Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Debt Limit Deal

I'm glad the bill passed the House and the Senate. The House vote was 269-161, with 174 Repubs and 95 Democrats voting yes. My own representative voted against, prompting me to email a stern disapproval for his rejection of compromise. The vote in the Senate was 74-26.

The rejectionists seem to fall into two camps: the Tea Partiers who want such deep cuts that default is perhaps the ideal way to get them, and the liberals who don't realize yet that the money train can't continue. The lack of a reasonable sense of fear on both sides amazes me. Tea partiers think that government is so bloated that we can do away with 40% without a crisis bigger than 9-11. The liberals must be math-impaired. There is no way that current trend in social program costs is affordable. I want to sit the liberals down and make them crunch some numbers, and then see if they can justify their beliefs.

Overall I'm happy with the compromise, but I would have preferred a few more cuts early on. The bipartisan commission and the triggers are perhaps the best part of the bill. The last bipartisan commission actually worked pretty well. Its report, which is quite detailed and very solid, should have been the basis for an orderly debate on the issue. I don't understand why it wasn't accepted when it was released. With this crisis (courtesy of the Tea Party), most of the country is finally ready for the discussion, but why should 8 months make such a difference? There hasn't been a huge change in the economy or federal budget, so it must have been that our attention (and balls) were grabbed and squeezed, and we finally looked at the problem. It's too bad that's what it takes, but maybe that's part of being an American--living with so many happy people who don't recognize a problem until it almost swallows them.

I'm sad to see Orrin Hatch among the No votes in the Senate. He used to be someone with solid principles, someone who saw the humanity in his adversaries, someone I might have liked as President. But it's a lot harder now for red state politicians to be that kind of respectful and respectable elected official. In light of that, huge kudos to the red state republicans who voted yes--Murkowski, Kyl, McCain, Boozman, Isakson, Crapo, Risch,  Lugar, Roberts, Cochran, Wicker, Blunt, Johanns, Burr, Hoeven, Portman, Thune, Alexander, Corker, Cornyn, Hutchinson, Barrasso, Enzi. I sincerely hope you don't lose your seats in primary challenges. If that happens, maybe do what Lisa Murkowski did and let the entire state decide.

Finally, it would be a lapse not to thank the freshman Republicans in the House for being such hard-nosed, pain-in-the-ass, difficult, nasty, single-minded pricks who happen to be right to focus on the debt issue and make it stick. We need jerks like you sometimes (like now), but I won't love you for it. Sorry, it's not fair, but this is the way it is, at least until my thinking evolves some more.

Update 11/7/11: I needed a reminder of who negotiated this deal. The New York Times credits Obama, Boehner, and McConnell. Biden and Reid were heavily involved just recently, so they're probably due some credit too.

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