atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#3992: The problem is, it's all theater.

Karl Denninger is talking about the 14th Amendment and what it means for all the budget shenanegans taking place in D.C:
...[T]he 14th Amendment doesn't empower The President to raise the debt ceiling on his own.

No, the 14th Amendment requires him to pay the interest and principal on Treasury Notes, Bills and Bonds before anything else should there be insufficient funds to cover it all.
He says this in the context of our sitting Treasury secretary saying he won't do this, which is (probably) an impeachable offense since it directly contravenes a Constitutional requirement.

But this shutdown isn't about limiting spending or slowing the growth of the federal budget or Obamacare or any of that. It has nothing to do with taxation, financing the deficit, the affordability of health insurance. It isn't even about Republican versus Democrat.

It's about the elections thirteen months from now.

The Democrats believe--and history backs them up--that a government shutdown will work in their favor and win them seats in the legislature. The Republicans need political cover for doing what they want to do anyway lest their voters abandon them and lose them a large number of legislative seats.

The former is a foregone conclusion; there would have been a government shutdown even if the GOP had given the Democrats everything they wanted. The latter, however--

I've made no secret of the disdain I have for the GOP leadership. It wasn't always so; but the big budget surrender of 2011 was enough to convince me that while the Democrats are the party of Big Government, the GOP is the party of Slightly Less Big Government. The only question is one of who gets to write the checks; otherwise there is nothing significant that differentiates the two parties. That's why I didn't vote for Romney in 2012; he was virtually identical to Obama in every single important respect, and the only things differentiating the two candidates were cosmetic.

Example: under a Republican-run government we wouldn't get Obamacare...but we did get Medicare Part D and "closing the donut hole". We also got the single largest expansion of federal education spending since Carter gave us the federal Department of Education. (And five minutes after the latter was signed into law one of its principal authors, Teddy Kennedy, said it wasn't enough.)

The GOP doesn't want to curb spending, but the leadership is smart enough to understand that most of its constituency does want the trillion dollar deficits curtailed...and so we get this: deficit theater, where the GOP pretends that it's interested in limiting federal spending. They stand up to the Democrats, briefly, but instead of remaining firm they crumble like stale bread in the face of withering press coverage and threats of disinvitations to the big bashes in D.C.

That's why the big budget production of 2011 was nothing more than a scripted drama for the masses: if the GOP had been interested in cutting spending we would have gotten more than the now-infamous rounding error, and even sequestration (originally suggested by Obama) has cut almost nothing. Knocking a couple dozen billion out of the deficit might be the tiniest of incremental movements in the right direction but we're still running budget deficits that are close to a trillion dollars a year. But the GOP can't be honest about their motivations, because their voters expect their Republican representatives and Senators to cut spending and reduce government influence in their daily lives.

With a very few notable exceptions, any Republican who gets up and says, "Yeah, I'm voting with Obama on this one, because damn I like being in charge of spending all this money!" will find himself out of a job just as soon as the next election comes around. So they make a big show of standing up to Democrats before "reluctantly compromising" with them and continuing to feather their aristocratic nests.

The Congressional carve-out for Obamacare compliance is a fait accompli. Don't think it's not; when Vitter got up to oppose it, that gave the GOP all the cover it needs, and even if the matter is allowed to come to a vote there is absolutely no question that the measure will be defeated. Congress will exempt itself from Obamacare, exactly the way it has exempted itself from insider trading laws, labor laws, credit laws, finance laws, and any other laws which have inconvenient side effects but which the rest of us must obey. There's a reason congressional tax cheats are only required to pay the back taxes and never fined--or punished at all--for something that would land an ordinary person in jail.

So it really doesn't matter what Obama or his Treasury Secretary do. They can spend, or not spend, or make huge piles of $100 bills in the Capitol rotunda and jump naked on them--and Congress will raise the debt limit and the massive overspending will continue unabated because none of them wants the party to end.

...but sooner or later the party has to end. Whatever your favored economic theory may be, sooner or later you come to a point where there is simply no money left to spend and we are rapidly reaching that point. All it will take now is for interest rates to rise, and the Fed does not have as firm a hand on those reins as everyone would like us to believe; witness please how interest rates are doing in Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. As soon as it becomes obvious to all and sundry that this is not sustainable the government will end up having to pay more for each dollar it borrows, and if it gets bad enough it will consume the entire pool of federal tax revenue before any actual spending occurs. Current revenues approximate $2,800 billion; a sharp enough rise in the interest rate will result in the government paying that much in interest alone, leaving nothing for defense, social security, welfare, etcetera. And then you'll see a real government shutdown, not the political theater they're talking about now where they stop doing a few things but the "essential" part of the machine keeps going.

Because the Constitution requires that interest be paid first, this is how it must be by law. The instant the government decides, "Ah, to heck with that crap," we're doomed. Simply put, no one in office has the authority to ignore the black-letter law written in the Constitution; it requires a lengthy and complex process to change that and no one person is legally allowed to ignore it (either the procedure or the Constitution itself). President Obama, for example, is not legally entitled to delay the inconvenient bits of Obamacare; as President his job is to enforce the law as written and there is no provision for delaying its implementation. (The fact that he is being allowed to get away with doing so is troubling, but it's also another indication that the GOP is not fundamentally opposed to this sort of thing.)

The Constitution is supposed to be the supreme law of the land, and no one is exempt from it. If government decides it can ignore the basic rules of its operation, it will lead in a very, very bad direction.

The GOP has allowed the federal government to operate on a continuing basis without an actual annual budget being passed, by issuing "continuing resolutions", and because of this there is no accountability for anyone involved. This started in 2009, and--again--the GOP has continued it because it works to their advantage (power-wise) and it would be detrimental to their control of Congress were they to stand up and fight for a proper budget.

That's why we won't see them try to pass budget bills funding specific agencies, as has been suggested in some quarters, and it's also why we won't see them stand up for other Constitutional processes. It's not just that they don't think they can win; it's that they're not interested in opposing the Democrats, because that would mean limiting their own power.

It's a hell of a mess. *sigh*

* * *

Today is, by the way, the hundredth birthday of the income tax. Pity Woodrow Wilson couldn't have waited until October 31 to sign the damned thing. The decorations would be appropriate.

* * *

Obama suggests that we consider the government shutdown in the context of a worker shutting down a factory because he didn't get what he wanted. And a worker who did that kind of thing? "He'd be fired!" the President told us.

Has President Obama never heard of a strike?

* * *

Oh boy, Rob Schneider has turned Republican. Thus improving the IQs of both parties? Somehow I doubt it--both the conversion and the old joke.

Look: he's supporting a Republican for governor; that does not mean he's changed parties and become a conservative. It's just that he's concluded that California's government is insane because he owns a business, and California's regulations and taxes have driven it beyond the borders of that state.

But he's not alone:
Among others who have made similar moves was Ronald Reagan.

And Clint Eastwood, Patricia Heaton, Morgan Brittany, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Angie Harmon, Bruce Willis, Heather Locklear, Shannon Dougherty, 50 Cent, Cheryl Ladd, Tom Selleck and Allen Covert.

And James Woods, Jon Voight, Jeff Foxworthy, Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, Dennis Miller, Adam Baldwin, Kurt Russell, Nick Searcy, Kirk Cameron, Andy Garcia, Kelsey Grammer, Ron Silver, Ben Stein, Pat Boone, Mel Gibson, Adam Sandler, Scott Baio and Kathy Ireland.

And Shirley Temple, Dean Cain, Kevin Sorbo, Jessica Simpson, Jaclyn Smith, Gary Sinise, Dwight Schultz, Fred Grandy, Yakov Smirnoff, Drew Carey, Jamie Farr, Lou Ferrigno, Fess Parker and Sylvester Stallone.

And Hunter Tylo, Bruce Boxleitner, Eduardo Verastegui, Janine Turner, Heidi Montag, Arnold Schwarzenegger,...
Sarah Michelle Gellar is a Republican now? The last thing I heard from her, she had said, "The difference between a Democrat and a Republican is that I'll fuck a Democrat."

Bruce Boxleitner? Really? I did always like the cut of his jib.

Missing from that list (probably included in the "and others" I cut after Arnold) is Jerry Doyle who played Michael Garibaldi on Babylon 5. A few of the names in that list are a bit surprising, but none more than "Buffy". Then again, she made her pile with Buffy the Vampire Slayer so it's not like she has to worry about finding a job.

Well, whatever. It is true that California is victim to too much regulation and taxation ("Warning: this sign contains subtances known to the State oF California to be carcinogenic. Also, the bridge ahead is out.") and I can see how that would drive someone to a party which says it's all about limiting government.

* * *

Well, choir practice has been canceled this week and next, and we won't be singing on the following Sundays, so I don't know what to do with myself.

* * *

Warm October days--

Yesterday was a very, very pleasant autumn day. I had interviews scheduled and some errands to run, so I went out and did what had to be done, and it was so nice I could roll down the Jeep's windows. Today I have only to go to the store for bread and maybe a pack of light bulbs.

...had to take the Jeep for the errands because I forgot to renew the bike's license plate. *sigh* One of the errands was, in fact, going to the DMV to get a new sticker. Because of all this--and all the interviewing I've been doing--I've put over 400 miles on the Jeep since that first Best Buy interview in early September.

On the way back from one interview, the Jeep had the death wobble bad. I hit a bump and jigjigjigjigjigjigJIGJIGJIG until I let off the gas and the oscillation damped out, but it happened again a little bit further down the road.

The ol' Jeepney has 110,200 miles on it now. I know I need to get new tires on the beast and then get the front end aligned; it's already been five years since I replaced the steering damper so I know that's got to be done, too. If I do all that and the problem doesn't go away, then I get to go through the front suspension, too, and figure out what parts need replacing.

I get a pretty nasty shimmy right at 55 MPH, but I figure that's probably because the tires are old. Who knows? Maybe it's also "death wobble"; if I still have that problem after new tires etc then I'll be digging into the front end.

(Assuming, of course, that the tire shop doesn't tell me, "Hey, you need XYZ or we can't align it," in which case I'll say, "Get it close as you can and I'll be back soon." Heh.)

* * *

Anyway, today is a "down" day for me. No running around required, and as I said above the only thing I really need to do is go buy bread. Maybe I'll do that in an hour or so.

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