you cite (annual deficit) and another (national debt) from the same source clearly shows.

    The national debt has been higher than presently, but only during WWII, following which it declined. The chart that you cite shows a remarkable decline in the projected national (annual) deficit following 2012 while the projected (cumulative) national debt as portrayed at the link above continues to rise. That seems odd. Perhaps you can explain it.

    You say, But if you’ll look at Europe’s economic troubles, it becomes obvious that austerity measures don’t grow an economy – they shrink it. That is sometimes the case. However, nations such as Greece that found it necessary to implement austerity measures over violent public objection did so due to the lack of viable alternatives. In such circumstances, austerity becomes a last resort similar to chemotherapy for badly metastasized cancer when surgery and radiation treatment won’t work. If chemo does not work, it is unpleasant and the patient dies. If it does work it is still unpleasant but the patient may live at least a little longer. Pursuing the cancer analogy, excessive government spending based on debt is a type of cancer and, if it metastasizes sufficiently, austerity measures can become the only possibly viable option. The United States is en route to that point but has not yet arrived; accounting fictions can postpone our arrival but cannot prevent it. If a visit to Greece without the bother of leaving the U.S. is appealing, the debt ceiling should continue to be raised indiscriminately with no significant spending cuts.

    The term “Federal regulation” encompasses many different species. I have long favored vigorous enforcement of the antitrust laws, the need for which has recently been highlighted by the phrase “too big to fail.” In my view, if a business is “too big to fail” it is also too powerful to permit. It reduces the level of competition below the level needed for the markets to function efficiently and should be broken up into its functionally separable components. That includes banking.

    The type of regulation to which I referred as excessive earlier has for many years promoted the growth of favored sectors while retarding the growth of others. The continuing and apparently accelerating proliferation of new regulations (including IRS regulations in general and those promulgated under ObamaCare) produces business uncertainty and limits the ability of business to make the quick changes required by quickly changing domestic and international markets.

    There is another insidious type of regulation, involving favoritism toward political and ideological allies that distorts markets by diverting funds and other resources to them and away from others. Tax breaks recently enacted as part of the “fiscal cliff” deal to help motion picture and “green” business do that.

    I know nothing about your Adult Family Home business, including what regulations govern it and the number of full and part time employees. Hence, I have no comments on what you should do with it.

  • Igor

    In fact, the House cannot legally refuse to raise the debt ceiling without creating a logical contradiction. The House has already passed spending laws (for wars, for example) which has been spent and now they must pay their bills. Default is NOT an option because that would be a huge financial cost as we would have to pay higher interest rates. Also, we’ve never defaulted before: Alexander Hamilton instituted a no-default policy at The Founding and showed how it would be done and proved it’s efficacy, and the 14th amendment outranks congress.

    The House republicans are plain nuts.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dan –

    Sorry I took so long to get back to you.

    The national debt has been higher than presently, but only during WWII, following which it declined. The chart that you cite shows a remarkable decline in the projected national (annual) deficit following 2012 while the projected (cumulative) national debt as portrayed at the link above continues to rise. That seems odd. Perhaps you can explain it.

    What is important, Dan, is NOT so much the debt, but the debt-to-GDP ratio. The debt-to-GDP ratio was highest during WWII – 120% – while it was 102% in 2011. And what paid down the debt? An aggressive progressive taxation policy through the 1950’s.

    It takes a balanced approach, Dan – we’ve got to cut spending, yes (like in our DOD), but we’ve also got to raise taxes. Remember how California was running a perennial deficit and was drowning in debt? Well, three years ago they elected a Democratic governor and supermajorities in the CA Congress (and got rid of that disastrous Prop. 13!!!!), and now they’re running a surplus. And they did it by cutting spending (and increasing it in other areas) and raising taxes (which the GOP refused to do for decades).

    The United States is en route to that point but has not yet arrived; accounting fictions can postpone our arrival but cannot prevent it. If a visit to Greece without the bother of leaving the U.S. is appealing, the debt ceiling should continue to be raised indiscriminately with no significant spending cuts.

    Dan – we’re not for NO spending cuts. We’re for cutting spending where it’s not needed – like Defense. And the debt ceiling is a sword of Damocles, because if the GOP forces us into default instead of raising the debt ceiling, the economic damage (domestic and international) will be catastrophic – then we can ALL be Greece!

    In my view, if a business is “too big to fail” it is also too powerful to permit.

    We’re in complete agreement here – but thanks to Citizens United, refusal to allow passage of the DISCLOSE act, and total opposition to added regulation of any type, the GOP has made the already-remote possibility of breaking up the too-big-to-fail banks a near impossibility.

    The continuing and apparently accelerating proliferation of new regulations (including IRS regulations in general and those promulgated under ObamaCare) produces business uncertainty and limits the ability of business to make the quick changes required by quickly changing domestic and international markets.

    Yes, IRS regulations would be far simpler if they didn’t enable companies like GM and Exxon to get away with paying no taxes at all. We’d also be better off if capital gains was taxed at the same rate as all other income. But when it comes to Obamacare, which is more important to a business – saving a few extra dollars. I mean Papa John’s Pizza famously said (in outrage) that they’d have to raise their prices by eleven to fourteen cents per pizza to pay for Obamacare for their employees. Eleven to fourteen cents extra per pizza to make sure their employees actually had access to health care! And that’s supposed to be a bad thing???? Good grief! Last I checked, it’s a GOOD thing to have healthy employees, especially in the food service industry!

    There comes a point, Dan, that worship of the almighty dollar becomes a really bad thing. The Papa John’s fiasco above serves as a classic example.

    There is another insidious type of regulation, involving favoritism toward political and ideological allies that distorts markets by diverting funds and other resources to them and away from others. Tax breaks recently enacted as part of the “fiscal cliff” deal to help motion picture and “green” business do that.

    I wasn’t aware of the government reaching out to help the motion picture business, but it only makes sense to invest in our green businesses. You’ll disagree with that and we can both fill books with our points, so I’ll leave it at that.

    I know nothing about your Adult Family Home business, including what regulations govern it and the number of full and part time employees. Hence, I have no comments on what you should do with it.

    It’s only a small business – we’ll only have four or five employees (unless we start more such houses), and yes, the regulations are quite comprehensive but necessary. And besides, there’s decent (and reliable) money in poop!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    I’m watching Obama right now on his news conference, and he’s calling the Republicans’ bluff – he’s leaving it up to them, and not negotiating!

    No, I’m not thinking he read my article – of course not. But that’s what made sense to me. The only difference lay in the fact that he’s not entertaining the thought of keeping the $1T coin as a fall-back measure.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Yeah! He called the GOP’s bluff and (as I posited in my article) left the ball completely in the GOP’s court. Maybe he does have a coin in his pocket….

  • Igor

    The nice thing about a logical contradiction is that you can prove ANYTHING! Unfortunately, you can also prove NOTHING.

    So if the House (which is constitutionally responsible for spending) has decreed that we MUST spend at the same time we must NOT spend more than the limit, they have rendered themselves unintelligible and irrelevant. So the president can do as he wishes.

    That’s what happens with power.

  • troll

    …Igor – there’s a problem with the latitude of your platitude

    it’s a mistake to look for too close a correspondence between the language and results of formal systems theory and everyday life

    kinda like looking for an honest man

  • Igor

    Nevertheless, even if the house republicans are viewed merely as political poseurs, they have surrendered the initiative and the pres can do as he pleases.

    The reps even lose the rhetorical war.