The House vote on raising the debt ceiling was far less dramatic than advertised, save for the return of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who cast a “yes” vote. The package sailed through by a 269-161 margin. Ninety-five Democrats joined 174 Republicans in favor of the plan, while 66 Republicans joined 95 Democrats in voting no. “We’re coming up to a deadline we all must recognize: default,” said Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI). “Both parties got us in this mess; both parties are going to have to work together to get us out.”
Yet even before the debt ceiling deal was finalized, there was more than enough rancor to go around. Far-left New York Times columnist Paul Krugman concluded that “extortion works” and that the terms of the agreement “amount to an abject surrender on the part of the president.” Tea Party founder Mark Meckler was equally upset. “None of the budget plans proposed have real cuts in them–only promises to cut,” he said. “The reality is…these promises are actually a lie.” The Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart claims the “Tea Party is now running Washington,” even as Tea Party-favored presidential candidate Michele Bachmann believes the deal “is like saying we embrace Greece.” Apparently the current definition of compromise in Washington, D.C. is something that makes both sides miserable — and childish.
Yet Democrats seemed to grab the edge when it came to histrionics. Vice President Joe Biden accused Tea Party Republicans of having “acted like terrorists” during the negotiations. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) echoed that sentiment. “This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money,” he told colleagues at a closed-door Democratic Caucus meeting.
What makes Democrats so unhappy? Certainly the devil is in the details, but the bigger picture is that the national conversation has been altered. And while it is convenient to blame Tea Partiers for that change, there is a level of denial on the part of Democrats that borders on breathtaking. A lot of Americans, far from blaming the Tea Party for the debt ceiling deal, are giving them credit for it. Perhaps Mr. Biden and his fellow Democrats would like to pretend that the only election which occurred in the last three years was the one in 2008, but that is simply not the case. Millions of Americans appalled by the reckless spending of an Obama administration and a Democratically-controlled Congress sent Tea Party candidates to Washington in 2010 precisely to put a stop to such fiscal recklessness.
How reckless? The current deal allows for a $2.4 trillion hike in the debt ceiling. That is the largest hike in the history of the nation — and it follows the second largest, a $1.9 trillion increase passed by Congress and signed by President Obama on Feb. 12, 2010. Thus, despite all the venom directed at the Tea Party for forcing the issue, America’s addiction to deficit spending is in dire need of fixing.
Will it be fixed? Rep. Ron Paul explains the illusory nature of government “cuts.” They are “akin to a family ‘saving’ $100,000 in expenses by deciding not to buy a Lamborghini, and instead getting a fully loaded Mercedes, when really their budget dictates that they need to stick with their perfectly serviceable Honda,” he writes. He then gets to sobering reality. “The truth is that frightening rhetoric about default and full faith and credit of the United States is being carelessly thrown around to ram through a bigger budget than ever, in spite of stagnant revenues.”
Those revenues currently stand at $2.2 trillion dollars, which Paul notes was the entire federal budget only seven years ago. “If we simply returned to that year’s spending levels, which would hardly be austere, we would have a balanced budget right now,” he wrote. “If we held the line on spending, and the economy actually did grow as estimated, the budget would balance on its own by 2015 with no cuts whatsoever.”
Question: is Ron Paul a “terrorist”?
As part of this deal, such questions, more or less, will be left to a committee comprised of six Republicans and six Democrats, from each chamber of Congress tasked with finding an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions by Thanksgiving. How they go about making those cuts remains subject to intense speculation. House Speaker John Boehner claims the deal is “all spending cuts,” even as the White House issued a statement Sunday night saying the committee must also consider “revenue-raising tax reform that asks for the most fortunate Americans to sacrifice.” At issue is whether or not the Bush tax cuts will be allowed to expire in 2013. If they are, $3.5 trillion in “revenue” will accrue over ten years absent any action by the committee.
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