Tuesday, August 02, 2011

I See Debt People

The whooped-up yahoos who claim to represent Conservative American political factions have earned their momentary fame at a pretty large cost to the national economy, and sadly they are enabled by too many in the press who think the press should always flee from facts. The press and the whooped-up yahoos are wrong.

The cult of balance has played an important role in bringing us to the edge of disaster. For when reporting on political disputes always implies that both sides are to blame, there is no penalty for extremism. Voters won’t punish you for outrageous behavior if all they ever hear is that both sides are at fault. ...

"The problem with American politics right now is Republican extremism, and if you’re not willing to say that, you’re helping make that problem worse."

Some plain-speaking folks are finally getting the point - Congress and government is not a broken system - but many of the players have gone cuckoo loco:

... the system breaks down when one of the parties goes berserk. We’re not in a broken-down car; we’re in a perfectly good car with a crazy person in the passenger seat recklessly grabbing the steering wheel at inopportune times.

To be sure, the parties are supposed to disagree, and there’s nothing wrong with Democrats and Republicans fighting for very different principles and agendas. In some respects, it’s helpful to voters to have sharp distinctions between the parties, better clarifying the directions available to the country, and ideally making the electorate’s choices easier.

When one of two major parties, however, succumbs to madness — say, threatening to crash the global economy on purpose without a multi-trillion-dollar ransom — the basic political norms that oil the political machine becomes impossible."

And while independence was the goal of the Founders of America - money, debt and taxation were also priorities for the nation.

... while balancing budgets, restraining borrowing, and keeping taxes low and government small might be good goals, depending on what you mean by them, it is impossible to locate in the founding national law any requirement to accomplish them. Indeed, the reality of founding history leads to the reverse conclusion.

The Constitution came about precisely to enable a newly large government -- a national one — to tax all Americans for the specific purpose of funding a large public debt. Neither Alexander Hamilton nor his mentor the financier Robert Morris made any bones about that purpose; James Madison was among their closest allies; and Edmund Randolph of Virginia opened the Constitutional Convention by charging the delegates to redress the country’s failure to fund -- not pay off, fund -- the public debt, by creating a national government.

Nobody has to like it. But the original intent of the Constitution involved sustaining and managing public debt via taxation.

Both the articles and the amendments do, of course, limit government and restrict its power. But no ratified amendment has ever qualified Congress’s power of the purse, which in the minds of the framers explicitly involved the power to take on debt and fund it. In their tweets and blogs, "constitutional conservatives" have been promoting a balanced-budget amendment with reference to the tired notion that since households and small businesses must balance their budgets (as if!), government must too. They link that economically useless prescription to the widespread fantasy that our Constitution was written, amended and ratified for just such a purpose. The framers saw it just the other way."

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