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Posted by on Jan 16, 2013 in Guest Contributor, Politics | 22 comments

End this debt ceiling nonsense forever

The following was written by my friend Ed Pliml, but I liked it so I’m reprinting it here. –DE

When Congress votes on a proposed budget, they are deciding on what and how much to spend money on. The debt ceiling is paying the bill for what they already spent. They can fight over the budget every year until their dysfunctional debutant ignorant politician ears bleed. But once you place your order & get your food, you don’t dine & dash. And if you do (or even threaten to), you can’t expect to be served the next time.

We’re in a ton of debt. You can argue that we shouldn’t use any more credit. That we’re digging ourselves into a hole we’ll never get out of. Others say, “Okay, but we have no cash & we need food & I have to put gas in the car to get to work to get paid. So let’s be practical.”. To which the first group says, “We tried. We can’t. Every time we walk into the grocery store we end up coming out with $20 worth of crap they sell at the end of the register while you’re in line.”. To which they other group says, “Yes, I get it. We suck at this. But if we don’t put gas in the car, we’ll lose our job & won’t have ANY money.”. And back and forth… FINE. There’s a very reasonable discussion to be had and often (reasonable even for politicians). But you DON”T agree to max out the card & then decide not to pay the bill. You decide how much to spend BEFORE you spend it. … These are BUDGET discussions. Not “Should we pay our bill?” discussions. That shouldn’t ever be up for discussion.

WE WERE DOWNGRADED OVER THIS LAST YEAR. That means we pay a higher interest rate now. Just discussing this has cost us millions. Why? Because banks don’t trust you as much when you publicly discuss whether or not you’re gonna make your payments on what you borrowed from them…on the news…for months. They’re touchy that way.

For the record, although on this particular issue it’s the Republican politicians costing America billions for petty political points, Democrats have done the same in many different and petty/vain ways. So remember, whether you support Dems or the GOP, you support a party of contemptible treasonous lying cowardly sociopaths.

– Positive Reflections by Ed Pliml


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Copyright 2013 The Moderate Voice
  • slamfu

    I couldn’t agree more. Write your Representative, write your Senators, write your President. I can’t believe I haven’t heard the “Dine & Dash” reference before, but that is exactly what they are proposing. You want budget cuts, great, so do I. Talk about them at the next budget discussion. Don’t play Russian roulette with the world economy.

  • Dr. J

    you DON’T agree to max out the card & then decide not to pay the bill.

    No one is proposing paying the bill. This is an argument about raising the limit on the card.

    And there’s some merit to the argument that we’re forced to because we need gas now. It just makes sense only once. When you’re maxing out higher and higher limits and still finding yourself out of gas, every year, the we-need-gas-now argument looks pretty irresponsible.

    So what’s the proper amount of angst Congress should have to go through before taking us further into debt? Zero?

  • petew

    I suppose that Mr. Pliml has a good point when including that Democrats have pursued their own forms of procedural manipulations in order to overcome the wishes of Republicans, but, as far as I know, none of these has involved a direct threat to the credit rating of the United States!

    This entire hoax concerning the use of the debt ceiling to portray Republicans as valiant crusaders for fiscal responsibility, rates as one of the most (if not the most) blatant and destructive political ploys in our American history! Citizens need to become fully aware of the illusion being attempted by Republicans, who claim that this deadly and pointless power play comes from some need for political virtue!

    I hope that more and more newspaper articles and broadcast news reports will be pointing out that real budget cuts should be made concerning what we WILL spend in the future, not refusing to pay debts that we have ALREADY incurred!

    I think the best thing that could happen in the next election cycle is successfully throwing out the (primarily tea party) thugs, who are poised to do real harm to our economy in the name of “necessary” budget reforms. Our Government doesn’t negotiate with terrorists and similarly, Obama has no responsibility to negotiate hostage release terms with this band of political thugs and terrorists!

  • slamfu

    “No one is proposing paying the bill. This is an argument about raising the limit on the card.”

    I assume you meant no one is proposing NOT paying the bill. And yes, that is exactly what the GOP is currently proposing. The money has already been spent. It would actually be closer to say that on a personal level, someone had spent x amount of dollars on a credit card, and is then arguing to LOWER the credit limit after the fact to reduce their bills. It gets kinda weird trying to shoehorn comparisons between personal spending and national federal spending. Its quite simply a different game.

  • petew

    Dr. J,

    Republicans are proposing NOT to pay what is already on the card, good luck proposing new limits with the credit card company after refusing to pay what you owe—even if it is a reduction! Anyway, If you want to impose new limits on the card do so for the future, not after copping out on the debts you already owe! You wouldn’t like it if a friend you loaned money to, refused to pay you back, on the promise that he would borrow less next time, and, likewise, the government doesn’t like providing services without them being properly paid for!

    LATER, makes sense when restricting budget costs, but it is NEVER wise to refuse paying what you owe NOW!—especially when doing so would irresponsibly lower your credit rating and likely fracture your financial well being as well! This is spelled “WORSENING RECESSION VERY POSSIBLE.” Don’t even try to defend risking our crippled economy in any way at all! That is, unless you think it is a good idea to place all of your life savings on 13 black, at the roulette table. So don’t force the government gamble away our future in the same way!

  • Dr. J

    Slam (and Pete), paying off the card would require running surpluses for some period of time. No one is proposing anything of the kind.

    I understand you’d prefer to have the budget-balancing fight later, but when exactly is that? Since last summer’s budget ceiling crisis, we’ve done virtually nothing, so of course we’re heading for the next crisis.

    Congress seems to require scary deadlines to get anything done, so if you disapprove of the GOP’s use of this one, what would you propose instead?

  • Steve Sv

    Dr. J,

    I would start by suggesting the if the Rs are actually serious about spending cuts that they start by, you know, actually proposing some and passing them in the house. Does that seem reasonable to you? You seem to be suggesting that their position of wanting Obama to propose the spending cuts that the Rs say that they want but refuse to specify is a perfectly reasonable and serious way to approach this problem.

  • Dr. J

    Steve, I don’t think that’s fair. The GOP has been fighting hard for entitlement reform for several years. Paul Ryan in particular got quite specific about it. The Democrats roasted them for it.

    Now the fiscal cliff crisis has come and gone, and with it the chance for a grand bargain. The GOP proposed a couple trillion in cuts (more vaguely this time), and the Democrats rebuffed and excoriated them. In the end we got the tax increases on the rich, but no spending cuts.

    So I’d say the shoe is on the left foot at this point. But again, that’s not my point. If the fiscal cliff was an inconvenient time to balance the budget, and hitting the debt ceiling is as well, what time will be convenient?

  • There have been proposals from bipartisan commissions that were drafted even before 2008. Even 100B in redundancy cuts with no loss of services (on paper anyway) — sorry, but no, because those redundant departments have enough clout to be safe from the ax. Congress simply has no stomach for cuts. Budgets have made it out of the house, but consistently died in the Senate.

    The fact is there is lobbying money on tap for escaping cuts and increasing spending (like the new corporate welfare tied to the recent tax increases), but none available for cuts. If only someone could figure out a way to get the lobbyists to fight each other …

  • petew

    Dr. J,

    It is true that the GOP has been fighting for budget cuts for several years without “completely” getting their way, and Democrats have continued to make proposals of their own—many of which included larger cuts than Republican proposals at the time. Although Boehner, was ready to agree to a grand bargain during the last debt ceiling hostage taking, last minute REQUESTS, yes, REQUESTS made by the Democrats for additional revenues, were met with scorn by Republicans who grabbed all of their marbles and stormed out in a huff. In previous decades anger and disappointments were ordinary components involved in attempting to forge real bi-partisan consensus and compromises. Just because Democrats made additional proposals should not have been a valid reason to break off ALL attempts to reach an adequate solution. Instead, those proposals should have been discussed and accepted, or rejected, as part of a resolution process.

    You ask, Dr. J, when it will be convenient to refuse raising the ceiling if not during this ordinary and commonplace procedure needed to cover our debts. Can I ask you what the results were the last time Republicans made a power play over this vital government function? I seem to recall that despite repeated warnings from the President, the results included a well anticipated credit demotion from Standard and Poor’s. Do you expect something different this time?

    The way to get results is to continue to debate reasonably and, to make appropriate concessions where they are needed. During 2011 Obama was ready to make changes to entitlements and to accept many Republicans cuts, but this was all to no avail. But, Since the drama at the end of THIS year had mainly to do with Republicans finally agreeing to make sane concessions on revenue increases, Obama followed suit and conceded to raising the tax increase threshold to $450,000 for families and $400,000 for individuals. So, NOW is the time to discuss realistic cuts that can be made as a result of genuine compromise—not coercion and political extortion.

    How do you expect the American public, or any other group, to believe that Republicans honestly value saving our economy and bettering the lot of all Americans, when they seem to think nothing of risking all of the progress we have made towards the beginning or a real recovery, in favor of plunging us, again, into a deep recession, just for the supposed good of our fiscal health? And, if the ceiling is raised by another trillion, how will we achieve immediate and equivalent spending cuts which the Tea Party is demanding instantly? Will the process of forcing them be full of bitterness and partisan warfare as well?

    You may think there is some kind of virtue in this kind of political thuggery, but it is not just a matter of differing ideological opinions—it has to do with the fact that agreeing to FUTURE cuts IS THE ONLY WAY, to accomplish debt reduction without seriously damaging the economy! And, forget thinking that debt reduction is not as important to Democrats as it is to Republicans. The President compromised on his revenues proposals by agreeing to settle for smaller tax increases—how about Republicans agreeing on some extra revenues from closing loopholes, before even making any arbitrary demands for cuts?

    Obama has publicly proposed revenue neutral increases when balanced with equivalent cuts—something not so different from the intended purpose of Republicans who only want to raise taxes if additional cuts are made. This may not be easy, but if the GOP agreed to try, it would probably not be as difficult as originally feared.

    Think what you want, say what you want, argue, barter and make concessions along with demands, but don’t do so at the cost of interfering with the necessary functions of government in an almost, treasonous way—while holding all of our financial well beings prisoner! Above all, don’t create a catch 22 by assuming that Democrats will never live up to their promises, and therefore justify Republican refusals to do any real negotiating. If you want to, hold Dems accountable,and, make that accountability part of the process. This way if Obama and the Congressional Democrats refuse to follow through, it will be they who lose in the court of public opinion—not Republicans—who are already rapidly losing with every threat they make!

  • Dr. J

    Pete, I don’t really mean to defend the republicans. My point is that TMVers apoplectic about the debt ceiling could be calling for something more constructive than simply raising it.

  • slamfu

    Actually my solution isn’t really middle of the road anymore. I think the GOP should simply adopt the President’s plans. Obama’s plans do include spending cuts as well, just not the one the GOP wants. And it has been the GOP who, as Pete says, gets a counter offer and becomes incensed and basically walk away from talks. If they want to show me that Obama doesn’t know what he is doing, they should let his plans go forward. I’ve seen the GOP plans implemented and they don’t work.

    I don’t propose anything more “constructive” than raising the debt ceiling because it simply must happen. Congress may need a crisis to get anything done, but manufacturing one out of procedural issues is not the answer. The answer is for those in the Tea Party to stop acting like children when the actual budget negotiations are being held. Their arguments are weak, lacking in math, they know it, and also that the only possible path to getting what they want is to hold the nation over a barrel and hope saner people cave in the face of insane demands. The mere tactics is craven, either side employing it should be taken to the woodshed.


    All of you are ignoring one basic fact: the federal government creates the money it spends, households do not.

    Whether or not you choose to believe this, it is so. The “debt ceiling” is actually a limit on how big the economy can be (since without the federal gov’t creating the money, there is no extra money to grow said economy).

  • Dr. J

    Robert, the economy grows by producing more goods and services, not by printing more money, and certainly not by the government taking on deeper debts.

    Various countries have tried printing money like crazy, and the result is always massive inflation, not massive economic growth.

    Countries have also tried taking on huge amounts of debt, and the result is default–either an explicit one involving debt restructuring, or an implicit one by inflating the currency in which the debts are denominated.

  • SteveK

    Time out for a “Fact Break!”

    History of United States debt-ceiling increases

    Every President since Harry Truman has added to the national debt expressed in absolute dollars. The debt ceiling has been raised 74 times since March 1962, including 18 times under Ronald Reagan, eight times under Bill Clinton, seven times under George W. Bush and three times (to August 2011) under Barack Obama.

    Yes, yes, the Republicans (and other various and sundry nutters) say “IT’S different” this time…

    O.K. boys, why is it different THIS time?

    Helpful hint: “There’s a black man in the white house.” doesn’t qualify as an answer.

  • One other thing, Robert: with a few exceptions, the Federal Reserve (a private company) creates the money. The government still has to tax and borrow, paying interest on all that new debt. Part of the platinum coin discussion was that the treasury could be creating the cash interest free, and giving the Fed nothing to sell to fight inflation later.

  • petew

    Dr. J,

    When you refer to the debt ceiling and call for something “more constructive than simply raising it,” You might as well say something like, “Is all we can do to end drunken driving merely to pass laws and arrest those who violate them?” Or perhaps even, “Is the only way we can pay money we owe to the Federal Government by paying Income taxes?” Just check out section 4 and 5 of the 14th Amendment if you want to make certain what the rights of the federal government are regarding our public debts. In fact, deliberately disobeying the Government’s authority over such matters is a form of both rebellion and insurrection which is in direct violation of the laws that are defined by that amendment!

    In any case, laws already exist and the debt ceiling is only meant to cover debts that have already been incurred. To suggest not paying it for even one fiscal year, is foolish and unnecessary. If any of us, Republicans or Democrats, desire to cut government costs, the only sane way to do so is to negotiate for future changes.

    Additionally, your claim to being independent in your understanding of our fiscal problems without meaning to”defend” the ideas of Republican’s is also without merit! If I call for eliminating the right to vote for African American, this doesn’t necessarily mean I am prejudiced, however, I am definitely advocating an unconstitutional disenfranchisement of them. And, So far, the idea of forcing a failure of responsibly by neglecting the debt ceiling and not covering the payment of our debts which are already owed, has ONLY been widely supported by Republican, and they are primarily the advocates for doing so. Perhaps My opposition to such foolishness does not mean I am simply supporting Democratic ideas, but, in reality, that is exactly what I am doing— because paying our debts responsibly makes sense, and, Democrats are the head cheerleaders for using previously established sanity on this matter!

    If we want to eliminate the debt we need to rely on legal and sane compromises, not thuggery and hostage taking—the only definitions applicable to extorting the cooperation of Democrats by threatening the economic health of our country and the laws that promote that health!

    Think again, before accepting a ploy that illegally defies the government’s authority and even denies former President Reagan’s warnings and conventional wisdom concerning this matter!

  • zusa1

    Perhaps a better way to have handled this would have been to have had a budget in place that would have prevented hitting the ceiling in the first place.

    “An Open Letter To Washington On The Debt Ceiling: Do Your Job”

    “It’s been nearly four years since Harry Reid’s Senate fulfilled its most basic constitutional responsibility and passed a budget. President Obama’s own budget received zero votes in Congress last year, while the White House announced this week that President Obama will once again miss his legal deadline to submit a budget to Congress – for the fourth time in five years.”

    “The upcoming debt ceiling fight isn’t just about “paying our already committed bills,” as the President suggested in his most recent press conference. It’s about addressing the underlying causes of our debt and quitting our spending addiction before it poisons the economy for future generations.

    A clean debt ceiling raise with no budget proposals or spending cuts will create an incentive for Congress to continue spending with reckless abandon. ”
    “Harry Reid’s Great Disappearing Act
    He hides divisions among Democrats by turning the Senate into the world’s least deliberative body.”

  • zusa1

    “agreeing to FUTURE cuts IS THE ONLY WAY”

    This is unenforceable.

  • Dr. J

    Pete, I’ll be honest, I don’t really know what “debts already incurred” means. We’ve promised to pay all sorts of money to all sorts of people, including current federal employees, t-bill holders, and already-well-off retirees-to-be in the year 2060. On current course, we’re not going to be able to make good on all those promises. The sooner we figure out how to make ends meet, the better.

    Yet I cannot share your level of alarm over the debt ceiling crisis, because we’ve seen this picture before. Just last summer, in fact, at a political theater near you. There was much sturm und drang, including an S&P downgrade, but at the end of it all T-bill rates hit historic lows below 0.1% (compared with an average 3.66% since 1928).

    This is completely manufactured drama, presumably to get blood boiling among both Democrats and Republicans, to get people like you to write furious blog posts like you did. The debt ceiling will in fact get raised at the last minute, avoiding a default. And perhaps the drama will keep us from noticing that a default has already been occurring through more subtle means.

    The real threat to US creditworthiness is this sort of shenanigan, and our inability to get our fiscal house in order for the long term.

  • petew

    Zusai and Dr. J,

    If you will first pay me back, Zusai, I will then gladly listen to how you plan to avoid borrowing more money from me next time. Otherwise don’t expect me to accept your word when your present debts have not even been covered. I totally don’t get your comment about, agreeing to future spending cut, being unenforceable. Every bit of new legislation that is proposed by Congress happens before the fact and has been, for a very long time.

    Dr. J,

    Your insistence that the debt ceiling is only a manufactured problem (as I also assume is the refusal to raise it) sounds quite suspect to me. Sure we may make commitments to payments that are not presently covered, but that’s because we can rely on future revenues from Countries like China which believe in our high credit ratings, thus guaranteeing that we do not pose a credit risk to them. I would also like to know how all the uncovered payments you mention will be covered under Congressional debts without expecting and relying on future increases in revenue? Obviously, we have debts that are clearly paid for by our Government and the payment of which, rely on increasing our debt limit—they have for many, many, years! Are you saying that we never have needed to raise the debt limit for all of these years—even when the government clearly must make additional financial outlays–say perhaps, like starting and paying for two trillion dollar wars in the Middle East, or perhaps like bailing out all of the “too big to fail” businesses—which absolutely required to be given bailouts,in order to prevent complete financial collapse? And what about natural disasters that are ever-increasing as CO2 emissions continue? Should we not be able to raise the debt ceiling in anticipation of expenses like these? If we contribute $60 billion to relief and assistance for hurricane Sandy’s victims does this mean we should be immediately required to cut $60 billion elsewhere? I’d like to see the magic trick required to maintain government functions under this unreasonable and risky scenario!

    We can’t always predict the directions that National and world markets will take, but we can accept the simple principle that, when a government with a previously sterling credit rating, suddenly is unable to cover its debts (even for one year) That this is not good, and can’t be good, for our country.

    Agencies like Standard and Poor’s do actually, really, truly, lower credit ratings because of such things, and, if you insist on overlooking an allowance for future expenses, then you will have to make draconian cuts to pay for them once they materialize!

    You can guess that the economy might not suffer greatly when it’s borrowing interest rates increase, but, even if that temporarily happens, don’t hold your breath waiting for the trend to continue indefinitely.

    The reason why this travesty angers me is that it involves a purely brazen political power play, intended to hi-jack and control our government—no matter what the government really needs to do, or, what we as citizens—might desire. Sure, we can endure some power plays, but not when a fragile and recovering economy is at stake!

    You may somehow think that your ideas are revolutionary or intelligent but they make no impression on most economists nor most Americans. If you insist on managing my savings account by forcing future deposits cuts (analogous to reducing taxation revenues) which are required to cover my expenses, then not only will I not agree with your management, but my account will become stagnant and fail to grow in the future—a quality very important in our ever changing world and it’s interrelated economy!

    Both parties and their leaders should agree to cuts, but based on revenue increases that help balance the equation. I don’t understand why you object to such a sound revenue neutral proposition from Democrats?—especially when over time, adjustments will be made that increase cuts enough (along with modest tax increases) to lower the debt? Whatever way this is accomplished will take years, not immediate and radical surgery, that forces doctors to comply and operate!

  • Dr. J

    Pete, you seem to be directing a lot of those comments at me, but I have no idea how they relate to anything I wrote. If someone came out against increasing either debt ceiling or revenues, it wasn’t me. Nor did I comment on your savings account.

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