The Fundamental Problem at the Moment

A faction of the House GOP caucus is acting like they have comfortable majority control of the entire US government rather than being a faction of the party that control only one piece of the machine.

If they had the House, a 60+ seat majority in the Senate, and the White House, then they could get whatever they wanted in regards to a deal.  Of course, were that the case, there would not have to be a drawn out negotiation (i.e., we would not be taking about a “deal” but rather just about legislation).

The main problem at the moment is that said faction appears not to understand that, given its position in the machine that is our government, it cannot have everything it wants.  As such, the reasonable thing to do is get as much as they can without wrecking the economy on their way to getting nothing.

FILED UNDER: Deficit and Debt, Quick Takes, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. hey norm says:

    @ SLT
    Which points up the fundamental problem that the faction to which you refer does not care about burning it all down. And seemingly they do not care because they do not understand the implications. Or maybe they just don’t care. Who knows?
    Conservatives used to admire the US Revolution, and abhor the French Revolution. This faction, while paying lip service to the US Revolution, actually admires the French Revolution far more. They’re storming the Bastille, baby!!!

  2. Jay Tea says:

    I respectfully disagree. I would characterize it as there is a significant caucus in the House that understands they were elected on the basis of certain promises and principles, that intends to abide by those pledges to the best of their ability, and know that they have a very powerful Constitutional tool in their possession — the requirement that all revenue bills have to originate in the House. The problem is that there is a very large “status quo” element in the rest of Congress that is heavily invested in the traditional ways of “going along to get along” and finding “compromises” that always end up with more and more money being funneled into Washington, and they aren’t prepared to accept the new reality.

    And that new reality? That while they still hold majorities, those numbers are no longer sufficient to simply get their own way any more. They need to adapt to the new reality, not keep whining about how they miss the good old days when they could just ignore problems, even to the point of not bothering to pass annual budgets, and everything would be just hunky-dory.

    That new minority — and their clout — ain’t going anywhere between now and January 2013. Deal with it.

    J.

  3. EddieInCA says:

    Jay –

    Do you understand that the debt ceiling is basically the deposit to cover the checks we’ve already written?

    Do you get that?

    Do you really want the USA, for the first time in it’s history, to start bouncing checks?

    The money HAS BEEN SPENT. This argument is about paying the bills.

    So your position is that the USA become deadbeats with the debts it owes.

    Nice. Very nice. How patriotic.

  4. john personna says:

    As I said in another thread this morning, Jay, it is a fundamental lack of moral development to put your opinion before democratic government.

    A pledge is a signed opinion, nothing more. Sure, the more signatories you get, the broader the opinion is … but it isn’t a majority until you can, say, pass it through both houses of congress.

    Heck, the Democrats could sign a “taxes only” pledge. Would that make it valid enough to break government?

    Tell me you at least thought that through …

  5. @Jay Tea:

    Congress that is heavily invested in the traditional ways of “going along to get along” and finding “compromises” that always end up with more and more money being funneled into Washington, and they aren’t prepared to accept the new reality.

    Except that the portion of money being funneled to Washington is the lowest it’s been since WWII. I don’t know whether you’re delusional or just a liar, but eaither way it’s not a viewpoint that should be treated as credible.

    Personally, I think you’re a liar. The House GOP has now rejected a plan for more than two trillion in cuts in favor of only one trillion in cuts. Let alone the earlier deal that cut the deficit by four trillion but required them to give some ground on taxes.

    You don’t care about spending. You don’t care about the deficit. All you care about is your team looking good.

  6. Jay Tea says:

    @EddieInCA: Yes, Eddie, I do.

    Do you understand that the opposing argument is “if we just keep borrowing and pushing back the day of reckoning even further, it’ll get easier to face it — or it’ll just go away?”

    Why do you think Obama and the Democrats won’t accept a deal that buys time, but not past the next election? They want this over and buried before next November, because they KNOW it’s an aneurysm that, when it ruptures, will threaten the financial life our our nation. And they want to just ignore it while it balloons even bigger and bigger.

    My argument is simple: it’s been a danger for some time, and keeps getting worse. Let’s take it on, now, because it ain’t gonna get any better by itself — and continuing to feed it is just going to make it even more dangerous to address down the road.

    J.

  7. An Interested Party says:

    That new minority — and their clout — ain’t going anywhere between now and January 2013. Deal with it.

    I’m not saying it will be right, but the idea behind the above words will be able to be used against Republicans when the roles are reversed at some point in the future…payback’s a bitch…

  8. @Jay Tea:

    I would characterize it as there is a significant caucus in the House

    And it is a minority of both the chamber it is part of, as well as of the government it is part of. It may well be a minority of its own party (but I suppose it depends on how one counts).

    This results in having to compromise.

  9. Mike Bailey says:

    But Steven…you sicken me.

    Your commitment to paying our bills–and your respect, more generally, for honoring the nation’s binding contracts–is SO status quo. So yesterday. We’re in a brave new world where 2011 is really 1774, and taxes are optional, and everyone gets to be in the top 2% of income earners if only government slashes Medicare and Social Security. You know, just because W turned Clinton’s huge budget surplus into a raging deficit with his tax cuts, unnecessary war, new policy initiatives such as increases in Medicare, and a ginormous recession doesn’t mean that we can’t blame Obama for his Communist-like tax hikes! Okay, so Obama has cut, not increased taxes, by over 400 billion dollars. So what? If he REALLY liked America, Obama would have abolished taxes altogether. That woudl have solved our debt problem once and for all.

    Why do you and Obama hate America so?

    Answer me that, Commie!!!

  10. john personna says:

    @Jay Tea:

    Do you understand that the opposing argument is “if we just keep borrowing and pushing back the day of reckoning even further, it’ll get easier to face it — or it’ll just go away?”

    False, because no one on the political landscape is trying to maintain spending.

    The GOP is rejecting trillions in cuts, and the mainstream is not blind enough to ignore that.

  11. @Jay Tea: You persist in the fantasy that it is acceptable to create a certain crisis now because what might happen in the future.

    It is a ridiculous, reality-denying position.

  12. hey norm says:

    JTea’s argument might – might – hold water if this faction hadn’t already voted repeatedly to increase the debt. Repealing the ACA increases the debt. The Ryan plan increases the debt for 10 years before abolishing Medicare – and requires debt ceiling increases. The facts do not match the ideology.
    In addition – refusing to budge until you get a Balanced Budget Amendment is just denying reality. It is never – ever – going to happen. So if that is you position then you are saying in effect that the country burns unless you are given the impossible. Is THAT what JTea means by the new reality?

  13. john personna says:

    @Mike Bailey: It’s actually worse than that:

    “You know, just because W turned Clinton’s huge budget surplus into a raging deficit with his tax cuts, unnecessary war, new policy initiatives such as increases in Medicare, and a ginormous recession doesn’t mean that we can’t blame Obama for his Communist-like [spending cuts]! “

  14. Jay Tea says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Except that the portion of money being funneled to Washington is the lowest it’s been since WWII. I don’t know whether you’re delusional or just a liar, but eaither way it’s not a viewpoint that should be treated as credible.

    I never liked that “government spending as a percentage of GDP” argument, but it took someone to point it out to me just why: by that standard, a healthy economy necessarily means an ever-expanding government. And the healthier the economy, the bigger the government has to get.

    I prefer to look at it in terms of real dollars — actual, inflation-adjusted, whatever. And in those terms, the federal government keeps getting more and more and more money and power.

    The “goverment spending as a percentage of GDP” is purely an argument for people who want to rationalize an ever-expanding government, and utterly meaningless in any other context.

    J.

  15. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    @Jay Tea: You persist in the fantasy that it is acceptable to create a certain crisis now because what might happen in the future.

    It is a ridiculous, reality-denying position.

    I should probably try not to take Jay and Jan as placeholders for the caucus … but they just seem so emblematic!

    And that’s what leads me to use them as bellwether indicators. I note that they don’t talk about winning the vote in congress, and they don’t talk about pushing this through to 2012.

    We are beyond the shark jump, this is the landing.

  16. Moosebreath says:

    “Why do you think Obama and the Democrats won’t accept a deal that buys time, but not past the next election?”

    Umm, because they don’t want to take their shirt off now, and have the Republicans say in 6 months, now give me your pants or we’ll crash the economy. And 6 months later, and now your wife. And 6 months later….

    It’s bad enough that the Republicans have become hostage takers. It’s bad enough that most Republicans seem to prefer demanding 125% of what they demanded a month ago or they will blow up the economy. At least the Democrats are saying you only get to do this once.

  17. mantis says:

    I never liked that “government spending as a percentage of GDP” argument, but it took someone to point it out to me just why: by that standard, a healthy economy necessarily means an ever-expanding government. And the healthier the economy, the bigger the government has to get.

    Pointing out that spending is low does not meant one wants government to expand without end. Logic fail.

    I prefer to look at it in terms of real dollars — actual, inflation-adjusted, whatever.

    Yeah, you know…whatever. Whatever I can find to somehow support my predetermined conclusions, that’s what I go with.

  18. mantis says:

    Why do you think Obama and the Democrats won’t accept a deal that buys time, but not past the next election?

    The same reason you don’t pay blackmail when someone has embarrassing info on you. They’ll just come back and do it again, and again, and again. The same reason you don’t negotiate with terrorists, or pay off pirates. That’s pretty much all the Republican Party is these days, anyway.

  19. @Jay Tea:

    The “goverment spending as a percentage of GDP” is purely an argument for people who want to rationalize an ever-expanding government, and utterly meaningless in any other context.

    No, it is a rather standard measure that attempt to capture the relationship between the overall size of the economy and the government.

    You seem to fail to grasp, amongst other things, that as an economy expands, it makes more demands on the government.

    As we have grown as an economy, we have needed more and more roads, and also more maintenance on the those roads.

    More trade means more ports and maintenance of existing ports.

    More economic activity means more air travel and the need for more need for air traffic controllers and so forth.

    More banks and more money in those banks puts new demands on the FDIC and such.

    More traders on Wall Street means more need for SEC oversight.

    More McDonalds means the need for more health inspectors.

    I could go on.

    This really isn’t that complicated.

    Growth in the size of an economy requires more from government.

  20. sam says:

    @Jay Tea:

    I’m saving this comment for posterity.

  21. @Jay Tea:

    The “goverment spending as a percentage of GDP” is purely an argument for people who want to rationalize an ever-expanding government, and utterly meaningless in any other context.

    No, it’s also an argument for people who want action rather than more posturing. There was a deal on the table for three trillion in cuts and four trillion in deficit reduction. But since you prefer posturing to actual accomplishment, you’ve now managed to whittle that down to barely a trillion. But we’re supposed to take your “concern about an ever-expanding government” seriously?

  22. ratufa says:

    @Jay Tea:

    I agree that the many of the House members are doing what their constituencies (especially the most vocal ones, such as the Tea Party) want, which is to not raise the debt ceiling unless Congress cuts spending and passes a balanced budget amendment. But, Congress is not going to pass such an amendment. So, they can either take the best deal on spending cuts they can negotiate or not raise the ceiling, knowing that most members of their constituencies say (now) that they’ll blame Obama for this. If the consequences of not raising the ceiling weren’t so severe, this would all be politics as usual. But, they are severe and this isn’t going to turn out as politics as usual if the limit isn’t raised.

    The same constituencies who don’t want the debt limit raised without a balanced budget amendment also are against cuts in Defense spending, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. If the debt limit isn’t raised, then some combination of these programs will be cut (though, I suppose we could have some large tax hikes, instead). There will also be severe economic effects from suddenly removing more than $1 trillion of spending from the economy.

    While it’s tempting to quote Mencken here and say that, “people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard”, the “new reality” with respect to politics, does not change the old reality with respect to economics and what the government really spends most of its money on (hint: it’s on programs that most voters don’t think should be cut). The “new reality” crowd can either acknowledge this or they can get a hard lesson on what their voters really care about.

    Support for my various “what the voters want” claims:

    http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2011/images/07/21/rel11b.pdf

  23. hey norm says:

    JTea at 11:24: “…I never liked that “government spending as a percentage of GDP” argument, but it took someone to point it out to me just why…”
    Shorter version…I didn’t know what to think until someone told me what to think.
    An ever-expanding populace requires ever-expanding services. New roads, new bridges, new recreational facilities, new hospitals, new airports, more air traffic controllers, etc, etc, etc. People like JTea expect something for nothing. That’s the only way that looking at the economy in “real dollar terms” works – you keep spending at x amount in real dollars and all the new stuff is free. And you get a unicorn.
    Sorry – I seem to be on a unicorn kick this am.

  24. OzarkHillbilly says:

    You seem to fail to grasp, amongst other things, that as an economy expands, it makes more demands on the government.

    Oh no Steven, The magical Free Market Fairy will take care of everything if only that big bad Gov’t would get out of the way! Grover Norquist said so.

    This really isn’t that complicated.

    Apparently it is… sigh….

  25. WR says:

    @Jay Tea: In which Jay Tea jumps the shark. “We’re taking in a bigger number of dollars than we did in 1944, so it’s essential that we destroy the world economy.”

    I used to think he was cynical. But this is so breathtakingly stupid that there’s no way to attribute that kind of intelligence to it.

  26. An Interested Party says:

    It is a ridiculous, reality-denying position.

    You seem to fail to grasp, amongst other things…

    This is Jay Tea you’re talking about, Steven…par for the course…

  27. Murray says:

    Another way to put it is that the fundamental problem is that the leaders of the GOP, in particular Boehner, are unwilling and/or unable to tell the minority faction that they are … a minority faction.

    Say what you want of Pelosi, but she didn’t go to Ariana Huffington, Keith Olbermann, Cenk Uygur, or Rachel Maddow with a piece of legislation before presenting it to her caucus as Boehner has done with Rush Limbaugh.

    As much as I despise Democratic machine politics, the fact is that in the last couple of decades their pols have been more willing to take a punch in the face from their electorate when need be than Republicans.

    That is why, come November 2012, I will be casting a vote for Obama regardless of who is on the other ticket. I don’t want a hostage to the loons in the WH.

  28. jukeboxgrad says:

    jay tea:

    The “goverment spending as a percentage of GDP” is purely an argument for people who want to rationalize an ever-expanding government, and utterly meaningless in any other context.

    What I find hysterically funny about this is that the Rs “who want to rationalize an ever-expanding” military always, always talk about military “spending as a percentage of GDP,” as a way to try it make it sound like we’re not spending much, even if spending is at record levels, in absolute terms. Example:

    At the moment, the baseline defense budget, as a percent of GDP, is just 3.6 percent.

    I could show many, many other examples of that kind of rhetoric. And it doesn’t make sense to me, because I don’t quite understand why the country becomes more expensive to defend just because our economy got bigger. Our enemies did not get more powerful and more dangerous just because we got richer.