Skip to main content

There is a simple legislative fix for all of this country's fake veto point and legislative hostage taking problems.  It will rescue us from what we have already lost in the recent budget ceiling debacle, and, more importantly, will completely prevent all future budget hostage taking.

Congress just has to pass a law that says that the annual budget bills mean what the unsophisticated observer might imagine that they mean already -- that if they say a spending obligation is the law of the land, then it is just that, the law of the land.  This law would clarify that Treasury has the authority and responsibility to borrow as much as it has to in order to meet all of the spending obligated by law in the annual budget bills.  

The Politics, first cut

This law could be offered as a separate measure.  Of course it won't pass in that form, neither the R-controlled House, nor the R-filibusterable Senate.

The obvious effect of this law would be to disarm the debt ceiling statute as any sort of threat in a hostage taking situation.  The debt ceiling would become like a water pistol aimed straight at the head of the US economy, because this law would make the effective ceiling that applies to Treasury be whatever amount of debt is required to meet all US obligations.  The debt ceiling law would go back to being what it was designed to be, its only effect what everyone imagined was its only effect until the clown car stopped at the Capitol and unloaded the Teahadists -- a purely internal requirement applying to Congress alone.  

Of course the Rs don't want to see that result.  They don't want their little Constitutional workaround blocked.  They want to be able to make and unmake laws.  But to make new law or repeal old law in this country, you need majorities in both chambers plus the president, or you need 2/3 majorities in both chambers.  Look it up.  It's in the Constitution.

Sadly for the Teahadists, they only control one chamber.  They still want the power to pass new laws and repeal old ones, but they don't have what the Constitution says you need to do that.  So they have invented veto points not seen in the actual Constitution, so that their majority in one chamber can threaten to make all laws inoperable, and can threaten economic ruin, by throttling spending.  Of course they're not going to favor a law that removes their greasy little House majority hands from around the country's neck.

The Policy

Now, practially speaking, we can probably stop talking about this idea right now.  If the Rs don't like an idea, forget about it.  Our side nominally controls one chamber plus the White House, while the other side controls only one chamber; but, please, get real.  We all know that our side doesn't do anything, no matter how needful, no matter how politically useful and policy needful, if that would upset the Rs.  So yes, when I get to the second take on the politics of this, when I discuss how our side would actually implement this idea, it will be a sort of science fiction, an exploration of an alternate universe in which the Ds behave like a political party.

I want to discuss the policy implications here, the Constitutional and legal structure involved, to try to establish that this discussion is at least hard science fiction, and not some pure fantasy with no possible relation to reality.  We could do this.  It makes perfect sense in terms of how the legislative process works to do this.  In fact, I will argue, a Truth in Budgeting Act is absolutely necessary to getting the sytem to work, to preventing the imminent collapse of that process threatened by this use of fake veto points.  

These debt ceiling laws that we have had for almost a century were never intended to be veto points.  The clear purpose of the debt ceiling laws has been to force a vote in Congress.  Before 1917, before Congress started delegating to Treasury the authority and responsibility to issue US debt on its own, there was no need for a trigger to insure Congressional oversight of the size of the national debt.  Congress voted to authorize every bond issue, and oversight wuld occur before every new bond was put on the market.  When it delegated the issuing of US debt, it started having these debt ceiling statutes as a way to force the leadership to schedule a vote on increasing the ceiling.  If you force a vote, you force consideration, hearings and witnesses, a public airing of the growing size of the debt, and possible alternatives to simply increasing the ceiling, such as raising taxes and/or cutting spending.

It is difficult to imagine that there was any intention that the ceiling was meant to be a sort of self-destruct button for the budgetary process that any of three parties could unilaterally push and thereby bring about a situation in which the US repudiates spending obligations.  That would be a truly extraordinary intention, one that you would think the ceiling statutes would state very clearly, both because of the disastrous consequences of following that interpretation, and because that interpretation puts the ceiling law at odds with all the statutes that legally obligate spending.  You would think that that intention to force selective repudiation of obligations, because there would still be a revenue stream capable of meeting some obligations, would have to be accompanied by statutory guidance dictating that selection of what obligations are paid, vs which ones are stiffed.  The absence of such a prioritization in law would seem to be, all by itself, a complete disqualifier of any interpretation that the ceiling statutes are intended to keep Treasury from borrowing as much as is necessary to meet all spednign obligations.  Without the authority in law to prioritize spending, any prioritization that Treasury did follow would usurp Congress's sole control of spending.

It's not as if you need a debt ceiling set at some dollar figure in order to preserve Congress's sole control over borrowing.  Congress has imposed another debt ceiling on Treasury, in that it has given that department the authority and responsibility to project revenue and obligations, and then borrow the difference to insure that the US always meets its obligations.  Treasury does that all the time, borrows right up to what is needed to meet obligations, and no more.  That's the Congressionally-imposed debt ceiling Treasury follows all the time; it borrows as much as it needs to, increases the national debt as high as it needs to be, to avoid repudiation of any US spending obligations.  

That other debt ceiling, the one that has caused all of this ruckus, is a complete fifth wheel in terms of what Treasury does.  No other government on the planet has such an arrangement as the one we have if you interpret the ceiling statute as limiting Treasury's borrowing authority.  That's because that arrangement makes no sense.  The same House that voted for a certain level of spending just a few months ago when it passed last year's budget bills, now says it won't let Treasury honor the legal committment to pay all the spending obligations it just voted into law.  And this interpretation of the ceiling law says that one chamber can do that, one chamber's inaction can set aside what the trifecta hath written into the supposed law of the land.  That's a mere logical consistency until you actually allow it in practice, at which point it becomes a known exploit, a hack into the system available to any party unscrupulous enough to use it.  Such an unscrupulous party can get anything they want if this exploit is allowed to work, because it allows them to hold govt spending hostage, it allows them to force repudiation of the legal obligations of the US.  Of course that's no way to run a railroad, of course no polity on the planet runs that way.

Ours doesn't really run that way either.  And if we keep pretending it does, if we keep pretending that the debt ceiling statute is a real veto point, our system actually won't run much longer at all.

The Politics, second cut

Okay, enough reality, back to the politics of the situation.

We have already lost the chance to fight this particular fake veto point and its abusers the direct way, by just not playing along.  One way to deal with this latest hostage taking would have been to just tell the Rs that they were perfectly welcome to refuse to raise the debt ceiling.  Treasury would continue to follow the debt ceiling actually imposed on it in law, however much that Treasury has to borrow in order to meet all the spending obligations created by Congress.  Publish and be damned, or words to that effect.

Perhaps we failed to deal with this threat the direct and honest way because the administration didn't really view the Teahadists' aims as a threat, and Obama went along with the pretence that raising the ceiling is a real veto point because he found it convenient to aid and abet the Teahadists in their hostage-taking.  Or perhaps Obama was concerned that the electorate couldn't be bothered to understand the intricacies of which statute Treasury had to ignore to preserve all the statutes, and that as a result KENYAN USURPATION would become all we were going to hear from the Right's noise machine from now until election day. Or perhaps the folks in the WH were just so fixated on winning the week in the poll numbers that they just couldn't be bothered to think this through.  Or perhaps gtomkins has tertiary syphilis and the debt ceiling actually is a veto point.

At this stage of the game, it no longer matters.  Our side did the grand bargain, we bought into the idea that the debt ceiling actually is legally binding on Treasury, that it is an actual veto point under the law as it exists now.  Whatever the risk that the public would have viewed Treasury ignoring the ceiling as a willful disregard of the law before we gave this validation, that is now beyond a risk, it's a dead certainty.

The only possible course of action is to change the law so that the debt ceiling is very clearly and explicitly no longer a constraint on Treasury.

We stop talking about the other side as hostage-takers.  It's true.  It would have been both true and strong before we gave in to the hostage-taking.  Now it's true but very, very weak.

Instead, the story now is that our side went along with the intent of the ceiling law.  The national debt neared the limit, so our side did exactly what that law intended.  We participated in a good faith cooperative effort with the esteemed other side to look into the growing size of the national debt, and alternatives to simply raising it to cover all obligations, to consider also raising taxes and cutting those spending obligations.  And so this SuperCongress was born.  Praise democracy and all its holy works, allelujah!

But, you know, in the course of this eminently praiseworthy process, certain voices were heard muttering from the outer darkness about the potential inherent in this debt ceiling law for it to be abused as a hostage-taking mechanism.  There's a serpent in every Paradise.  Not that the honorable GOP would ever consider doing anything like that.  Which is exactly why we're sure that they will want to join us in this Truth in Budgeting Act of 2011, to forever put to rest any possibility that malign forces might one day misuse this law to take hostages.  Of course Republicans would never do such a thing, but the political landscape is full of Kenyan Usurpers, ACORN-like entities and other Democrats, so we really have to act now to prevent such a possibility.

All this law would do is make the spending committments the US makes when the Congress passes the budget laws every year, actual promises, promises not subject to a unilateral veto by the WH, or by bare majorities in only one chamber, or just by gridlock, and the inability of the system as a whole to reach agreement in time.  Think of it as Covenant Budgeting, or Promise Keeper Budgeting, if you want to pull in the evangelicals.  When the US promises to pay, it actually will pay, period.  No matter what roadblocks are thrown in the way either by the willful hostage-taking of any party, or just by inertia and inefficiency, Treasury will always be both authorized and required to pay all legal spending obligations undertaken by Congress, and to borrow what it has to in order to do that.

Again, the practical effect of this law, if passed, would be to defang the SuperCongress.  It reaches an agreement on cuts, fine, those cuts still have to pass as laws, get the assent of both chambers and the president.  It fails to reach an agreement on cuts, and whatever automatically triggered cuts that were supposed to ensue now have to pass as laws, because spending obligations undertaken in law will only be repealable by law once the Truth in Budgeting Act is the law of the land.  And of course, never again.  The budget ceiling will never be usable to hold the country hostage again, ever.  

So of course the other side will oppose it.  

Let them.  How do they justify that?  The country is heartily sick of hostage-taking, and threatened default and threatened shutdowns.  When the controversy is between alternate budgets, the Rs can crank up their noise machine to muddy the question and cast blame for the crisis they created onto both sides, because both sides do have competing spending priorities from which they refuse to budge (well, refuse until our side gives in).  But how can either side be in favor of keeping the ceiling as a means to take hostages?  How do they object to a law outlawing budgetary hostage-taking?  Sure, they'll crank up their noise machine against the Truth in Budgeting Act, but what will that machine say against it?  Damned ACORN plot to have the law mean what it says it means, to have the promises to spend that the US makes in law actually carry the force of law?

Of course they'll vote against it anyway, public opinion be damned.  So our side holds the budget bills hostage, refuses to allow either the bills themselves, or any CRs, to pass without this law as an amendment.  Clarifying that any year's budget bills actually have the force of law is clearly pretty germane to this year's budget bills.  And even if the result is that their side's noise machine is 100% succesful at blaming any govt shutdown that results on our side, well, about the only issue the public would foregive either side causing a shutdown over, would be the law that makes all future shutdowns impossible.

Yes, sure, this is science fiction.  To imagine the Democrats holding together even to defend a prepared and fortified position is already to imagine an alternate reality.  Imagining our side actually going over to the offensive, to the point of threatening a govt shutdown, verges on risking arrest for abuse of psilocyobin or LSD.  

The one factor that makes even the projection of such uncharacteritically bold action on even the Democrats, is that we've exhausted all the wrong ways of dealing with Republican hostage-taking.  The right thing is the only thing left to do.  If we do not close this exploit, this fake veto point, then the Rs will continue and widen their use of it.  It must be closed, and some law that does what this Truth in Budgeting Act does, is the only way to close this fake veto point that we have allowed to become real and exploitable.  The alternate reality line we are on leads over the cliff.  We have absolutely no choice but hop to an alternate reality that doesn't have the US plunging over the cliff.  Somehow the Democratic Party has to leap to that alternatre reality in which it acts like a real political party.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    magnetics, NWTerriD, slangist

    We should have destroyed the presidency before Obama took office. Too late now.

    by gtomkins on Sun Aug 07, 2011 at 09:54:32 PM PDT

    •  Quixotic, but I take your point, which is (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gtomkins, slangist

      Spock-like in its merciless sequitur.

      The hungry judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang, that jurymen may dine.

      by magnetics on Sun Aug 07, 2011 at 10:03:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, Spock-like (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        magnetics

        The budget ceiling is like that self-destruct button that starships sometimes quite inexplicably have.  Why exactly would a starship have such a thing as a self-destruct button, I mean except to act as a plot-device permitting any real thought by the script-writers to be put off until next week's episode?

        Why does our country need a self-destruct button, a feature that a simple majority of one chamber can trigger that brings down the economy?  I guess so that the script-writers can avoid thinking for another week.

        My idea is to somehow trick the Teahadist computer into trying to divide a number by zero, sort of like Spock (or was it Captain Kirk?) did that one episode.  The thing tries to do the impossible, smoke starts sputtering out of its innards and it finally just blows up.  But -- damn -- the Rs aren't governed by logic!!!

        We should have destroyed the presidency before Obama took office. Too late now.

        by gtomkins on Sun Aug 07, 2011 at 10:15:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  You do know it's a 10-year budget being discussed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gtomkins

    No part of which has been passed or 'obligated' except what is in the debt ceiling deal.

    Your proposal, therefore, that Treasury expend money regardless of this law is ... absurd.

    •  What I propose (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Clem Yeobright

      I simply propose a law that clarifies that Treasury has the authority and requirement to borrow as much as it needs to in order to meet all obligations on the books.  

      We've already passed the budget for last year, turned it into law by passing the appropriations bills that make its spending a legal obligation.   Had we passed my proposed Truth in Budgeting Act before this latest debt ceiling fake crisis, there would have been no question of failure to raise the debt ceiling having any effect on Treasury, and therefore any question of the debt ceiling being able to cause the US to repudiate any of its obligations.  Presumably we wouldn't have this Super Committee had there not been that threat of forced repudiation of US obligations.

      Well, however the Super Committee and its 10 year mission to explore the universe came to be, here it is.  A  law such as I propose would just invalidate any automatic triggered spending cuts that some may imagine are part of that committee's mission and capabilities.  All changes in spending from whatever appropriations bills were in effect that year would have to be approved by the usual majorities required to approve laws.  

      If your point is that that 10 year mission to explore the universe is already a crock and no threat, because it's really only when we have appropriations passed into law that we have legal obligations to spend, and that happens year by year, I won't argue with you.  This committee can project a science fiction budget out 100 years, and we still need to pass the actual laws every year that authorize (and obligate) spending.  I only propose that we clarify just that point with this Truth in Budgeting Act, that the US spends everything that those bills say we spend, and that Treasury has to borrow whatever it needs to to make that happen, no matter what the ceiling law in force at the time might say, or the law that created the Super Committee might say.  

      But, even insofar as we are talking about merely theoretical and aspirational controls on spending when we talk about this Super Committee, I wouldn't dismiss the weight it will carry, if only by precedent, into the future, year by year on those appropriations, unless this whole circus is stopped.  Unless we get rid of the idea that a mere majority of just one chamber, or the president, can hold the economy hostage, has the right and duty to hold the economy hostage, then the wreckers can make the system toe the line on the Super Committee's budgeting decisions, or the automatic triggered cuts, for those full 10 years and beyond.  Whether it's the House they control, or the Senate, or the WH, all that entity has to do is exercise its veto as the ceiling approaches, or as the annual appropriations bills come due, and the whole system best fall in line or the economy gets it.

      We need to positively devalidate that maneuver, that hostage-taking, because this grand bargain just gave it strong validation.  People tend to defend it on the grounds that it didn't really concede much of anything in terms of actual spending, it just kicks the can down the road.  My point is that its blankness of content, that it didn't give away the store in terms of particular spending, is of little importance.  It gives away the store in terms of process, it validates and institutionalizes hostage-taking.  Only one side is going to use that hostage-taking as a workaround, so in terms of content, the next ten years will be a nightmare unless we disarm this weapon we just gave that side.

      We should have destroyed the presidency before Obama took office. Too late now.

      by gtomkins on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 12:22:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Read what you wrote (0+ / 0-)
        A  law such as I propose would just invalidate any automatic triggered spending cuts that some may imagine are part of that committee's mission and capabilities.  All changes in spending from whatever appropriations bills were in effect that year would have to be approved by the usual majorities required to approve laws.

        The highlighted portion is an empty set.

        The constraints are on Congress, not the Treasury.

        The cuts proceeding from this process take effect.

        The 'Super-Congress' committee - and the alternative - are not defanged.

        •  Congress can't constrain itself (0+ / 0-)

          Correct me if I'm wrong, but we have appropriations in place covering spending for this year.  They were passed a few months ago, and replaced the CRs that had authorized spending on an interim basis before the actual bills were passed.  At the end of the FY, one of three conditions will be in place:
              1) the new appropriations bills will be signed into law
              2) we'll have Continuing Resolutions doing the same thing, creating obligations for all spending
              3) we won't have either, and we'll be in a shutdown

          I'm not sure what your point to the contrary might be, but it is my understanding that we don't go for any period of time, except during shutdowns when there's no spending (except for "emergencies"), without spending authorized and obligated in some form or another.  Whenever we have an empty set on spending authorized by law, by Congress, we have no spending allowed.  It's in the Constitution.  Look it up.

          As for this grand compromise, again, let me set out what I think it means, how it would work, and you tell me where my understanding is deficient.

          If things go according to plan, the members of the Super Committee meet, put on their Founding Father hats, tug sagely at their beards (presumably each on his own beard, and not on the others'), and at the end of solonic deliberations, emerge with mutually agreed upon budget cuts sufficient to meet the targets in the grand bargain law.  Whether the cuts will be served up graven on two stone tablets, or inscribed on parchment, is one of those little details we can leave to the media consultants.  Congress then meets, considers the wisdom it has received on that parchment without amendment, etc. as per the grand bargain, and then, through some combination of awe at the sheer majesty of the Super Committee, and shame over its former spendthrift ways, votes these cuts into law.  The president then signs and they are now the law of the land.

          If we already have appropriations bills signed at that point, or CRs, either way, the statute embodying these cuts supercedes the existing spending.  The cuts are unequivocally law, they would supercede even my proposed Truth in Budgeting Act, because Treasury would not be authorized to borrow to cover the old spending because those spending levels are no longer the law of the land.  It can borrow only in order to cover the new, lower spending, that would at that point be the law of the land.

          It's what happens if any of the players involved fall short of this plaster saint narrative that's interesting.  If the Super Committee can't come to agreement, or if the Committee having agreed on cuts, Congress and the president fail to pass their cuts, that triggers these mandatory "automatic" cuts.  

          Now, presumably these automatic cuts now have the force of law, Congress having passed the grand bargain.  

          I'm not sure these mandatory cuts would actually be enforceable, because they are reported in the press as percentages of very broad categories of spending, as in "20% of defense spending", and so forth.  The courts aren't going to enforce that, if that really is as specific as the grand bargan statute gets.  What would actually have to happen, in real as opposed to Bizarro world, to make the triggered, "automatic" cuts enforceable, is that Congress would then have to pass a law specifying what actually gets cut, which military spending is cut to make up the 20% called for in the grand bargan statute.

          Would Congress pass that second law that the grand bargain would require in order to enforce the "automatic" cuts?  Well, maybe they would pass cuts they wouldn't have agreed to without the grand bargain apparatus, because the whole Super Committee procedure will have shamed them into implementing the grand bargain.  But there wouldn't be any legal constraint on them to follow through.  Congress can't bind itself into the future with a simple statute, it can't in one law, bend some future Congress to its present will.

          Well, that's how it would play out in the real world, a world where we had a Congress that took responsibility to match its authority.  What would happen in the Bizarro world in which we actually live if the Committee can't agree, or Congress fails to pass the cuts that the Committee did agree to, is that the responsibility to make the "20% of defense spending" cuts would fall on the administration.  The passive-agressives in Congress get to bay to the moon about -- take your pick -- the president either failing in his duty to make those 20% cuts, or the president mercilessly slashing this nation's defense, putting us all at risk of aQ slitting our throats while we sleep.

          The Truth in Budgeting Act would be needed here.  It would have the more general and lasting effect of preventing all future hostage-taking over the ceiling.  But its use right now, its use in facing off this grand devil's bargain, is that it prevents the responsibility for these "automatic" cuts being fobbed off on the president.  The act would say that Treasury has the unequivocal duty to pay out all obligated spending, to borrow ehough to do that, and that nothing but new law repealing a specific spending item can relieve Treasury of that duty to pay that obligation.  The administration won't be allowed to make cuts to broad and woozy categories such as "20% of defense spending".   It can't really do that now, it can't really be authorized to do that even by some fatuously self-contradictory a statute as this grand bargain, but it clearly is needful to have that logical impossibility spelled out and enforced in positive law.

          We should have destroyed the presidency before Obama took office. Too late now.

          by gtomkins on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 06:25:32 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  This isn't Gramm-Rudman (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            gtomkins

            Gramm-Rudman - and its process - has been ruled unconstitutional.

            •  Constitutional sock puppetry (0+ / 0-)

              The grand bargain isn't Gram-Rudman.  But it will fail to be enforceable for the same reason that Gram-Rudman was unenforceable, the same reason that the PAYGO that replaced Gram-Rudman was unenforceable.

              Congress can no more repeal the laws of logic than it can make pi equal exactly 3.

              Only Congress can control spending, because US spending has to happen by law (see Art I, sec 8.), and only Congress can pass laws.  

              Conceivably, Congress would be allowed by the courts to delegate, by law, the ability to set spending.  But if it actualy did that, we wouldn't really have a republic anymore.  Spending is so basic a function of govt, that if Congress delegated spending authority to some other entity, that other entity would become our actual and effective legislature.

              But Congress never goes for actual abdication of power in this reucrrent series of schemes it has devised to convince itself that it has constrained itself with respect to spending.  It's always just some elaborate hoax in which the control of spending in the event that Congress fails to meet the deficit-cutting targets, was supposedly delegated, but Congress still retains actual control.

              Gram-Rudman was held invalid by the courts because the Congress tried to use the Comptroller-General as a sock puppet.  It told itself and the world that the "automatic" cuts would be made by the Comptroller General if Congress failed to meet its target, and that this meant that Congress was constrained because the Comptroller General didn't work for Congress.  "As if.", the courts said, in essence.  Gram-Rudman was thrown out because it made the Comptroller General the agent of Congress, when it's actually an executive branch position.

              PAYGO sputtered out because Congress didn't really want to follow its "commands", and since those "commands" were just the will of some past Congress, the current Congresses simply did not have to follow those fake "commands".

              Look, if Congress thinks that cutting 10 brigades, 3 carrier battle groups and various weapons systems in the R&D pipeline is necessary in order to balance the budget, fine, it needs to pass laws doing that, cutting those spending items.  Not fine, not workable, is the fraudulent notion that Congress gets to pass a law mandating "automatic" cuts of 20% in defense spending if deficit-reduction targets aren't met, or if gtomkins hits three lemons on the slots, or if any other contingency occurs.  

              I don't know exactly where the fraud in the grand bargain law lies that will get it invalidated.  Unless it spells out a time line, "20% cuts in defense spending" is clearly not possible, because any cuts that big would only be cuts in the long-term, you would actually have to spend more in the short term to make the long-term savings.  Ending all wars we're engaged in, ending all foreign basing and deployments, would save money long-term, but getting the troops home would involve spending more short-term, both for physically getting the troops home, then for finding them accommodations in the US.  Cutting force structure would save in the long-term, but would require considerable up-front money in the form of bonuses paid for forcing long-term soldiers out before retirement.  

              Or is it your idea that Congress is delegating the power to dissolve govt contracts when it delegates the power to control spending.  The administraiton, or whoever makes the actual cuts required by that 20%, gets to dishonor the US's contractual ogbligations to soldiers?  It gets to dishonor contracts with big weapons systems developers in order to find 20% cuts?  Really?  But if not, if it isn't really allowed to do these things that only Congress can do, where does this Congressional sock puppet find 20% cuts anywhere in the DoD budget?

              You don't even need to read the text of the grand bargain statute to know that it fails somewhere, probably in a lot of places, to reach the minimal standards of conformity to logic necessary for a law to actually work and be enforceable.  

              You can't do actual engineering with pi equal to 3.  A law that makes pi equal 3 is only ever going to be aspirational.

              We should have destroyed the presidency before Obama took office. Too late now.

              by gtomkins on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 08:22:27 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site