Budget Debates Will Never End

So, you think the seemingly interminable debate about debt ceilings and deficits might wane for a few months, now that the gummint has forestalled a default by doing what it has done seventy times in the past 50 years? Don’t be ridiculous.

The Grand Compromise (i.e., give the GOP nearly everything they demanded in order to not destroy the global economy) requires the debt limit be raised in three stages. The first stage went into effect immediately; it will cover until around the end of September. Yes, that’s right – it only covers 8 weeks. When that runs out, the President can raise the limit again, and Congress gets a chance to disapprove it. They might actually eke out enough votes to disapprove the raise, which will then be vetoed and the raise goes into effect. Then, the GOP can blame the President for raising the debt limit arbitrarily and autocratically and against the Will of The People. All of that is nonsense, of course. Every sane member of the GOP knows the debt limit has to be raised if we are to avoid a truly stupendous economic meltdown that would make the Great Depression look like a boom time.

Also coming up at the end of September is the expiration of the federal gasoline tax. You didn’t even know that tax had an expiration date, did you? That’s because nobody (before 2000 anyway) has ever contemplated not having it. The 18.4 cents per gallon that we pay to that tax pays for the majority of the budget of the Highway Trust Fund. That fund pays for things like ensuring the interstates don’t disintegrate into gravel roads. Amusingly, the Democratically-controlled Congress under President Clinton’s administration created an increase in the gas tax which was earmarked exclusively to deficit reduction, but then got shifted four years later by a Republican Congress toward the Trust Fund. Even then, nobody tried to reduce the tax; they just used it for something different.

Just to pile on, September 30th is also the expiration of the current continuing resolution that permits the federal government to spend any money whatsoever. The current budget was agreed to in April of this year (after 14 months of debate), and if you don’t remember the fun of that “debate,” you’re blessed by ignorance indeed. You’d think that maybe the Congress could actually pass a budget this year, but I wouldn’t hold out too much hope for that piece of sanity.

So, good job, Republicans – you’ve made the budget into the single issue which will define the year before the 2012 elections start. And that can only help your candidates, many of whom would really rather there not be a federal government for them to be a part of and are doing their best to ensure its failure as a sane and rational governing body. Good luck finding a Presidential candidate that isn’t crazy but can pass the GOP primaries, because the 2012 election is yours to lose.

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Gary

Random gibberish from my mind, mostly dealing with technology, cooking, politics, and my family. Occasional cat posts - be warned.

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