Thursday, July 21, 2011

With McConnell Fallback Fading, Debt Ceiling Plans and Bickering Proliferate

Add President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to the burgeoning list of pols presenting, or offering, or, in this case, denying, various plans and packages and pledges and general posturing over deficit-reduction schemes aimed at ending the Republican hostage-holding of the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

"There is no deal," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said of the President's deal. "We are not close to a deal." Obama had backed himself into a corner romanticising a Grand Bargain notion of big cuts and big revenue overhauls, as he'd been eager to demonstrate that he was relevant and serious about budgets and debts.

Everyone was wary of the last time Obama and Boehner tried to wrangle a deal, only to have Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) throw a hissy fit because it didn't include pointing the Death Star at the Earth and pulling the trigger. Or, did include some tax revenues, which, to Republican Tea Party zealots, was infinitely worse.

Obama's current negotiations alarmed fellow Democrats, as his new deal with Boehner was rumored to contain trillions in cuts with only a promise-with fingers-crossed to someday maybe, possibly, consider some tiny, tiny, non-Grover Norquist-offending revenues, confirming the President's haggling strategy continued to consist of flopping to the ground and getting flattened like a possum on a two-lane blacktop.

"The President always talked about balance, there had to be some fairness in this. This can't be all cuts," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) blubbered in exasperation. "The caucus agrees with that. I hope the President agrees with that, and I'm confidant he will," revealing the alarming lack of confidence the senator had in his commander-in-chief.

The President's non-deal suffered the same pox plaguing all the other plans: Democrats demanded that the revenue crisis required new revenue, while Republicans demanded all the money in Medicare and Social Security be handed over to their insurance industry and Wall Street cronies.

Obama planned to meet with Reid and Democratic leaders including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Thursday afternoon, presumably to tell them how he'd thrown his own pastor and grandmother under the bus before he'd ever been elected President, so, as President, how throwing the rest of the American people under the bus was a relative cakewalk.

The deal that wasn't a deal apparently included $3 trillion in cuts, busting up Medicare and Medicaid, and generally Republicanizing spending and services, while promising to look at revenues someday in another galaxy, far, far, away.

Unless Washington politicos can manage the normally pro-forma task of raising the nation's self-imposed credit limit by Aug. 2, the federal government will not be able to fund operations or pay back loans or send out any of the 55 million Social Security checks gathering dust in the Treasury Department mailroom Aug. 3.

A while back, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), painfully aware that no one in Congress had the intestinal wherewithal to accomplish the mundane without first demanding excruciating caveats like having everyone eat all the hot dogs on Coney Island or telling Kim Kardashian to stop dressing so provocatively, came up with the brilliant stroke of letting everyone vote against raising the debt ceiling. Then, the President could simply veto the debt hike denial, and all would be well, barring the fantastically unlikely event that two-thirds of anyone on Capitol Hill could remain conscious long enough to override the Presidential veto.

Thus assured of continued continuity, Wall Street resumed climbing toward Dow 13,000, although it was smart enough to hedge by buying enough gold to send that stuff toward $1,600 an ounce.

Meanwhile, back on the Beltway, reassured that a way out of the woods was at hand, pols have been busily filling time with an exponentially-proliferating menagerie of alternate budget deals and wheels and steals to let everyone know how relevant and serious they all were.

The Gang of Sixes and Sevens, which now numbered eight, pushed their plan to cut $3.7 trillion off the debt over some umpteen years, including trillions in spending cuts and a trillion or so in what might or might not be new tax revenues, depending on who you talked to at what time on what day. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) signed onto the Gang Thursday, to show how relevant and serious they were, knowing that Gang leader Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) had, to everyone's relief, announced their plan wouldn't really be ready for a long, long time.

"The Gang of Six plan has not been drafted nor has it been scored by the CBO: It's not ready for prime time," Durbin Tuesday assured a nation nervous that lawmakers might actually have accomplished something. "Not drafted" meant their plan was still akin to something a bunch of potheads came up with at three a.m. on a Sunday morning, only to be forgotten by lunchtime. "Not scored" meant the Congressional Budget Office, which had to look at any money-related Congressional thing before anyone can vote on it, hadn't looked at it. Either process took much longer than the thirteen days left before America turned into a pumpkin.

The House of Representatives, eager to demonstrate they were neither serious or relevant, except as an Himalayan obstruction to anything trundling up the Interstate, passed their ridiculous Cud, Cats, and Valance plan, which required every American to chew on cow regurgitant, sing songs from an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, and hang curtains until their eyes bled. Not really, but, everyone was thoroughly confident the measure would never, ever, pever, jever pass the Senate, as it contained a Constitutional Amendment which would never, ever, pever, jever muster the two-thirds vote required in the Senate, let alone meander its way through ratification in 38 states before Aug. 2.

Cuds, Cats and Valance compared to the Republicans' original Medicare-voucherizing 2012 Budget proposal - the one that got universally ridden out of town halls on rails last Spring - roughly the way Hitler's Torah study groups compared to Mother Theresa's caring for lepers.

Cud, Cats and Valance's only redeeming quality appeared to be that it gave Harry Reid the opportunity to call it, "some of the worst legislation in the history of this country," in a country that once not only permitted slavery but also outlawed cold brewskies on Friday nights. Reid scheduled the measure to be shot down in the Senate this Friday, hopefully in time for everyone to go out for brewskies afterward.

But, problems also plagued the McConnell Plan, or, more recently, the McConnell-Reid Plan, since Reid had insisted he be considered relevant and serious by saddling McConnell's perfectly sensible nonsense with $1.5 trillion in cuts and a Congressional committee or two. Reid's manipulations have been disastrous, as the $1.5 trillion, Congressional-committee baggage he piled on has given House Republicans a new hostage to hold ad infinitum. House Republicans' new demand holds the amount of the debt ceiling increase to only the $1.5 trillion Reid offered to cut, or alternately, to chop the debt ceiling hike into tiny, tiny increments with corresponding cuts every few days while everyone casts around for a different solution.

Strapping $1.5 trillion in cuts to the McConnell Plan was a mind-numbing misstep, as it reduced the plan to just another deficit-reduction scheme vying for stage time with all the other deficit-reduction schemes. The beauty of McConnell's original plan was that it didn't deal with deficits and debts and the budget, but gave Obama the clean debt ceiling hike he always should have gotten.

Reid's vainglorious desire to be relevant and serious just might have killed America's last, best hope to remain relevant. Seriously.

Leaving everyone wishing for the good old days, when politicians were all irrelevant and silly.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments may be moderated for relevance and gratuitous abusiveness