Free Markets, Free People

Debt limit talks — DC Math and political theater mask the lack of seriousness concerning out-of-control spending

Speaker of the House Boehner’s plan for deficit and debt reduction was shown to be an exercise in “DC Math”.   The CBO scored the proposal and determined that the 1.2 trillion “savings” over 10 years actually cut only $1 billion in actual spending next year.

The first installment of $900 billion is contingent on enacting 10 year caps on annual appropriations which the leadership had hoped would save well over $1 trillion. But CBO late Tuesday came back with a report showing the legislation would reduce deficits by $850 billion when measured against the agency’s most current projections for spending.

Yeah, I think we want significantly deeper cuts in spending than that.  And of course, keep in mind most Democrats were even opposed to that.

But at least Boehner actually had a plan CBO could score.  From Jim Geraghty’s  “Morning Jolt” we learn of this conversation in the White House press room (Weekly Standard):

[Chuck] Todd asked Carney about the White House’s reluctance to release its plan to deal with the national debt and raising the debt ceiling. Carney acknowledged the White House was playing games. "We’re showing a lot of leg," he said. When Todd pressed for details — "Why not just release it?" — Carney seemed surprised. "You need it written down?"

What a difference two years makes. In the spring of 2009, with Republicans in the minority in the House of Representatives, the White House and its Democratic allies were demanding specifics. The House GOP had to produce an alternative budget, the White House demanded, in order to show that they were serious about governing.

Geraghty also points to a wonderful rant by Guy Benson over at Townhall concerning the demand for an actual plan:

Yes, actually, we do need "something printed." Since his unmitigated failure of a budget was unanimously defeated in the Senate, this president has refused to offer a specific plan of his own on virtually anything at all. Instead, he talks about "visions" and "contours" and "frameworks" — and tries to blame his opponents when his poor leadership is exposed. Over the last five days, the president has (a)undermined a bargain with John Boehner by introducing an unacceptable eleventh-hour condition, (b) rejected "out of hand" a bipartisan compromise that he found to be politically unpalatable, and (c) delivered a speech that painted his opponents as the intractable extremists. In light of this behavior, it’s entirely reasonable for Americans to wonder what, precisely, Barack Obama’s proposed solution might be. Today, the White House dismissively waived off that question as a GOP talking point and condescendingly inquired if the journalist who dared to ask it was capable of taking notes.

I’ll close with an unsolicited word of advice, and a friendly reminder from the CBO director. The advice: When you’re already plumbing new depths of unpopularity, dialing up your arrogance isn’t a winning strategy. Even David Brooks finds it unseemly.

By the way, Harry Reid’s plan is purported to show about $2 trillion plus in savings by assuming the wars we’re involved in will cost hundreds of billions a year for 10 years, knowing full well that those wars are wrapping up and wrapping up soon (well except for Libya which seems to have shifted from “weeks not months” to “months not years” at this point).

In other words the usual nonsense from Washington DC.  Math tricks which say to anyone who is on to them, “these guys aren’t serious”.


Twitter: @McQandO

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

22 Responses to Debt limit talks — DC Math and political theater mask the lack of seriousness concerning out-of-control spending

  • You can really count on Republican leaders.

  • I’m not at all convinced the Boehner was being tricky so much as writing budgetary law is tricky.
    Note that we have a CBO, largely for that very reason.
    Note that Boehner yanked his plan immediately after it was scored.  Obviously (to me) he wanted it to do what the CBO said it would not.

    • As much as I’d like to cut Boehner and Co. some slack, I can’t.  While budgetary law can be intricate (pages and pages of “therefores” and “shalls” and “be it enacteds”), the idea is pretty straightforward: “I have $X to spend.  How do I allocate the money to best meet my obligations and then my desires without going over and having to borrow, and ideally even having some left to start paying off my debts?”

      Boehner seems to be playing a game: “I have $X to spend.  Well, I can also borrow even more, but I’ve got to make it look like I’m really not.  How do I allocate the money to meet my obligations and desires while making it look like I’m trying to spend as little as possible?  How do I trick people into believing that I’ve PROMISED (pinky-swearz!) to spend less money IN THE FUTURE to get away with spending more than I have now?”

      This has worked in the past, but it’s getting harder for the politicians on both sides to play that game because (A) we’re really, really up against a borrowing limit and (B) people are paying attention and can’t really understand how borrowing more money gets you out of debt.

      • That is a gross over-simplification.
        Writing ANY law is difficult…writing a good simple criminal code can be very complex.
        Budgetary law is VASTLY more complex, as it ramifies out in ALL kinds of ways.
        Boenher and LOTS of other people…many of them rock-solid conservatives…thought that his plan would do what he intended.  When it became apparent it would not, he yanked it.
        True or not?

        • True, which is actually a good sign – I’m liking him a little better after the rebuttal the other day.
          Barry ain’t use to a bar room brawl, he likes to do his dirty work at a wine and cheese party, slipping the blade in here and there between the brie and the merlot.  Boenher pulled a broken bottle on him after his “Mommy make them stop!” speech.

  • I propose we postpone the conquest of Alpha Centauri in 2050, thereby saving $100 gazillon, an additional $200 bajillion in spending cuts can be realized by our not buying Proponian liquor for the embassy bar on Epslion Tau Ceti in 2055.

  • Paul Krugman continues to show why the Nobel Prize is forever tarnished …

    We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.

    Paul lost me here … what f-ing plans are those ?  I haven’t seen any plans out of the Pres**ent.

    • On that last quote …

      … while the president and Democrats in Congress are …

      Notice anything odd ?   a lower-case “president” ?
      “Democrats” and “Congress” get capital letters, but not “president”.

      Hey Paul, why not just call him “Pres**ent” ??

    • They’re secret plans that can’t be written down and don’t need to be written down, but Paul sees them at night when he closes his eyes just before he drifts off to dreamy dreams of herds of moon ponies trimming his beard and bringing him cupcakes.

  • I change my mind.  A default is looking good right now.

    • Yeah. I hate that. It’s an awful outcome, but as best as I can tell, every other feasible outcome is worse.

      Might as well get it over with. Tar this whole generation of politicians with the fruits of their actions. Maybe, just maybe, they can then be replaced by the ones who are not afraid to take the dramatic actions necessary to trim back government to a sustainable level.

    • They reject spending cuts as a means of fixing the problem because they’ve demonstrated to themselves repeatedly that spending cuts (the way they do them) do not work.
      They’re admitting they can’t control spending.

      • And THAT is the real danger we face.
        Showing the world that our system is broken…not systemically, by a long shot…politically broken.  Power class broken.

  • Obama has called on massive reductions in the deficit, and in negotiations was pushing figures near $4 trillion.  In fact, one reason negotiations failed is the Gang of Six plan had more taxes on the wealthy than Obama had in his position, and he knew he had to increase that to have a chance getting through the Senate.  That’s when Boehner walked.  The only way to have real progress is if both parties compromise and each gives something.   Otherwise, they’ll block each other.  Obama’s speech Monday was spot on accurate.  Also, don’t rule out the 14th amendment yet.  Of course they had to deny it was an option — otherwise their own forces would never support the plans Obama was putting forth.  Being a moderate/conservative Democrat, Obama’s biggest problems now come from his left.  But if nothing or only something like the Boehner plan come out, don’t be surprised to see a veto and the 14th amendment being used after all, because “we must protect the good name of the American people on financial deals, and avoid economic collapse.”   Who would win in such a case?   The GOP would take it to court, and depending on how long that takes it at least would buy time.  But if House Republicans think their pretension to becoming dictators over the other branches of government will work, they’re going to learn a lesson about power.

    • But if House Republicans think their pretension to becoming dictators over the other branches of government will work
      >>> Wasserman-Schultz says it, and here you are parroting it mere hours later.
      Eff the both of you.

      • Parroting DWS within hours?
        Oh man, take a stroll through the #TGMTDWS tweets (like this), popularized by David Burges (@iowahawkblog).  I think Erb may be the one man on Earth who genuinely envies TGMTDWS.

    • Obama has called on massive reductions in the deficit, and in negotiations was pushing figures near $4 trillion.

      Written down in moon-pony farts.
      I wouldn’t have thought even you were stupid enough to bring that bullspit here.
      You have exceeded my low opinion…which is going some.
      Obama is a Collectivist thug in an expensive suit.
      You are just an idiot.

    • Erb, please forgive this rant but it must be said, I have enjoyed reading to comments and more so the responses by the neighborhood, but God man? what is wrong with you? “Obama has called on massive reductions in the deficit, and in negotiations was pushing figures near $4 trillion.” uh? where is that written down?
      “Being a moderate/conservative Democrat, Obama’s biggest problems now come from his left.” I don’t even know how to respond too such complete and utter B.S.  just wow…

    • U*h, okay Scott, how about you show us the details of the Obama plan.
      Go ahead.

    • Your idea of a winning plan is to say “let’s win”.
      You’re an utterly bankrupt talking points parroting jackass of the first water.

    • Did part of the plan confuse you Scott?  Been a couple days, I figured by now you’d be well versed in the nuance of it.

      Present it to us, and we can reason together and see if we can sort it out so we can reach a balanced answer.

      How are the crickets this year in Maine?  I notice they are very loud here right now.