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, et.al. 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.
Jerry Remmers worked 26 years in the newspaper business. His last 23 years was with the Evening Tribune in San Diego where assignments included reporter, assistant city editor, county and politics editor.