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Posted by on Mar 3, 2010 in At TMV, Breaking News, Economy, Politics | 5 comments

The Bunning Factor

Sen. James Bunning, R-Kentucky, is going away, mercifully, because he is retiring at the end of this legislative session.

Despite his mean, selfish arrogant demeanor, he leaves an indelible stamp on national fiscal policy that will not go away.

Liberals won’t admit it. Only the hardest corp of Republican conservatives and Tea Partiers embrace it.

“It” is the continued insanity of borrowing money from foreign countries — primarily Communist China — to pay for public social, infrastructure and, yes, military defense programs with only the promise of “good faith” we will ever pay it back. And, that’s assuming inflation won’t kill it first.

That’s the point Bunning was trying to make. Awkwardly.

For a week, his one-man obstructionism abusing Senate rules cost taxpayers additional money than originally set out by blocking a temporary extension of unemployment and insurance benefits, forcing a 21% cut of Medicare repayments to doctors and halting construction on infrastructure construction projects.

Let’s call it the Bunning Principle for lack of a better description. His methods arriving there proved his madness.

It was akin to the commissioner of the National Football League stopping a game in progress and changing the rules.

Bunning may have been following Senate rules but he arbitrarily took a “pay as you go” policy measure he voted against and helped defeat and then had the gall to invoke this phantom ghost on a unanimous consent vote to extend the unemployment, measure.

Trying to explain Bunning’s behavior has elicited prime time entertainment hilarity in hypocrisy. We’ve all heard it. He voted on numerous occasions in favor of the Bush administration unfunded tax cuts, Medicare prescription plan and two wars. Reasonable people ask, “Why now?”

Our resident psychiatrist, Dr. Clarrisa Pinkola Estes, suggests Bunning fits the broad parameters of being mentally unstable.

It is possible we have a 78-year-old psycho in the Senate that we can point to with some confidence.

Only Bunning could stand at the Senate lectern and admit he preferred to let Rome burn by watching the Kentucky – South Carolina college basketball game without being rushed by men and white clothes whisking him off to a mental institution.

I am uncertain whether that’s because many of us believe he goes against the grain of common sense, distorting facts molded for his own self interest, or we simply oppose his political principles.

What we do know is he’s a political loner, unliked even by his Republican comrades, has missed Senate sessions for a week at a time without reasons and displays periodic temper tantrums.

It could be Bunning’s nastiness and lack of compassion was born on the baseball diamond. A Hall of Fame pitcher, Bunning didn’t get there by being a happy-go-lucky free spirit as Dizzy Dean, but a mean, determined and fierce competitor as Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale who would throw at a batter’s head if he crowded the plate. The Senate is not to be confused with a baseball field.

I don’t know how Bunning ever got elected to Congress other than riding his famous name and an electorate willing to overlook his personal gaffes because of it. We do know in the rough and tumble politics of Kentucky, his Republican Senate cohort Mitch McConnell managed to cut off his campaign funding for this year’s reelection battle. Bunning was outraged and made no secret about it.

Which brings us to the Bunning Factor.

Rand Paul, one of the Republican candidates seeking Bunning’s seat, agrees with the incumbent that Congress must stop paying for programs with printed money and Treasury borrowing notes.

Dozens of other congressional candidates already have expressed that sentiment in races in other states in what I suspect will be the mantra of the Republican congressional and senatorial races leading into the November general election. And, fastened to their shirttails will be the Tea Party crowd. In fact, it could become a tsunami the likes of which we saw in the Obama campaign for president.

Here’s the rub. Saying you’ll cut taxes, reduce spending and pay-as-you go as a candidate is one thing. Doing it as an elected member of Congress is quite another. The view is much different when you’re held accountable.

The timing of the Bunning Principle was atrocious. The way to invoke it is at the beginning of each legislative session and then stick to it if you have the political spine.

One whining excuse I keep hearing from the Democrats is the finger pointing at the Republicans who started it. True, in the short term, but this deficit spending trend has been around since the days of the FDR administration, only progressively worse.

Here’s a novel suggestion that politicians of all stripes and voters of all persuasions must absorb in their fat heads:

If there’s a preponderance of consent that a program should be enacted or expanded and there is no money to borrow or pay for it, the only remaining recourse is to raise taxes.

There, I said the most dreaded word in the political lexicon.

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  • ProfElwood

    At the personal level, I tell people that if they can’t afford it, then they can’t afford it with interest.

    Although the federal government can cheat a bit by just printing more money, the same basic principles apply.

  • dduck12

    I’m addicted to Chinese food, the U.S. to Chinese bond buyers.

  • Yes, deficit spending has been used by lots of administrations, as well as businesses and individuals. We all need to use credit. But the idea that it’s been going on since FDR is false. In terms of national debt (that is, revenue minus deficit) most have payed down, not racked up.

    In fact, since WWII EVERY PRESIDENT has reduced the national debt as a % of GDP, except 3 – Reagan (who tripled the debt), Bush (who doubled it again) and W. We don’t know yet about Obama.

    All of the numbers are from the General Accounting Office and are posted on the White House website. Bunning is a hypocrite, as are his supporters. They all chose to raise the debt repeatedly, and only now say that Dems and only Dems should rein it in.

  • kritt11

    GD, I agree. Bunning had no problem with deficit spending when the GOP held the majority in Congress. Apparently, fiscal discipline is only held in high regard when a Democratic administration stands to gain from flouting it.
    Bunning must have temporary amnesia because he supported deficit spending for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, supported it when his constituents received hefty tax cuts,supported it when billions were wasted on developing weapons systems that were already obsolete before production, and supported it when the Medicare part D prescription plan was enacted.

    How wonderful for him that he has suddenly remembered his Republican “principles”, and is now so concerned with reducing the deficit!

  • CStanley

    One point that seems to be neglected in these Bunning threads is that there was money in the ARRA bill that could have (should have) been used to pay for these emergency extensions. That, I believe was what Bunning tried to accomplish via an amendment to the initial bill which was funded with additional deficit spending.

    It wasn’t a matter of raising additional tax revenue to pay for this…they could have used the stash that they’d already put aside for this sort of spending but they were choosing to put it on the credit card instead.

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