Monday, August 08, 2011

The Poker Party

So we now have the debt ceiling debacle and its unfolding consequences.

Here’s the Cliff Notes version of how we got to where we are, based on no research and a hazy memory of who did what, when and why.

We’ve been raising the debt ceiling since the 1930’s, early on to pay for WWII, and since, for a wide variety of things that most people thought were good things.

There have been so many “good things” over the decades that we now spend about forty cents of every dollar that the federal government takes in on paying interest on the money borrowed to pay for the “good things.”

Both Democrats and Republicans for the most part are complicit in what could be described as our national financial Ponzi scheme.  (Too harsh?  We give out goodies now with the price for them passed down the years to the schmucks who didn’t get out of the game in time – that’s a Ponzi scheme.)

From what I’ve read, the old guard of both parties intended to stay the spending and borrowing course, giving lip service to their constituents by decrying the other side’s programs.  No new taxes!  (Fees and service related charges are okay though.)  You can’t balance the budget on the backs of the poor and middle class!  (Making states pay for federal mandates with the result that they cut services is okay though.)

Then came the 2010 mid-term election.  A bunch of wild-eyed newcomers had made a bunch of promises that, as it happened, appealed to the anti-tax crowd and it worked..  But what to do when faced with the reality of actual governance – especially when they were only a part of a majority, in only half the Congress?

Poker was the answer.  Table stakes poker with a choice of economic stability or crisis as the prize.

Never mind that any rational person knew that the debt ceiling was going to be raised, let’s get whatever political currency we can out of the process.  That doing so will do nothing meaningful in the way of what we say our goal is?  Elections are fast approaching, this crisis is butchered red meat for our base.

The last paragraph isn’t directed solely to the Tea Party folks – the far left wants an unsustainable social structure to remain in place just as long as it can manage.  No spending cuts, no reform of social welfare structures, no nothing.  Raise “revenue” (notice the left never uses the word tax?).

There are two parties of “no” “working” in Washington, D.C.  Why?  It seems to work in what our political life has become.  Damn liberals, they’ll take and take and take.  Life sucking conservatives, they’d throw grandma out on the curb if it means more money for them in their gated communities.  And we listen to it all, bitch, moan and groan, and then vote for the politician that seems to identify with our bias.

As I type, the Dow is down a little more than 2.5%.  But the people sponsoring the poker game aren’t too worried I bet.  (You do understand what, not who, I mean by people don’t you?  Google Citizens United if you need a refresher course in power politics.)  They’ll get their “rake” from the poker players no matter who “wins” any particular poker game.

Does government spending need to be cut?  Yep.  Does it have to be done without putting grandma out on the curb?  Yep.  Does that mean that some group of grown-ups needs to find out what cuts and what structural reforms can be made and make up the difference with some extra taxes on some of us?  Yep.

Any of that going to happen?  Nope.


Jeni said...

Nice to read an explanation about our problems in a way that shows/spreads the blame equally. And, sadly, I agree with your last line. Nope. Ain't likely to happen, is it? It could -if those jackwagons would utilize a bit of common sense but I think we're beyond that coming to be.

The Curmudgeon said...

I hope you're wrong even as I suspect you're right. That's what led to my "nail" post -- how do we rewind to get rid of the "parties of no" and allow the views of sensible folks to be heard?

Ponzi scheme is too right: Our budget has assumed eternal growth -- but with the aging Baby Boomers about to drag Social Security and Medicare over the cliff (something we've been warned about since we were teenagers, at least) -- the flaws in the scheme are showing.

This is why the demise of the Space program could not have come at a worse time. There will be grandmas at the curb -- I may be sitting right there with them -- if necessary cuts are made unless the economy can grow substantially... and soon. How? Mine the Moon and the Asteroid Belt. Build Zero-G hotels in geosynchronous orbit. Set up colonies. Explore and settle President Kennedy's New Frontier.

Crazy? Maybe. But a lot less crazy than thinking a congressional super-committee will really solve the debt crisis.

Dave said...

Well, aren't we gloomy.

Maybe I should re-read some Heinlein and Asimov to get with it Curmudgeon.