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Raise the Debt Ceiling? Why don’t the lower the Spending Floor?

From the diaries by Erick

Well, those crazy, right-wing, nut-job teabaggers have breached the palace gates, and are marauding around like barbarian hordes, unwashed, in cheap Joseph A. Bank off-the-peg suits, froth dribbling from their open mouths, looking for some Guinevere to rape and pillage.

Starting today, Washington is under siege.

These stump-toothed yokels, after disembarking from Jed Clampett’s Model “T” truck, are stomping and knuckle-dragging their way up the Capitol Steps, brandishing actual functioning calculators, copies of the Federal Register and annotated volumes of the Budget, intent on… on.. gasp…

Cutting Expenditures.

Now, the Magic Merlins of Wall Street are quick to point out that you simply don’t do that in the Palace Courts. It isn’t proper. It isn’t Cricket. No, you are to bow courteously to the great Ministers Prince Harry and his liegelords, beg for alms, remove quietly, and attend Georgetown cocktail parties when invited. Perchance one day, you will be asked to sing a song, or dance a jig for the amusement of your betters, but until then, attend the damned etiquette classes, and shut the hell up. Oh, and another thing: Leave the calculators at the door. They don’t have enough zeros anyway.

Mind you, these rubes from the provinces have no Washington experience. Good Lord no. They are just a roving pack of surgeons, CEO’s, former mayors, college professors, what-have-you; There’s not a single David Rockefeller in the bunch. They simply don’t understand the sublimity of “current maturities”, and “liabilities”. So when these, these “teabaggers” make calls for clamping down the ceiling on the Debt Limit, the don’t understand that this puts bondholders, Social Security recipients, and vendors at risk. Nay, it puts a match to the very foundation of the Republic! Rather like the minutes and hours of September 20th, 2008, when Hank Paulson (brother, I guess, of Pat) went on TV and blubbered about the sky falling unless we passed TARP –NOW!– Or the sky would INDEED FALL, we MUST, we MUST raise the Debt Ceiling!! NOW!! We SPEND here in Washington, you fools! There is no other end of the account ledger!

Oh, please. These same Tea Party Americans that set their careers aside for a season, that put their lives on “hold” to serve their countrymen know a thing or two about finance. I might even guess that more than a few of them hold a million or so in government-backed securities. Or have a Mom or a Dad on Social Security, or are depending on the Federal Government to reimburse hospitals with Medicare funds. (Er, wait. Scratch that. Most hospitals now are already waiting months for reimbursements.)

The Tea Party Congress has the knowledge that there are two sides to a ledger: Assets, and Liabilities. Revenues, and Expenditures. They come from a place (albeit very foreign and strange to the average ensconced Washingtonian) where you don’t just wave your Magic Wand, and more revenue gets printed. To them, there is no Sugar Tree. In the businesses from which the Tea Party hales, when things get dicey, they don’t make it a practice of walking into their hometown bank, walk up the Customer Service Counter, and yell out “screw you! I’m raising my debt limit! Here, take an I.O.U!”

No, they look around for cheaper insurance, lower rents, cuts in advertising, cheaper raw goods, and renegotiation with lenders to make the ends meet. Sometimes, they even sell assets, and lay off good employees.

Here in Michigan, we have a state park about which some my be aware: Mackinac Island. It is famous for fudge, and not allowing cars to trundle around on the lone state highway there. As I say, it is a State Park. Very few know, however, that it was once a National Park, the second one established after Yellowstone. But the US Government sold it to the State of Michigan in 1894, during a Panic, when the Feds needed cash. Am I suggesting we sell off the National Mall? Maybe. But, I’d start with, say, oil leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or some of the trillion-or-so acres of federal land that lay fallow. Other cuts may occur to them at whiles; and, the sale of some assets would raise billions and cut expenditures.

People who call such things unreasonable, or uneducated, are fundamentally unserious about the gravity of our long-term debt problems here in America. Unfunded liabilities for our various social contracts are, at this point (if you add in the liabilities of the States) unknowable; probably in the Hundred Trillion-Dollar range. This is beyond the scope of the human mind to even comprehend, let alone make stabs at paying off in some far distant day.

When you can’t pay the heat bill, you empty the pool. When you can’t buy groceries, you stop going to restaurants. When you can’t afford the gas, you sell the yacht. You don’t pay off your credit card by taking out another credit card. Here in Tea Party America, we get it.

Here in the hinterlands, we know one way to raise the ceiling is to lower the floor.

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