It seems there are some “Constitutional conservatives” who haven’t perused that august document, and Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) is one of them? His response to the shutdown of the Federal government? Enact his “No Budget No Pay” bill. [Heller] Lovely — there’s just one little problem with not paying members of Congress until the houses pass a budget — it violates the 27th Amendment. “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.” The Amendment was among the original ideas from the Founders, finally enacted in 1992, and it was intended to prevent members of the House and Senate from jacking up their salaries right before elections.
Then there’s the matter of raising the debt ceiling:
“Without a serious discussion about reducing our debt, I have to agree with then Senator Obama, who called an increase in the debt ceiling a ‘sign of leadership failure’ and a move that shifts the ‘burden of bad choices’ to future generations. Our nation cannot afford to continue raising the limit on our nation’s credit card without making the difficult decisions that prevent the country from incurring even more debt,”said Senator Dean Heller.” [KRNV]
Oh, here we go again! The Think Of The Children Argument. News Flash for the Junior Senator — raising the debt ceiling has NOTHING to do with incurring debt. It has everything to do with paying the debts we’ve already racked up. Senator Heller appears to believe this debt magically increased during the incumbency of President Obama.
“When President Obama came to office, our nation’s debt was more than $10 trillion. Five years later, our debt is nearly $17 trillion and growing fast. Democrats and Republicans must come together and agree on a long-term solution that places our nation on the path to fiscal solvency. Reducing wasteful spending and reforming the tax code are good places to start. As Senator Obama said in 2006, ‘Americans deserve better,’” said Senator Dean Heller.” [KRNV]
There was no magic involved. There is, however, some magical thinking. First, when the Obama Administration took over in January 2009 it assumed the costs of the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since the costs of these efforts are no longer glossed into “supplemental appropriations,” we’re going to have to look at the $800 billion gorilla in the room — the outright cost of operations in Iraq. Then there’s the not-so-small matter of paying the veterans’ benefits to those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The total expense involved in these military efforts is projected to cost about $4 trillion. [Marketwatch]
Secondly, the United States (including Senator Heller) decided it was a dandy idea to cut taxes in war time — a reversal of what had been previously considered fiscally responsible thinking. Let’s look at the elements driving the current level of debt one more time:
Thus, about 50% of the national debt which concerns Senator Heller so profoundly is a result of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Bush Era tax cuts (supported by Senator Heller.) The darker blue segment of the graphic indicates the lost revenues from the Recession created by the collapse of the Housing Bubble.
Senator Heller would prefer not to compare the Bush and the Obama Administrations when it comes to policies which “place our nation on a path to fiscal solvency.” If he did, he’d be highlighting the following information:
As for which side of the aisle was more attentive to future spending levels, the staff of the Washington Post analyzed FY 2014 budget proposals and published the results:
None of these analyses will prevent Senator Heller from continuing to bleat out the same talking points the GOP has been promoting with consistent enthusiasm — The Debt Is Rising! The Debt Is THE Problem! Equally consistent has been the Republican demand that the social safety net (Social Security, Medicare, SNAP, TANF) be the target for cuts — not the Department of Defense; unless of course we’re speaking of increasing educational, housing, and health benefits for members of our military and veterans.
Now the Republicans threaten to shove the nation over the fiscal cliff, to which Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) responded:
“A vote to avert default is simply a vote to pay the bills. It’s not a vote to spend more money, to authorize new programs or to buy new things and more. It’s a vote to pay the bills the federal government has already incurred – bills for roads and bridges we’ve already built and warships we’ve already commissioned, as well as wars we’ve waged with borrowed money and tax breaks we’ve charged on the national credit card. A vote to avert default is a vote to pay the bills for all those things.”
That pretty much sums it up: (1) Pay the bills… (2) Pay the bills… (3) Pay the bills… as the Constitution says in Amendment 14 section 4.
*For the wonks in the audience, there is an excellent summary of debt ceiling legislation from the Congressional Research Service available in PDF.