Customer Feedback: Lay Impressions on the Week’s Politics

Here’s my angle:  I’m a political junkie with a demanding day job and a wife and toddler at home.  Any big chunks of time I can find (usually long walks with my daughter when she won’t sleep any other way) I try to spend reading books.  So I have to limit my political fix mostly to talk radio, skimming my RSS reader on my phone back and forth from the break room, and other stolen 60-second increments throughout the day.  Which suits me just fine:  Anything going on in politics ought to be able to digested by people with real lives. Something seems off about getting paid to offer political commentary:  when commenting is a business, consumers have no way of knowing whether something is not worth commenting on.  Which explains why every radio host begins his show with something like “lots to do today,” even if there’s not.  And it explains why my news reader is often so chock full of garbage.

So for what it’s worth, this collection of commentary on the week reflects how one right-of-center ordinary gentleman sees the political conversation.  If it’s not mentioned here, either I missed it or I just didn’t think it was worth mentioning.  Again, I don’t get paid to do this, for better or worse.  I may or may not try to do this on a regular basis.

The “Fiscal Cliff”

The President said the debt is not a problem in the short term.  On election eve, I asked whether our $16 trillion debt made 2012 something of a single-issue election.  No budget in almost four years; $4.6 trillion added to the debt in Obama’s first four years (more than what W added in eight years); highest deficits ever.  But the comments pretty resoundingly said No, the debt’s not a big deal short term.  This seemed to reflect the general mood of the voting public, too, who proceeded to reelect the President on November 6.

Now we’re suddenly about to nose dive off a “fiscal cliff.”  What?

The negotiations themselves seem to be about 80/20 posturing versus policy.  On both sides, but I’ve got to be honest, I think mostly on the Democrats’ side.  The President doesn’t really care about closing the deficit or reducing the debt.  He just told us he didn’t think it’s a big deal short term.  He’s more concerned about a particular version of “fairness” where “the wealthy” pay more.  I happen to think he’s wrong about that.  Tax the wealthy if you think it would really fix the deficit or the debt.  Make it part of an overall viable budget.  But the fact that he’s made it a gauntlet seems distasteful.  That he would turn taxing the wealthy into a principle to campaign on rather than merely a contingent detail to be worked out in a negotiation.

The media, of course, is daring the GOP to die on that hill.  In the words of the Washington Post, Speaker Boehner “fail[ed] to persuade conservative Republicans to extend tax cuts for the vast majority of Americans and let tax rates rise for millionaires.”  Would anyone really believe that the GOP would send us over the “fiscal cliff” just for the sake of tax rates on millionaires?  It’s the President’s gauntlet that makes the claim plausible.  The fact that he’s made this a campaign rather than a negotiation.

It’s much more plausible that, rather than dying on a hill to save tax rates for millionaires, the GOP is using the rates as leverage to get meaningful spending cuts from Democrats.  I think Republicans actually believe we need to get spending in line with revenues—this isn’t a radical advancement in American political thought; they aren’t trying to claim new territory like I think the President is by staking a claim to a principle that the wealthy have a moral obligation to pay more.

But Republican’s aren’t going to get anything like the spending/revenue parity they seek.  Again:  The President doesn’t think debt is a problem; he is fighting for higher taxes as a principle, not an expedient; and the media has his back.

On the GOP side, lawmakers like Rep. John Campbell seem convinced they need to pass something, “Plan B” even, to prove to Americans they were willing to deal after “the cliff” happens. Hugh Hewitt and other pundits think they understand messaging better than the GOP leadership, and that, instead, Americans would punish the GOP for violating their tax pledge; that the media would spin it as a tax increase if Plan B were passed before 12/31, so therefore the GOP would have to wait until 1/1, after we go off the “fiscal cliff,” so that the same rates would suddenly become tax cuts. Craven, yes. But that’s the game the MSM forces the GOP to play, Hewitt argues.

I don’t think I buy it.  I think the GOP would get hurt more by going over the cliff due to the “they just want to defend millionaires” meme than they would by compromising.  There’s plenty of time for the GOP to appease their base in the next two years.  Besides, their loss of credibility on fiscal issues has nothing to do with fights like this one—negotiating with a just-reelected president and controlling only one-third of the government (maybe ask why they kicked the can to exactly here in the first place).  What they can’t afford to do is alienate more moderates or lose the independents they picked up this cycle.  They just got beat in an election, arguably in large part because they got outplayed by the media.  Don’t double down on this one.  Hold your chips and reconsider your strategy.

On a personal note—and chalk this up to problems one is lucky to have—I have the option to take my bonus in 2012 or 2013.  Normally, I’d defer taxes and take it in 2013.  But this year, I guess the safe bet is to take it in 2012 before my rate (probably) goes up.

Chained CPI

Ah, another policy fit only for professional legislators and professional writers who follow professional legislation.  As I understand it, government prints money so it can fund entitlements.  Printing money causes its value to go down, what we call inflation.  To offset inflation, government increases entitlements.  Rinse and repeat.  Chained CPI cuts the entitlements so they increase behind the rate of inflation.  The idea of running entitlement programs by printing money seems wrong to begin with, but if we insist on doing it, then I guess this is the sort of funny way professional legislators would invent to mitigate these complicated effects.  Maybe it puts more skin in the game of the recipients and future recipients of those entitlements:  put pressure on your legislators to find other ways to keep inflation low; otherwise, you’ll see larger real decreases in your entitlements.

The National Debate Over Guns Heats Up

Mixed feelings on how the conversation is playing out.  I was initially encouraged by the emphasis on both sides on trying to foster a thoughtful, respectful debate.  But within the week, the tragedy was mentioned as a reason to accept the President’s “fiscal cliff” proposal, and both sides of the debate seem to be parroting the exact same arguments as ever before.  The conversation isn’t all bad.  Ezra Klein’s had some good, dispassionate posts.  I thought these examples of armed civilians stopping mass shootings at Volokh was interesting.  Maybe the conversation is better on the mental health front, which I’ve been neglecting.

I liked these comments from David Hoffman, via Volokh:

My intervention here is to just to point out that the problem we actually have here is one of discourse – we are forced by the Internet to nationalize problems [a good point; another reason I dislike our large class of professional opiners -tk]. This makes it much, much harder for local communities to experiment with localized solutions to threats to the moral order. If a community in, say, Connecticut wanted to ban assault weapon clips (because it made them feel safer – let’s put to one side data on efficacy!), Glenn Reynolds would lead a charge against the liberal fascists. Indeed. Heh. Yes. If a community in Tennessee wants to arm its teachers (because it makes them feel safer – let’s put to one side data on efficacy!) Josh Marshall and Andrew Sullivan would call them out as conservative fascists. Or loonies. Or winners of the Moore award. And we’d all get to pat ourselves on the back, but no one would actually get the benefit that law is supposed to provide, which is the helpful illusion that we’re more civilized than we actually are, and that we’re actually doing something to push back against the tide.

That is: a national conversation about guns and violence, facilitated and sped up by the internet, reduces our ability to try out different versions of the good life, and thus diminishes our capacity live together in peace.

He’s not exaggerating.  Did you see how the gun control discussion went with Piers Morgan?  If you think our elite paid opiners are capable of leading us in serious political discussion, Mr. Morgan is Exhibit A in opposition.

Here’s a question I’ll be asking in our upcoming symposium on Guns in America:  A big reason—I’d argue the primary reason—for the Second Amendment is its function as what Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski calls a “doomsday provision” in the event of “those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed.”  So why is the gun control debate always only framed around “what’s the least amount of firepower one needs to oppose a burglar” when it really ought to be “what’s the least amount of firepower a group of individuals needs to wage a legitimate and credible rebellion against a tyrannical government?”  Why can’t we have a nuanced, thoughtful conversation about this?

The above quote explains a lot.

Secretary of State

Susan Rice is out of the running because of Benghazi.  People are getting fired over Benghazi.  CBS waited until after the election to release an edited-out clip of an interview with the President in which he acknowledges he did not call Benghazi a terrorist attack in the Rose Garden.  [Correction: it was the day before the election. -tk] Weren’t we shooed along prior to the election about this?  Move along, nothing to see here?  Right-wing conspiracy nuts said the press was going soft until after the election.  Boy, were they nuts.

I didn’t have any attention span left for Chuck Hagel.  Kerry’s now apparently the pick anyway.

Judge Robert Bork, R.I.P.

Along with Judge Learned Hand, perhaps one of the most qualified jurists never to serve on the Supreme Court.  As I discussed in the comments to Burt’s eulogy, he ably articulated and defended a principle of confined judicial power that, agree or not, at least poses the challenge to come up with another principle that confines that power.  Turns out, it’s still easier to Bork that challenge than to engage it.  Randy Barnett has some nice words as wellAnd originalism—even if it’s the positivistic variety—may be on the rise.  I think the good judge took his interpretivism too far, and that he was wrong that our Constitution and our Founders were not informed by the natural law. But given that so few today understand the natural law or how to apply it, I cannot count it too harshly against him.

Those were the highlights from my news reader this week.

Tim Kowal

Tim Kowal is a husband, father, and attorney in Orange County, California, Vice President of the Orange County Federalist Society, commissioner on the OC Human Relations Commission, and Treasurer of Huntington Beach Tomorrow. The views expressed on this blog are his own. You can follow this blog via RSS, Facebook, or Twitter. Email is welcome at timkowal at


  1. Thanks, Tim. I didn’t follow your links, but I think you have Chain-CPI summarized incorrectly. As I understand it, Chain-CPI is based on an amorphous “basket of goods” as opposed to a static one.

    Traditional-CPI says, “How much did it cost to buy steak, mangoes, and milk last month? How much will it cost this month? The difference between the two identical baskets is the rate of inflation.”
    Chain-CIP says, “How much did it cost to buy steak, mangoes, and milk last month? How much would it cost to buy steak or a similar protein, mangoes or a similar fruit, and milk this month? If the price in steak has jumped too high, buy chicken instead; if mangoes got too pricey, buy apples instead. The difference between the two non-identical-but-similar baskets is the rate of inflation.”

    That doesn’t necessarily change the analysis. In some ways, I think that explanation of it actually strengthens Republican support for the switch. It is not about staying behind inflation. It is about a real but subtle shift in the way we define inflation, one which some economists say better reflects shopping habits. I know it does mine. There are some set of goods I’ll buy regardless of the price, unless the jumps are exorbitant. But there is another set where I might say, “Wow, Ritz crackers got really expensive! I’ll go with the Triscuits instead.”

    • I don’t think that disagrees with my understanding, it’s just that my understanding is limited. I’m fascinated but perplexed by the economics behind currencies. So I get what CPI tries to do, but at some level it all seems like alchemy to me. I don’t understand quite how Chained CPI works — a piece on Ezra Klein’s blog basically said what you’re saying. But it seems like more alchemy. And it seems confusing to have two different concepts of CPI going on at once.

      I don’t have a strong opinion on whether C-CPI is a good idea or not. But as I said, I generally do not like things that make our laws more complicated, and this would do that. So that’s a strike against it in my book.

      • I agree that inflation seems to be a bit magical. Some things get CHEAPER as time passes… new tech drops in price, sometimes dramatically. Other’s go up in price. Some seem relatively flat, perhaps inching upward slowly but surely*. That there can be a ‘standard rate’ of inflation seems inherently inexact.

        * This does ignore the times in which prices are flat but product size/quantity shrinks. I do notice this from time-to-time and sometimes the effects are noticeable (“Where’d all the peanut butter go? Oh… there is a giant bubble in the bottom of the jar.”) and sometimes it matters little (The boxed pasta we tend to buy has shrunk from 16 ounces to 14.5 ounces; we normally cook the whole box, eat most of it, and usually have a little bit we save but never eat. Yes, I realize we could eat more economically but, eh…).

        • Have you caught any of my posts about the CPI and health care inflation, Nixon Shock, etc.? It speaks directly to your point.

          Conceptually, “inflation” is supposed to capture the idea of the value of the dollar decreasing (or increasing; deflation) over time. The problem is that “standard of value” is part of the very definition of money. It’s as if all the world’s rulers and yardsticks were simultaneously shrinking and you were trying to measure that shrinkage against… what? That would be the first question, eh?

          So the CPI is supposed to answer that question with, “Everything else.” Or more specifically, a “market basket” of goods and services that’s supposed to meaningfully represent the experience of a “typical” consumer living on a fixed budget. Basically it’s just a weighted and normalized index of actual prices you would encounter when you go shopping.

          It’s a big statistical clusterf*** IMO, and economists argue endlessly over how to define and measure inflation. As you noted, some things get cheaper over time. For instance, how do you meaningfully compare the price of a PC from 20 years ago with a current model? I read somewhere that if you apply a “technological deflator” to current prices–which is what the BLS does–a PC that cost $2000 twenty years ago sells for $85 or so today. But it’s not like you can actually buy any new PC for $85, so how does that actually help you? And how do you figure in for products and services that didn’t even exist 10, 20, 30, or 50 years ago? Or stuff that was sold then that you can’t buy at all now for that matter?

          • As I understand it, pricing is determined by the cost of production of the next unit of production; though this fails to account for capital outlays.

          • Rod,
            Economists don’t need to argue jack about Inflation. Shadowstats has the real numbers, because the real numbers are essential for a LOT of businesses. So, free market, voila, happy numbers!

            The political minded economists (catfood division) argue endlessly about how we can tweak inflation so that we don’t have to pay so much on SS. The last president to calculate inflation properly was Carter.

          • My understanding is that, in order to measure inflation, you need to know not just whether a given product’s price went up but WHY it went up. If bread is expensive because we’ve had a drought and wheat is scarce this year, that’s a supply shock that is particular to the given commodity. If bread is expensive for no obvious reason and everything else is expensive too, then we think that there are too many dollars chasing too few goods and call it inflation.

            But this gets into my problem with the initial post: the notion that the gov’t pays for things by printing money or that printing money is some sort of abnormal and problematic thing for the government to do. The fact is that we need to print money (by which I mean increase the size of the money supply, which isn’t the same as physically printing money) in order to keep prices from falling. That’s because the economy is (almost) always growing, as is population, and if we don’t get more dollars to corrospond to those additional goods and people, then prices and wages drop, which is really bad.

            And the way the gov’t finances its deficits isn’t by simply printing money and giving it to people to pay its debts; if we were really doing that the national debt wouldn’t go up because we wouldn’t need to pay anyone back. The government borrows money by selling bonds, which is something else entirely.

          • Don,
            Yes, and sorta no. Price of gas goes up and down by the season… that’s inflation and deflation of people’s budgets. We try to pull that out of the picture, because it’s really predictable, and not terribly relevant if you aren’t living paycheck to paycheck.

            Likewise, a mass cherry failure isn’t a big problem (people switch to other fruits), and thus no inflation. A mass corn failure (this year)? That affects so much stuff you can’t switch (like the price of chicken!).

          • Kim,

            You’re right, because I was conflating things a bit. the trouble is that we might want to study inflation for different reasons. If it’s to determine the appropriate level of SS benefits, then it’s because we want to know the change in cost of living and adjust benefit levels so that people on SS get a steady real income. But we might also want to study inflation to determine whether or not we’re regulating the money supply well or to make guesses about the state of aggregate demand or the like. For the former, price spikes in specific commodities caused by supply shocks matter quite a bit. For the latter, they obscure what we’re really looking for.

    • I find the way we talk about chain CPI irritating, because it tends to distract from what’s actually being debated. The real reason that anyone suggests switching to chain CPI is that they think that social security benefits are unaffordably generous and need to be cut. Similarly, those who argue against it don’t do so because they think that it’s a less accurate measure of inflation, they do so because they think that social security benefits are either at or below what they ought to be, in a normative sense. The proof is that we have arguments about switching SS benefits to chain CPI without discussing all of the other things, like tax bracket income thresholds, that are also indexed to inflation.

      So I would much prefer that instead of saying “we’re not calculating inflation correctly” people would just say “we can’t afford to pay SS benefits at the levels provided for by current law” or “I think we ought to reduce SS benefits.” It would save us all a lot of wasted argument.

      • That’s fair. I guess that is why someone like me, with no idea what SS payments are and this no idea if they shoild be raised, lowered, or kept constant, can hear about Chain-CPI and not leap to all the frothy yelling.

        The reality is that inflation isn’t one thing. A senior sees a different rate of inflation than a 20-something does, urbanites different than ruralians. I don’t think it’d be inappropriate to have different rates of inflation for different purposes, assuming they could be calcuated with a reasonable accuracy. Similarly to how cost of living isn’t a universal constant.

        • BLS keeps all the statistics (there are different ones for different places, and different goods.). For a while, back when I was running a budget, it was indexed to CPI

        • Given that medication is a key piece of senior spending, it seems like it would be more useful to look at tweaking Medicare benefits than to try to deal with increased medical costs through adjusting SS inflation calculations. I suspect that once we adjust for the medical side of it, a senior’s basket of goods looks much less remarkable. Likely less money spent on iPads and gasoline, but the basics should fall much more in line with headline inflation.

    • The problem is this: neither CPI nor chained-CPI reflects the real spending constraints faced by seniors, who purchase health care at a higher rate than either account for. To try to address this, there is an experimental CPI computation (which I believe is called “CPI-E,” but don’t quote me) that is calibrated to match the spending habits of seniors.

      It turns out to be higher than CPI — which is no surprise given health care costs.

      Thus the chained-CPI will, for seniors, be less accurate than straight CPI.

      The direction of this inaccuracy is entirely predictable.

  2. Very nice post.

    The President doesn’t think debt is a problem; he is fighting for higher taxes as a principle, not an expedient; and the media has his back.

    I’m normally a very pragmatic sort of guy, but I’m going to have to agree with him on this. The Republican bargaining position on the budget has been, for years, “You can have any agreement you want as long as we make zero concessions from our starting position.” If we care about a long-term balanced budget, taxes will have to be increased somewhere along the line. The “Absolutely no increases in taxes anywhere for any reason” line must be broken somewhere. It can’t be allowed to hold forever. A minor increase in the top marginal rate is a good place to crack it.

    The Republicans have been remarkably disciplined over the years. I’m impressed with their ability to maintain that discipline and to get the people on the other side of the table to convince themselves that they’re negotiating with a party that will eventually concede something. But if something can’t go on forever, it won’t. This won’t, and the sooner it stops, the better off we’ll be.

    As I understand it, government prints money so it can fund entitlements. Printing money causes its value to go down, what we call inflation. To offset inflation, government increases entitlements. Rinse and repeat.

    Surely that’s not really how you understand it, is it?

    • GOP has been good on opposing taxes but bad on reining in spending? Is that what you’re saying? I’d agree with the latter. Not sure about the former. Maybe.

      On entitlements and printing money, that was an aside, not central to the point I was making. It’s true to an extent, but I wouldn’t dig in on it wholesale if you were planning on pushing back.

      • well, someone’s taken it off the table since, what, dukakis? Beltway establishment, Democrats… give someone the credit 😉

    • Anyone who cared primarily about reducing the deficit substantially would be in favor of going over the cliff and staying there. Fortunately, few people in public life are actually this foolish.

  3. I didn’t have any attention span left for Chuck Hagel. Kerry’s now apparently the pick anyway.

    Hagel for SecDef, not SecState.

  4. And this puzzles me: from what we now know about what happened at Benghazi, that it was an act of a armed militia which was out to kill American officials for our part in overthrowing Gaddafi and installing the current Libyan government, That was an act of revenge or an act of war. Its goal was to kill a specific enemy, not to intimidate or otherwise play to an audience. Insisting that the word “terrorists” be used posits the, frankly, stupid idea that “terrorist” is a synonym for “enemy of the United States”,

  5. Anything going on in politics ought to be able to digested by people with real lives.

    So the complexities of the real world should be ignored in our politics? I think your statement is more wishful thinking than a defensible normative claim.

    • It’s a rude paraphrase of the sentiment expressed in Federalist 62. It’s a recognition of the practical limitations of democracy, not a normative claim, per se. At some point, we have to make a choice between maintaining a legitimate democracy and having a legislature that can deal with all of the complexities of modern life.

      • I’m not sure if I don’t believe in impossible choices, or if I just dislike them. But I think if the legislature can’t deal with the complexities of modern life, delegitimation’s on its way just as surely as if they can deal with the complexities but the public can’t figure out what they’re doing.

        But personally, I think if the street lights are synchronized the government is given legitimacy, even if the public doesn’t understand how it happens.

        • The functioning of street lights is a perhaps deceptively innocent example. The illustration also works with the criminal law enforcement, which works on the same principle, though not so anodyne as street lights: If we are afforded greater safety from criminals by yielding to greater discretion of the police to search and seize, the police would nonetheless enjoy greater legitimacy. If that is so, it reflects an impoverishment of the people’s understanding of legitimacy.

  6. So why is the gun control debate always only framed around “what’s the least amount of firepower one needs to oppose a burglar” when it really ought to be “what’s the least amount of firepower a group of individuals needs to wage a legitimate and credible rebellion against a tyrannical government?” Why can’t we have a nuanced, thoughtful conversation about this?

    Because it’s a pretty simple conversation, really.

    If you’re fighting a tyrannical government, you have two possible situations: their troops are willing to lose or they’re not willing to lose.

    If their troops are willing to lose, you really can get the job done with IEDs and small arms, if you have enough people willing to die for freedom. Automatic weapons aren’t necessary. Antitank weapons aren’t necessary. Eventually, the troops will get tired of killing grandmas and go home, or they’ll turn on their leaders and you win that way.

    If the troops aren’t willing to lose, you have two possible sub-situations. The first is that they have nukes. If they have nukes, you lose. Period. The second is that they don’t have nukes. Here you can still win, but you’re probably going to need antitank weapons and the ability to interdict your nation’s aircraft.

    So, if you’re talking about the U.S. possibly devolving into tyranny (and like all nations, there’s no reason to assume it can’t), then you’re either talking about really only two situations: needing small arms and IEDs, which you can have even with pretty widespread gun control, or you’re screwed. Because the army has nukes, and tanks you can’t blow up, and aircraft we can’t shoot down.

    If you’re really worried about the possibility of tyranny, which again I grant for the sake of the argument is a real possibility, your number one, numero uno, top pick of the things which you should start doing right now today isn’t buying a bunch of your own guns. It’s cutting the military budget – like, gutting it, and paring the nuclear arsenal down to “not enough to wipe out much”.

    Because then you have a chance to beat them anytime in the near future. Otherwise you don’t. Well, unless you’re going to allow private citizens to buy nukes, which I think we can all agree is off the table.

    The weird dichotomy to me is that most of the very strong gun rights advocates, who cite this – defense from tyranny – as a reason for standing against gun control measures as a foundational principle, are also huge fans of having an extremely large, well funded, astronomically well outfitted military.

    Who do they think is going to be shooting at them in the event of tyranny?

    • Patrick, you completely nailed that one. If you look at the actual historical debate culminating in the 2nd, if’s clear that the founders were deathly afraid of having a standing army in peacetime, for precisely the reasons you state. They had plenty of experience with rulers using such to both wage wars of convenience with their neighbors and against their own peoples. Their solution was lifted directly from the Constitution of the State of Pennsylvania*; a guarantee that the “people” could keep and bear arms in order to form well regulated** local militias that could be called up if need be for national defense. That’s also why DoD appropriations have to be voted on every two years, with the exception of the Navy. The Navy is an inherently outward projecting force and poses much less threat*** to the civilian populace. If the civilian populace is the Army, then how are you going to use that to tyrannize the people?

      So the irony is that the pro-gun crowd is right in saying the purpose of the 2nd is to forestall tyranny, but they have the logic of the founders screwed around. It was never envisioned that the populace should have the means to fight against the national army. Rather, the populace would be the national army and would tell Washington to f***off if they were ordered into action against, basically, themselves.

      * The militia clause of the 2nd was basically a copy-and-paste from the Penn Constitution, but a sloppy job. The original had a phrase that was explicit about the intent being to prevent the formation of a peacetime standing army. As it stands, it’s sort of ambiguous now but would have been understood at the time.

      ** Organized into companies with local commanders, trained and drilled regularly, maybe have wargames with the neighboring villages, etc. Sort of like the current National Guard, but even more locally oriented. You kept your primary weapon at home but there would also be a town armory for more/bigger/other stuff as well.

      *** Keep in mind that unlike today, the Navy of the time would be hard-pressed to project force into a coastal town beyond the range of a cannon shot. And the townies could shoot back, having, you know, that militia thingy.

      • To add support to the notion of being deathly afraid of a standing army is the context of the Third Amendment and the phrasing of the Declaration of Independence. Both suggest that the Framers found the notion of standing armies to be distasteful, and even the Federalists didn’t want a standing federal army even for the quasi-war with France.

        That’s saying something.

      • Likely the model of the militia they had in mind had more to do with the yeomanry/militias that were popular in Britain vis-a-vis the standing armies.

      • “So the irony is that the pro-gun crowd is right in saying the purpose of the 2nd is to forestall tyranny, but they have the logic of the founders screwed around. It was never envisioned that the populace should have the means to fight against the national army. Rather, the populace would be the national army and would tell Washington to f***off if they were ordered into action against, basically, themselves.”

        I understand what you are saying about the intent of the 2nd Amendment but I think we need to fast forward to today, and look at the situation the citizenry is in today versus during the time of the Founders. I just think citizens are right to be leery of the gun control crowd. We just don’t know how far they will go with their agenda. The anti-gun crowd may start with something many of us would call reasonable but then could have a hidden agenda to incrementally expand their initiative to chip away at the 2nd Amendment.

        • Why should citizens be leery of the gun control crowd? What practical levels of gun control are there? What would any political powerful groups like? Is this more or less gun control than is ‘proper’?

          Frankly, there is no “gun control” organization with a fraction of the power of the NRA, and the biggest “gun control” issue of the last thirty years has been a sorta ban on military-esque rifles with fully automatic modes and large clips. That’s not exactly…super concerning.

          • I would suggest that the Democratic Party is at least as powerful as the NRA. Plus, progressives have a lot of organizations pushing for control, including much of the media.

            I do believe that background checks at the time of gun registration needs to be reformed and/or expanded. But I see no need for gun control since most of the places where massacres were committed were in gun-free zones. But, I am not for arming the teachers either. I am for armed security guards at schools.

            I believe the mental health system needs more reforming then gun laws. The highest crime rates occur in cities which have the toughest gun laws.

            Once the politicians start chipping away at the citizens 2nd Amendment rights that is a slippery slope. Where does it end? Or what do politicians decide falls under the 2nd Amendment?
            If the military is allowed to have automatic weapons then why don’t politicians think the citizenry should have the right to purchase the same guns? If the government were to take away the right for citizens to own automatic weapons but the military was able to I see that as giving the government a leg up on the people should an occasion ever occur again where the government has committed a long train of abuses and usurpations against its citizens, like happened in Britain under King George III. I believe citizens should have the right to own the same type of guns that the military do, but not for recreational purposes or even for self-defense but for defense against a tyrannical government should that ever happen again (hopefully this will never happen).

          • You didn’t answer the question.

            What do these “gun control” groups want? What have they tried? How much have they lobbied for it?

            The Democratic party, which you suggest has as much clout as the NRA, did absolutely nothing with gun control over the last, oh decade. Really two. The assault weapon ban was it. They haven’t done anything since, and even after it expired they tried only a half-hearted attempt to revive it. They did nothing when they controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House and gun control was not even a Democratic issue until this recent massacre.

            So again, why should citizens be leery of “gun control groups” if the biggest, most powerful one you can name has not offered a single, substantive piece of gun control legislation in a decade or more?

            I’m not seeing anything to be leery OF here.

          • Teresa,
            You seriously think you can get Tester to sign onto revoking people’s gun rights? From Montana?
            ROFL. Democratic Party be bigger than the coasts.

            Have you ever met an armed security guard? I haven’t seen one in this country worth jack shit anything, because to get to get the training you need to eliminate a person with a gun… you need to practice shooting people, in combat conditions.

            Police can’t pull off stopping a massacre half the time — particularly if they’re the ones being shot at. (oh, sure, eventually, they get their man).

          • Teresa,
            Okay. Have your nuclear weapons. But, for the love of G-D, do it some place that isn’t my Backyard!!!

            TNT makes a FAR better defense against tyranny then some stupid gun. Even an automatic gun.

    • Who do they think is going to be shooting at them in the event of tyranny?

      I have had more conversations with military folks that lead me to believe that they see themselves as similar to Turkey’s military than that they see themselves as the guys who will be enforcing the laws on the part of The New Boss.

      For what that’s worth.

      • Well, then, you’re not talking about civilians needed guns to protect them from the tyrannical military, you’re talking about the military shooting at their ostensibly civilian commanders.

        I’m not sure the logic follows all that well here, either, but still.

    • Nukes are valuable in a sectional war, but not in a widespread rebellion. The central government won’t be willing to destroy its most valuable cities just because there are rebels operating out of them. The most valuable thing against a rebellion is a precedent for suspending traditional constitutional rights during emergencies, so that doing so again won’t stampede those who still support (or don’t care enough about politics to oppose) the government into joining the rebels. Which is why opposing future tyranny by taking an absolutist position on the Second while cheering the destruction of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth makes no sense.

      • The central government won’t be willing to destroy its most valuable cities just because there are rebels operating out of them.

        This entirely depends on whether or not they are willing to lose.

        Because if you are losing, and the only thing you have left is “nuke Los Angeles, and see if that makes Houston fall back in line”, you’re nuking Los Angeles, if you’re not willing to lose.

        If you *are* willing to lose, you’re likely never to use nukes.

          • If you’re playing to win, and not willing to lose, then you start out with a smaller city so that when you win you maintain control over the largest number of people possible. Los Angeles is the second biggest city and second biggest metro area to control, so maybe you don’t start there. You start somewhere smaller — large enough to make a statement but small enough that, fact is, you can get by without it. Let’s say #14 or thereabouts.

    • Patrick, I’m bowing deeply and throwing roses your way.

      Encore, encore.

    • So, gun-rights advocates are Living Constitutionalists when it comes to the Second Amendment? And gun-control advocates are the Originalists?

      A friend of mine insists we need to hold a constitutional convention, that the constitution we have rarely makes any intuitive sense anymore. Maybe he’s right. I don’t see how we turn the clock back to a pre-WWII era with an isolationist U.S. But I also don’t see how we have a limited government, esp. in light of Patrick’s excellent comments, in the 21st century that resembles the 1787 Constitution.

      • Nope.

        Neither is either.

        Both are both.

        They’re just originalists when they point at the doug fir, and living constitutionalists when they point at the dutch elm. Or vice-versa.

  7. Susan Rice is out of the running because of Benghazi.

    No, Susan Rice is out of the running because of the ridiculous witch hunts being launched over Benghazi and the utter impossibility of having a decent conversation on the subject. That’s not the same thing.

    • What do you consider a “witch hunt”? I ask this because I know that most conservatives just want to get to the bottom of what caused the fiasco in Benghazi but the Obama administration seems to be covering the answers up. Plus we want to avoid what happened in Benghazi in the future. The other thing that a retired military veteran pointed out is that the administration left a man behind which isn’t very good for morale.

      • I can’t believe you’re still peddling that.

        I suppose that’s the next Vince Foster killed himself.

        I admit to mild curiousity — the report that was recently released which, you know, sorta makes everything you’re claiming there totally falacious — coverup to the coverup? Lie? Or just something you haven’t read?

        • Seems to have been a few stories on my news reader over the past week about that.
          Yahoo, not Fox.

        • From what I’ve read, admittedly very little, is where I got my information that the Benghazi report covered up for some in the Obama administration, especially Susan Rice, and in addition I took the word of a veteran. But to be fair I will do some more research on the matter and say the information that I have come across may or may not be true. I will respond after I research this further.

          • A veteran? Was he there? If he wasn’t actually there, why would he know more about it than you?

            Does being a veteran give him special contacts in the military? Psychic powers? Understanding beyond the ken of ordinary mortals?

            I ask this because, right around the time of peak…shall we say “speculation”..on Benghazi, I got told by someone that a SEAL had told him Hillary Clinton was gonna resign over it all, effective right then and there. Which said to me: “This man is either incredibly credulous and has been lied to, or thinks I am an idiot”. Because why would a SEAL, of all people, have some sort of insider knowledge of the State department?

            He didn’t, of course. The man was a “SEAL” because a SEAL is a big, important sounding military name and obviously military people know stuff we don’t, so this guy HAD to be credible. Utilizing “credible” anonymous sources is generally a good sign of BS.

            A “veteran” is the same. So he’s a veteran. So’s my Dad. So’s two of my cousins. All three of them know LESS about Benghazi than I do, because I at least followed the story in the news and they didn’t.

            Anyways, the report you haven’t read boiled down exactly as anyone who had watched this story with a skeptical eye could tell you: Rice gave the talking points she was given by the CIA and State. Those talking points mentioned a protest and not terrorists because (1) things were confused, there were several protests in the area, and that’s what the CIA thought had happened and (2) Removed references to terrorists because CIA didn’t want to tip hands on something.

            Susan Rice gave out the best assesment the CIA and State had at the moment. It was scrubbed of a few speculations that were uncorroborated. It contained no lies. It contained things that, later, were determined to be false — but at the time were honestly believed to be true.

            No one was “left behind”. That story was, flatly, made up. There was no CIA safehouse full of soldiers told to stand down. No Admirals were fired. No gunships circling overhead.

            People died, yes. It was an attack. Those things happen. Yet all the sturm and drang, all the outrageous stories of Obama’s treasonous disdain? Turned out to be absolutely, completely false.

          • “I took the word of a veteran”.
            All due respect, but you aren’t Brin, or folks claiming to talk to veterans who are generals, and might be expected to have contacts that say “yup, here’s what’s going on.”

            Scuttlebutt from buck privates means jack.

          • Last I checked, passing along the conclusion of intelligence agencies that later turned out to be incorrect wasn’t enough to prevent African-American women named Rice from being confirmed as Secretary of State until this year.

  8. “You didn’t answer the question.” I was trying to using some historical facts such as the only times that tyranny has occurred is when a nations citizens have been disarmed. I hope this helps.

    This administration tends to never let a crisis go to waste. Then if they are unable to pass legislation they find a way to bypass congress when they have no authority to do so and use agencies/organizations to further their agenda. This has been an abuse of executive powers – unconstitutional.

    So in this case after the Newtown, Conn. shooting Obama has already created a new committee on gun control, not a committee on how to stop the violence in our society, that looks at a number of influences or causes and how to stop it.

    While I do not know what the intent of the gun control committee is I feel that it is legitimate for gun owners to be leery of what the president’s objective is or of how strict the gun laws that he is promoting. After a set of assassinations LBJ passed the Gun Control Act in the late 60’s and Bill Clinton signed the Brady Handgun Prevention Act into law. These pieces of legislation seem reasonable to me. But any further gun control legislation beyond expanding background checks would IMO be excessive and tome would be treating responsible citizens the same as mass murderers, as if the politicians are considering mass murders to be the norm when instead they are the exception. What I mean is this gun control talk is a knee-jerk reaction that punishes the wrong people, law-abiding gun owners. Criminals are not going to follow the law. If they want to find a gun and kill person(s) they will if that is what they’re intent on doing.

    If I knew exactly what the President and his gun control team were promoting with regards to legislation I would be less leery or not leery at all.

    The other day on the news (Abc?) they had a person research gun laws and the number of massacres over the past few decades. The researcher noted that with or without stricter gun laws – either the assault or automatic weapons ban – the number of tragedies from gun violence stayed pretty consistent over the years.

    • Criminals “don’t follow the law” in every nation on Earth. Yet, somehow, countries such as Sweden, France, Germany, and Italy all have far lower gun murder rates than we do.

    • “I was trying to using some historical facts such as the only times that tyranny has occurred is when a nations citizens have been disarmed. ”

      That’s an interesting comment. It assumes, I think, that the Founding Fathers did not really rebel against tyranny – does it not?

      • “That’s an interesting comment. It assumes, I think, that the Founding Fathers did not really rebel against tyranny – does it not?”

        I was using the example of King George III in a prior comment which is an example of tyranny or a tyrannical government so I’m not sure how you concluded that in my response I wasn’t talking about the Founding Fathers rebelling against tyranny.

        • One did not need to disarm Germany’s Jews. They were pacifists.

          Are the Palestinians disarmed, under their tyrannical ruler? How about Saudi Arabia, where a woman can be beaten for driving a car?

        • Yes – which, I would think, makes your comment that tyranny only happens when a citizenry has been disarmed a terrific bumper sticker but an easily refuted “fact.”

          Because I’m pretty sure the American colonialists were armed.

  9. I’m confused, Tim. If you think the government needs to get spending/revenues more in line – why on earth wouldn’t you cheer us on over the ‘cliff’? There aren’t any remotely plausible scenarios that will do more to reduce the federal budget deficit than just allowing the sequester cuts to occur and the temporary reduction in statutory tax rates to expire.
    Either the ‘Cliff’ is good, or deficits are much less important than other things – you can’t have it both ways. The problem with Congressional Republicans is that the deficit mania is a useful tool for them, not an actual problem they care about. Their behavior regarding budget negotiations makes much more sense when you accept the fact that they primarily care about reducing taxes on their constituents and minimizing spending on the constituents of their political opponents.

    On the CPI – Social Security is still quite solvent (it won’t be in the future, but that’s not a problem for today’s budget deficits, is it?). So your narrative is plain wrong.
    The point is that it’s big and there are plenty of folks that dislike it, so they’re looking for ways to trim it (see above reasoning – though there are a fair number of influential centrists that also dislike S.S.). Changing the particular method of estimating inflation is a way to do so while hoping the public can’t understand it enough to be angry about it.

    • There are probably some people who think sequestration isn’t that bad. Seems like most who’ve looked at it conclude it would be enormously wasteful given the cuts are across the board, resulting in abandoning projects with sunk costs, etc. I haven’t analyzed it, personally, but I can appreciate that not all scenarios that get “spending/revenues more in line” are laudable.

      I did acknowledge that a good deal of posturing is going on here. Here’s something I’ve been wondering: Which Republicans are doing more “posturing”? Establishment Republicans like Boehner? Or Tea Party Republicans? I think the former just wants to get a deal done; they’ll try to make Dems look like wastrels when in recent years they’ve been just as bad. The Tea Party folks, on the other hand, really cares about getting spending/revenues in line. They’re not “posturing” — they don’t care about perceptions as much as their principles, for better or worse.

      So I think we ought to be precise here: Are you upset with the “posturing” Establishment folks, or the ideologue Tea Party folks? Because it seems to me that if it’s laudable to fight hard on something “they actually care about,” the Tea Party ought to be held in some esteem on the left, at least as worthy, honest adversaries. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

      • When it comes to the deficit posturing, the ‘Establishment’ is definitely deserving of the ire of pretty much everyone, left or right.If they want a deal, they have it in their power to make one. If they don’t want a deal, they should stop pretending.

        I agree with you the Tea Party is not posturing nearly to the extent of the rest of the Party.
        I would say they’re just plain wrong on this subject, the one that seems to be at the very center of their existence nationally.
        But, that said, I’m not aware of any Tea Party members who are actually cheering us into the Sequester, which makes me skeptical that even they actually believe their rhetoric on the budget, either.

        I’m genuinely confused by deficit hawks when it comes to these issues – if the deficit is so important that nothing can be sacrificed in order to close it (or, more accurately, all needed sacrifices must come from others), then stop saying it’s so important. Because it’s clearly not that important! Waiting around for the perfect way to balance the budget without anyone anywhere losing anything relative to the status quo is delusional at best.

        On a purely local basis, I’m quite grateful for the Tea Party Patriots of Georgia as a group willing to work for better, more accountable state government, but I don’t see anything like that coming out of the national movement at all.
        I’m sure there are very good reasons for this which, politically, I would not agree with at all, but it is what it is.

        • We’re not too far apart here, I think. I still think it’s not fair to say, in effect, “if you care so much about a balanced budget, you should gladly accept anything that gets us there.” That the TP prioritizes fiscal issues higher than the left does not mean it holds nothing above them.

          I also don’t know if I agree with quite the degree of fervor of the TP’s fiscal hawkism. And they definitely represent a fissure within the GOP (or one more fissure). But I welcome that, since the GOP clearly needs to rethink some of its message. As for the TP’s national accomplishments, the two big ones are blocking earmarks in 2011 and, more importantly, establishing the Office of Congressional Ethics, “the only independent watchdog ensuring that members live up to the ethical rules,” which wouldn’t exist if the TP didn’t insist upon it, according to Larry Lessig. (I recently read that many of the insider trading-esque loopholes catalogued in Peter Schweizer’s 2010 book Throw Them All Out were closed after that book’s publication. Anyone know whether this was done through the OCE?)

          • I had not seen the ethics office, so thanks for thanks for that. The earmarks I had been aware of, but more as an act of minor fiscal symbolism than a commitment to better governance per se. I may not be giving the due credit, perhaps.

            I suspect if we wrote down what we each thought a good number for the federal budget deficit in 2013, we would come up with pretty different numbers, even if we both agree medium and long terms are what really matter.
            But, at some level, budgetary balance necessarily entails making decisions that will hurt someone – as long all the prominent fiscal hawks not only refuse to say what ox is worth goring but actively claim they must all be spared, I will always consider their position to be silly posturing.

          • Plinko:

            The earmarks I had been aware of, but more as an act of minor fiscal symbolism than a commitment to better governance per se.

            Earmarks are definitely a grain of sand on the beach in terms of numbers, but I’m not unsympathetic to the view that earmarks are the currency congressmen use to bribe one another. The argument can be made that a member of Congress will vote for practically any stupid thing as long as enough money gets kicked into the home district as part of the deal.

            I’m not sure that doing away with that currency buys us much beyond total gridlock, but the argument isn’t totally nuts.

      • The Tea Party folks, on the other hand, really cares about getting spending/revenues in line.

        Are you sure about that? I may have missed it–there have been a lot of trial balloon budgets and “budget-like processed cheese food” floated over the past year or two, but is there actually a Tea Party approved budget that lowers spending by X dollars without lowering taxes by more than X dollars? I’m looking for something real–no “we assume 8% real growth because our plan rocks” or “we’ll cut a trillion per year in unspecified loopholes without increasing anybody’s taxes.”

        The rule of thumb that has served me well is this: Nobody cares about the deficit. Your policies get press time if you can trick people into believing that those policies will help the deficit, so it’s a good idea to scream about the deficit when pushing your policies. But when the rubber hits the road, the people screaming loudest about the deficit are almost inevitably pushing something else.

      • Yes. Their principles.
        Veterans benefits are the new welfare.
        Those principles.
        Their principles are that of entitlement, and FYIGM.

        Well, we were talking about the people running the Tea Party, not the tea party itself, right?

        The idea of the Tea Party was bafflingly stupid. The right keeps on giving the left gifts.

  10. I still don’t get the “X years without a budget” thing. We pass a budget every year. We kinda have to.

    Oh, I understand the actual complaint is either Obama submitted one and it was rejected (Big whoop. The President submitting one in the first place is just an exercise in Congressional laziness and an excuse for the President to put out what his party would probably do if they had total control at best. A pointless wish list at worst) or that we’ve been using continuining budgets instead of brand new ones or that the process was kinda hectic and not the pristine, clean “House passes bill, Senate passes bill, Committee resolves bill, both sides go YAY! and pass the amendmed bill” and instead contained a ton of sausage making.

    Again, big fat whoop.

    Look, “no budget in 4 years” is, flatly, stupidity. People who say it either have some arcane point that’s absolutely irrelevant to the real world, or are grinding a partisan ax. I don’t know what, exactly, your particular gripe is. I think you tried to explain it once and again, I got lost in a “WTF? How is that even relevent” weeds.

    Because, you know, in reality? We pass a budget every year. It’s how the government is funded. And it’s been funded EVERY YEAR FOR THE LAST FOUR YEARS. Ipso facto, we had a budget each and every year, even if it didn’t live up to some weird expectation of yours.

    Look, I hated me some George Bush. Personally, gonna rank in the Top 5 of “Worst Presidents Ever” for hopefully my entire life (because god, i don’t know if I can handle watching someone else break into the list). And I would never, in a trillion years, have thought to complain that “FOUR YEARS AND NO BUDGET” unless the government had actually shut down for four years as Congress wrangled, unable to pass a budget.

    because no matter how much I disliked old George there, the mere fact that government was open meant they had, in fact, passed a budget and to complain that didn’t made me a pedant or an idiot.

    • Congress has not passed a budget since 2009. Appropriations bills have been passed since then (though none in 2012), but not a budget. [“Sen. Corker says it has been more than three years since Congress passed a budget and that this year, not a single appropriations bill has made it the Senate floor. The record shows that he has his facts straight.”].

      Is that a distinction without a difference? I don’t think so, but we obviously disagree.

      One of the biggest reasons Republicans today are tepid on W is because he was such a wastrel. Would that he were forced to propose, negotiate, pass, and live within a budget!

      • The big budget bill of last year was a budget. The one that put in place the sequestration cuts, etc., that is a budget and it was passed.

      • I’ve heard it bandied about that one of the reasons that Congress has passed no formal budget is that sequestration rules don’t apply if you don’t have a budget to sequester.

        There is thus no trump card for the filibuster. The GOP has a fairly significant incentive for this state of affairs to continue, ergo… no budget.

        I’m not instilled with enough wisdom of the arcane workings of Senate bylaws to know if this is true or not, but if it is, it’s a remarkable cogent (if likely self-defeating in the long run) bit of political maneuvering on the part of the GOP, and the Democrats are probably quite pissy that they didn’t think of it earlier.

      • Yes, yes it is. Out of all the things to gripe about, that is like bottom of the list. Down there with “used the wrong font on a proclaimation”.

        Did Congress say “We shall tax thusly and spend thusly?” Yes, yes they did. And that’s a freaking budget. That is the entire heart of a budget. There is, basically, nothing else TO a budget but saying “Money in here, money out there. We have a plan for the next year, barring emergencies”.

        Corker’s a freakin’ idiot whose precious feelings are heart because it was passed in a way that didn’t give him a super happy, but did count as ‘passing the Senate’.

  11. Back…. been kinda busy with Christmas. Hope everyone had a blessed and Merry Christmas.

    As far as sequestration goes I am unsure whether its occurrence would be all that bad. But I’m not sure it would be good either. Quite ambivalent here. There is some evidence to suggest that some of those cuts as well as taxes – such as the estate tax – would benefit the states. But other items in the sequestration may be a detriment to the states.

    I am a Tea Party supporter and while I would like a decent, substantial deal to take place before we go over the fiscal cliff I won’t be sad if a deal is unable to be reached.

    • Out of curiosity, do you say that because you’d be happy to see the various effects of the cliff take effect permanently, or because you think going over the cliff temporarily will make a final deal you find congenial more likely? Is there some other reason I’m leaving out?

      • I think we need to reduce spending on both domestic spending and on the military or on defense. I am unsure as to whether the deep cuts which will take place if there isn’t an agreement before we go over the fiscal cliff are necessary or not. Some cuts and tax revenue needs to be increased but I don’t think to the extent that would happen if sequestration happens. I think some cuts and tax revenue increases need to be permanent but not the deep cuts and taxation that sequestration would demand.

        I think compromise needs to be made on both sides of the aisle. Taxes could be increased on anyone earning above $1 million – tax them at 37%. But I think the President (I think he has already at least to some extent) and Democrats need to agree to reduce spending on both the domestic front and on defense. The President agreed to cuts but I am not sure how deep or substantial they are.

        • The President agreed to 700 billion in cuts to Medicare and was attacked daily by the GOP for it. Why should he agree to any spending cuts, especially to entitlement programs, when he knows the GOP will turn around and run eleven trillion dollars worth of ads saying “OBAMA CUT MEDICARE TO GIVE MONEY TO THOSE PEOPLE!”

          • My understanding is that this is another major hangup. The Republicans want cuts and Obama has said yes to them in principal, but that the Republicans need to propose them. Everybody’s fingerprints need to be on those cuts, not just Obama’s.

            It’s one thing to demand specific cuts and have Obama sign off on them. It’s quite another to demand cuts that Obama doesn’t want and then demand that he write them up and sign off on them so that you can come back later and act like they were all his idea and that you would never have cut Medicare in a million years. They’re not just asking for concessions. They’re asking for concessions that they can use as a weapon later.

            This goes back to the fundamental rule: Nobody cares about the deficit. You could give the Republicans carte blanche to gut Medicare completely and they’d be highly unlikely to do it unless they could blame it on somebody else. When the rubber hits the road, nobody wants to be the bad guy.

        • Would you support a separate deal resolving the less controversial parts of the cliff? Say, a standalone bill including the Doc Fix and the AMT? Are those objectionable too? How about the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance? Just to be clear, all I’m after here is to get into the other ‘side’s’ head and get a better sense of how they’re thinking and what’s important to them.

          • I would be fine with a standalone bill which would address the AMT and Doc Fix. Not objectionable at all. I would have no problem with Congress coming to an agreement on the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance. I am unsure as to all the particulars to do with the payroll tax cut and unemployment, need to research them more so if you want a more precise response I will do so later (tonight or tomorrow) after having looked thoroughly into both those two parts of the fiscal cliff.

          • Thanks for response. I wonder if Congressional Republicans have a similar attitude? My guess is that they do, but wouldn’t vote for a standalone fix because they think it increases their bargaining leverage (Note: if so, I agree with them!).

            While we’re exploring, let me offer a hypothetical. Let’s say we go over the cliff, and in the first week of January you get to decide what Boehner says to Obama. What’s do you need to get in return in order to give Obama extension of the payroll tax cut for a year, Clinton-era tax rates on incomes over $250,000, and a permanent removal of the debt ceiling?

          • I wonder if Congressional Republicans have a similar attitude? My guess is that they do, but wouldn’t vote for a standalone fix because they think it increases their bargaining leverage (Note: if so, I agree with them!).

            This is a very interesting point, though. What you’re saying is that both sides agree on something that would be objectively good but one side won’t pass it because it because preventing that good outcome increases their bargaining power. Doesn’t that basically mean that one side is willing to hurt everybody in order to get their way on something totally different?

            You can see where I’m going with this. Both sides agree that the debt ceiling will have to be raised. It’s generally agreed that not doing so and allowing nature to take its course is very bad for everybody. But one side is willing hold it up it in order to gain leverage. Instead of passing the things they agree on and then horse trading on the remaining issues, one party is willing to threaten to burn the whole thing down because they believe that their opponents are concerned enough about good governance that they’ll relent on basically anything.

            Kind of interesting, no?

          • Well that was the whole point of the sequester, right? The theory was to make the automatic cuts such awful policy that politicians would have to reach a bipartisan compromise.

  12. Jesse said ‘The President agreed to 700 billion in cuts to Medicare and was attacked daily by the GOP for it. Why should he agree to any spending cuts, especially to entitlement programs, when he knows the GOP will turn around and run eleven trillion dollars worth of ads saying “OBAMA CUT MEDICARE TO GIVE MONEY TO THOSE PEOPLE!”‘

    I am not doubting that either. But the Democrats have done the same thing, and recently so no party is above political deception or political propaganda for personal/political gain.

    There needs to be a truce. Neither party should use reducing medicare spending against the other party for political gain. It is necessary so no one or no party should be demonized for doing what is necessary.

    • Yes. If only people could stand up and say, “there’s no problem with Social Security!”
      And then talk about the big problem with Medicare, and the twenty solutions we’re currently trying to implement (more than half through Obamacare).

      • Kim this is totally unrelated…

        But I wanted to apologize for never answering you on another thread here on LOG. It wasn’t until a week or two later that I saw you had asked me another question(s). Then I started not feeling so well, then Thanksgiving happened, and found out I had an infection where I had surgery. I’m not sure which thread or what you asked but if either of us figure that out I will answer your questions.

    • I don’t agree that the parties should do this, but even if they wanted to it would be impossible. Party organizations are not centralized enough to prevent their own members from engaging in (extremely effective) types of campaign messaging.

      • Do you think a particular candidate should be held responsible for what party organizations do if the candidate has no connection to a particular organization(s)?

        • I don’t know, because I’m not sure exactly what you mean by that. Are you asking whether or not I would have a problem with, say, hypothetical Republican Congressional Candidate X being attacked because hypothetical Republican Speaker of the House A brought a bill to cut Medicare to the floor?

          • Not exactly. What if a conservative CPAC or an organization like Americans for Prosperity advertised something where they accused Democrats of something and a Republican was running for office would you hold that GOP politician accountable for that ad?

          • Depending upon the nature of the relationship between the group and the candidate, no. But then, that’s part of why it’s unrealistic to think that we can get people to simply refrain from making politically effective (and often substantively valid, IMHO) criticisms of politicians.

  13. “While we’re exploring, let me offer a hypothetical. Let’s say we go over the cliff, and in the first week of January you get to decide what Boehner says to Obama. What’s do you need to get in return in order to give Obama extension of the payroll tax cut for a year, Clinton-era tax rates on incomes over $250,000, and a permanent removal of the debt ceiling?”

    Don, I will have to think on this one. I’ve had a migraine/cluster headache pretty much all day where I had to lay down sleeping til now, but will answer after thinking it over. Probably tomorrow.

  14. My first response if I was Boehner would be to tell the President that the GOP won’t talk about negotiating on the fiscal budget until you change the HHS mandate to respect everyone’s religious liberty.

    But then after the Obama administration decides to respect the First Amendment rights of all people instead of forcing persons to violate their consciences I would propose a counter offer of 37% for those people earning above $700,000 since President Obama refused Boehner’s offer of Clinton-Era rates for people earning over $1 million, and I would never give any President permanent removal of the debt ceiling because that is like giving the President a blank credit card without any checks and balances effectively making the President like a king at least in one area, and I would want spending to be reduced to 2008 levels (basically since there may be a few agencies that received more funding in 08′ than under Obama but these would need to be reduced by about 5% from there lowest levels under Obama).

    • Sounds like you’re going over the Cliff!

      Also, like you’re perfectly willing to officially cede the Federal Budget to the Executive in exchange for the right to grandstand about how much you disagree with it – our political problems explicated neatly in one paragraph.

      • How am I “perfectly willing to officially cede the Federal Budget to the Executive?”

        Doesn’t sequestration go into effect if a deal isn’t reached? With the terms already in place? So I’m not sure what you mean that I would be ceding the federal budget to the executive.

    • This is the type of behavior that has me worried. Instead of doing minor horse trading over minor ancillary issues, we’ve reached a point where it’s OK to hold the economy hostage over pet culture wars issues. We’re fortunate that the “fiscal cliff” is a slow motion problem rather than a sharp one. The debt ceiling is a much more worrisome issue, and I sincerely hope that Obama doesn’t offer any concessions on it.

      I’d be all for whatever accommodation religious organizations want on the contraceptive issue, but if I were in the President’s chair, I’d have a very hard time making concessions like that in the face of those sorts of threats. That’s the type of thing that has convinced the Republicans that they can get whatever they want by threatening to hit the debt ceiling every time it comes up for renewal.

      “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” is healthy negotiation. “You scratch my back or I’ll nuke Los Angeles” is not. At some point, there has to be a “no negotiating with terrorists” type of policy that prevent this type of absurd asymmetric threat.

    • I’m still mystified by the notion that the absence of a debt ceiling makes the President more powerful. As it stands now, the Feds spend money that Congress appropriates. if they don’t appropriate the money, then it doesn’t get spent. What the debt ceiling refers to is giving the president permission to borrow money in order to pay for things that Congress has already appropriated funds for if the books don’t balance. So refusing to raise the debt ceiling only means that you’re giving the treasury department contradictory commands: tax X dollars, spend X + Y dollars, but don’t borrow any money to make up the difference.

  15. If you think that a constitutional right is a low priority that is extremely sad. But it seems to me and many conservatives believe this too, that the Constitution doesn’t mean anything or much at all to Lefties. It is considered too much of an inhibitor to progressives.

    Religious liberty is a constitutional right for ALL citizens whereas how Obama and Congress handle the fiscal issues is not a violation of individuals rights under the Constitution. And, yes, I believe the spineless Boehner & CO should have stood up to Obama and the Democrats long before the fiscal cliff became an issue.

    Obama gets virtually 90% of what he wanted with the budget and yet he claims that he met the GOP half-way. That’s a bunch of hooey and he’s delusional if he really believes what he stated. Or is Obama just lying like he usually does to the American public since he’s got most of the media to cover up for him and carry his water for him so to speak?

    The President was the one who was holding this deal hostage, and doing so out of political ideological selfishness. He refused to accept Boehner’s “Plan B”. If he had accepted it we would have most likely had a deal passed right now by both Senate and House. Obama is a good salesman and salesmen are good deceivers.

    • No, I’m all for religious liberty. I just don’t necessarily think that the term means “free to carve out an exception to any law at any time on religious grounds.” There are shades of gray here. “I don’t want my tax money funding [wars/abortion/consumption of beef/consuption of pork]” or “My religion exempts me from Federal income tax” or any number of other religious objections have been weak enough tea that we don’t accommodate them.

      I’m more on your side than not on this particular issue because I believe that there’s a good compromise to be made, but I also don’t see an unconscionable difference between allowing your employees the choice to acquire birth control using the insurance you bought for them and allowing them the choice to acquire birth control using the money you paid them. Not every political issue deserves a full nuclear response.

      Obama gets virtually 90% of what he wanted with the budget and yet he claims that he met the GOP half-way.

      Let’s talk about this in very specific terms now. What 90% are you talking about?

      Let’s rewind six months to the debt ceiling talks. That was the turning point for me. Both sides knew that the debt ceiling had to be raised and would be raised. The “right” answer to the debt ceiling is to do what they normally do: The minority party grandstands and whines and unfairly beats the majority party over the head and the “reluctantly” does what has to be done. A good “compromise” is to raise the debt ceiling with nobody getting any goodies as part of the deal.

      But the Republicans decided that they should receive concessions in order to do something that both sides knew absolutely needed to be done. The fact that they received any concessions at all was not good for our democracy.

      If I threatened to hold up the mortgage payment to get some leverage over what movie my wife and I see on Friday night, that’s insane behavior. It sets an unhealthy precedent. My wife would be foolish to see it as just a negotiating tactic and roll over because the costs are low. And honestly, I don’t think that I could take the high ground by pushing the idea that her taste in movies is objectively bad.

      The President was the one who was holding this deal hostage, and doing so out of political ideological selfishness. He refused to accept Boehner’s “Plan B”.

      I’m not sure how offering slightly less than what your negotiating partner would get if he simply ignores you constitutes a real healthy compromise. Then again, I’m fairly certain that none of Boehner’s early proposals would have passed the Republican side because they contained tax increases. Boehner seems like he really wanted a deal, but was simply unable to get one because his side of the table seems to erroneously believe that they’re holding all the cards and can dictate a non-compromise with no tax increases.

      The Republicans opened themselves up to this mess last year because they thought they’d be in a strong position now. But then they lost the election to a guy who was campaigning on doing exactly what he’s doing now, the public is unhappy, and they’re taking the heat for it. The fact that Boehner couldn’t even get enough Republican votes for Plan B says a lot.

    • I would suggest that everyone, and I do mean everyone, has a constitutional amendment or two that they don’t really care about, or at least one that they don’t mind seeing give way in the face of other considerations. Popular ones to ignore include the 4th Amendment, the 2nd Amendment, and the requirement that Congress declare war (which, to be fair, we haven’t really paid attention to since at least the Jefferson Administration).

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