Debt fight! A game of honor and dimplomacy!

"...Debt fight! Tensions are high. Debt fight! Eye for eye.

I thought I might make a list of things I’m looking forward to over the next few weeks than I am the fight over the federal budget and our national debt. But that was taking too long, so I decided to make a list of things I’m dreading more than the budget/debt fight. But, I couldn’t come up with anything.

President Obama gave his speech outlining his deficit-reduction plan today, after Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) gave the GOP version. Commence finger pointing and name calling. Each side is accusing the other of not being serious about debt reduction. “There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires,” said Obama. “The American people will not stand for (raising the debt limit) unless it is accompanied by serious action to reduce our deficit,” countered Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH).

Both the Republican Democrat plans estimate they can shave about $4 billion off the debt over the next 10-12 years, but – of course – they have very different ideas about how to get there. Both of those plans – also of course – cling to traditional party ideologies. Boehner was very revealing on Sean Hannity’s radio show this afternoon, claiming he did the best he could for his “team” during the negotiations to keep the government from shutting down last week and he’ll keep fighting for his team. It’d be nice if he was fighting for Americans, but whatever.

The Tanned One told Hannity that they won’t budge of tax cuts, a stance for which he was praised. Hannity frequently claims he wants an “all hands on deck” strategy when it comes to energy policy, including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear and green energies in working toward energy independence. He clearly doesn’t believe in the same approach when it comes to the deficit. None of the Republicans do, apparently. At a time when both sides agree it’s time to get “serious” about fixing our debt problem, it’s a shame Republicans are willing to take options off the table.

Raising taxes doesn’t have to be “soaking the rich,” as the Republicans call it. A small increase to the upper-level income earners can be a key piece of balancing our budget, and we don’t have to look any farther back than the Clinton administration. The top tax rate then – when we last had a balanced budget – was 39.6%. Under Obama it’s currently about 35%. Pushing it back up4.6% is hardly a soaking, especially when you consider it was 43.5% under Bush and went from 69.13% to 50% between 1981 and 1986 under Ronald Reagan. From there it went to 38.5% – close to the Clinton-era number – before falling to 28% over Reagan’s final 13 months.

But that alone isn’t going to fix things. Spending cuts are needed across the board, and it’s hard to imagine there should be any sacred cows right now. Democrats need to give some ground on Social Security, unemployment/welfare benefits, Medicare and Medicaid. Republicans need to allow meaningful cuts to our defense budget. World military expenditures reached an estimated $1.531 trillion in 2009. The U.S. was responsible for 46.5%. The next highest country was China, at 6.6%. In fact, you can add the expenditures of China, France, the U.K. and Russia and only come up with 18.1% Heck, add the next 10 countries to that total and you won’t equal what the U.S. spends on defense.

Defense, Social Security, unemployment/welfare, Medicare and Medicaid. That’s approximately 75.48% of the budget. None of them have to suffer too much if all of them suffer a little.

But there’s one big problem: 2012. There’s a big election coming and this fight over the deficit is going to be a prelude to what should be a particularly nasty election season. This will be all about team, not country. Don’t doubt that.


P.S. — If you don’t know where the title of this blog post came from, watch this: “Bat Fight,” on Funny or Die.


Election thoughts

I voted.

I voted, so now I can complain.

Last night was something special. It was either a typical mid-term election, where the balance of power once again swings back the other way, or it was a major tidal change in American politics. A lot of that depends on which cable news station you prefer.

Now the Republicans have the House and they’ve closed the gap in the Senate. I have a new senator (Roy Blunt) and representative (Billy Long) serving me in congress and a new face on the Greene County commission (Jim Viebrock).

But what does it all mean?

I’ve put some thought to this today and I’m equal parts cautiously optimistic and aggressively pessimistic. The Republicans are saying a lot of the right things right now. It’s the old “I’m sorry, baby. I learned my lesson. This time’ll be better, I promise.” And, as a born-and-raised conservative, I want to believe them.

But there are thorns on that olive branch they’re extending. Rep. John Boehner, the future Speaker of the House, has already said the Republicans will confront the Democrats when they don’t agree with “the people.” It’s that part that scares me. Who are “the people” he’s talking about? How will he decide what the people want? If the public turns favorable on health care reform, will they back off? I’m doubtful.

Perhaps the most telling Republic quote of this election cycle comes from Mitch McConnell, in an interview with National Journal.

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

I have no doubt that he means it, and that’s what bothers me. If things turn around – and there’s reason to believe they will – the Republicans stand to lose some momentum going into the 2012 elections and may even fail to reclaim the White House. So this is the moment of truth: Will they throw themselves into real reform to ensure the country is on the right track, hoping they’ll reap the credit in 2012? Or will they continue to obstruct and sandbag, and use a faltering economy to push for bigger gains.

The adventure beings for all of us in January.

The fine crew at Ancillary Adams has a take on the elections. You can view it here.


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