FOLLOW THROUGH

Hey! Remember that entire session of Congress – hell, practically an entire calendar year – the GOP spent threatening to force the country to default on its debt and cause a global financial crisis the likes of which the world has never seen? Boy that sure was entertaining, at least to the Teabagger moneymen and the media that covered it breathlessly around the clock.

Well, on Tuesday the House GOP proposed a clean debt limit increase. That is, they did the exact opposite of what they spent a year claiming they would do (and, importantly, exactly what they did for George W. Bush nineteen times). The fact that it's an election year certainly has something to do with it. The fact that they obviously had no intention whatsoever of ever following through on their we'll-kill-the-hostages threat probably has a lot more to do with it.

The troubling thing is that the series of threats, grandstanding, and political Kabuki theater that defined the non-crisis throughout 2013 was front page, screaming headline news. The complete and total surrender that Tuesday's vote represents was barely a blip. Maybe a paragraph on Page 10. We're too busy talking about ice and dead actors. It would seem worthwhile and newsworthy, one would think, to tell viewers and readers, "So it turns out that all of that sound and fury last year was complete, unvarnished bullshit." Maybe that could even be followed up with something like, "Next time they pull this, likely in 2015, we should remember that they're liars and charlatans. While we're at it keep in mind that if you keep electing these people, one day there might be enough lunatics to go through with it."

That wouldn't be Fair and Balanced, though. Both Sides, bipartisanship, compromise, blah blah blah.

This is among the most serious problems with a for-profit media addicted to Breaking News: there is no follow through whatsoever. The first wave of alarmist and often incorrect coverage is all we get. After 72 hours they've moved on to something else and we never hear, for example, "Oh by the way, remember that Benghazi thing? Turned out to be total bullshit. None of that orgy of speculation and accusation turned out to be true." That would be useful to know, right? Instead we have a political and media environment wherein the only thing that matters is making the accusation; eventually you'll be exposed, but the first part is all anyone will hear.

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47 Responses to “FOLLOW THROUGH”

  1. JD Says:

    Hopefully this good news will lead Teabaggers to conclude that the current GOP leadership isn't fiscally responsible enough. This could be the catalyst for another slate of witches, hucksters, and loons knocking off Republican incumbents in the primaries and turning safe Republican districts into Democratic upsets.

  2. middle seaman Says:

    They did, however, scare enough Democrats to give up piles of programs and plans just so the Repug will be happy. It took five years for the current Dem clowns to grasp what Clinton knew all the time.

  3. Tim H. Says:

    But it would be so gauche to say in public that the teabag wing of the GOP is so far around the bend, they can't see it.
    Off-topic, have a look at bigkahuna.org.nz , suggestions on tax reform, universal basic income and potentially smaller government. And why not talk about how much larger the government is because of the GOP's insistence on accountability?

  4. c u n d gulag Says:

    And don't forget, there's ALWAYS a young white woman missing somewhere, that our MSM can focus attention on.

    I suppose that we should be thankful that absolutely NO minority women EVER go missing!

    Our cowardly, compliant, and complicit "Fourth Estate" makes me want to down a fifth of hard liquor a day.
    Ok, truth be told, make that a liter!

  5. John Danley Says:

    More Kabuki to come via Rand Paul's simpering, smug, sniveling self-promotion tour (RandPAC).

  6. Major Kong Says:

    We need to default on the debt and crash the economy, because otherwise we might default on the debt and crash the economy.

  7. c u n d gulag Says:

    Major Kong,
    And cut SS and Medicare now, because we might need to cut back payments and services later.

  8. kentropic Says:

    Bread and circuses: the classics never go outta style. Well, circuses, at least….

  9. Rich Says:

    This is why i don't read the Washington Post (WaPo has always sucked for local news and DC has many local outlets–blogs and weeklies) or CNN and I tend to be beligerent (?sp) with anyone who, especially, even wastes their time with the Crap News Network. I do think younger people ignore this stuff, but people born before about 1990 do.

  10. bb in GA Says:

    Professor, please step forward.

    Please help me understand how we default on our debts when we take in about 10X in tax revenue every month what we owe interest on?

    Simple minds like mine default to the micro scene.

    VISA says they will not raise my credit limit. SUX for me.

    OK, I have to pay minimum payments to them and my mortgage payment, car payment,…Wait, I have to cancel the cable, and Netflix, and and my gym membership..

    I have not defaulted.

    I have been here long enough that you know I'm not trolling. Please show me on the macro scale what is different.

    //bb

  11. Dave Dell Says:

    I used to depend on NPR while commuting to give me some news and perspective, follow up and nuance. No longer. It makes you wonder who writes and edits the pieces and if they actually like being journalists now that NPR is chock full of corporate sponsorship.

  12. Robert Says:

    To paraphrase Terry Pratchett, taxation is the art of getting the most milk with the least amount of moo. Somehow, we the people have gotten the idea that we should be able to spend more than what we take in. Except for a brief shining moment in the 1990s, of course. The idea that we could fight two land wars in Asia on borrowed money still boggles my mind, and I was working for the VA during that period. But somewhere there's someone on 'welfare' smoking pot, so we can't raise taxes on hardworking rich people.

  13. NonyNony Says:

    bb in GA –

    You do understand that Congress passed a bunch of bills that say that they're not going to cut spending, but then refused to approve borrowing more money, right?

    This isn't like your scenario at all. This is more like you've set up a monthly budget and during the process you assumed that you were going to borrow $X/month to make your budget. And then, when it came time to pay your bills you decided instead "naw, I'm just not going to pay those bills because borrowing money is bad".

    The money's been committed. The fact that we have this stupid "debt ceiling" that is separate from the budget process in the first place is the thing that make all analogies to home finance null and void because no family would be stupid enough to make a budget that way. And yet here we are.

  14. Major Kong Says:

    @bb

    Macroeconomics and Microeconomics are not the same thing. They're not even apples and oranges, they're apples and table lamps.

    You are not a sovereign nation with its own currency. You don't have a central bank. You don't have a foreign policy. You don't declare war. You don't levy taxes.

    That's the problem with Econ 101. Most people never go on to Econ 102, let alone Econ 201.

  15. c u n d gulag Says:

    bb,
    Unlike you, and most European nations who are on the EURO, the US can and does print its own money – so, the family analogy doesn't work on that large a scale.

    Also too, I don't suspect that your family spends almost $600 billion on your "defense" – like car and home alarms, and tanks, and planes, and carriers, and troops, etc. ;-)

    Many of these same Republicans passed almost 20 debt-ceiling raises when "Little Boots" Bush was President – all while deregulating, lowering taxes on the rich, giving Big Pharma a big break, and waging two stupid and wasteful wars and occupations – until our economy almost completely went down the sh*tter.

    Debt-ceiling raises were routine under pretty much ALL Presidents, until the "Blah" guy stepped into the Oval Office.
    And any votes against raising it, were just politicians of both parties using that vote for symbolic purposes – knowing that they'd never vote that way if the debt ceiling wasn't actually raised.
    They knew not raising it, could have massive negative, even catastrophic, global economic consequences.
    And it wasn't the Democrats who caused a hit to our nation's credit-rating by playing chicken with the debt-ceiling in '11.
    THAT, would be the Republican Party!

  16. c u n d gulag Says:

    As usual, someone made the same point that I did – only using a lot fewer words.
    Thanks, Major Kong!

  17. bb in GA Says:

    I think Nony^2 lit it up best for me.

    But I remember something about the Rs trying to get spending cuts tied to raises in the debt ceiling and there being a big push back from the Ds and our Pres about the debt ceiling raise covering bills that we have already created.

    Can they both be true at the same time?

    //bb

  18. Major Kong Says:

    It makes sense once you realize it's not about the debt.
    It never was about the debt.
    It never will be about the debt.

    It's about cutting programs that Republicans don't like. The debt argument is simply a means to that end.

    I almost look forward to a Republican President and a return to "Deficits don't matter, Reagan taught us that."

  19. bb in GA Says:

    And I still don't understand what default really is in this context…

    If you are taking in $200-300 billion per month in tax revenue and you owe $20-30 billion per month in 'must pay' interest, how do you define yourself in 'default' because the debt limit is not raised.?

    I'm not tying this to family budget. This seems a straightforward question.

    Rather than tell me I haven't had enough econ education, just take a whack at the question and see if I can 'git' it.

    //bb

  20. Dial Tone Says:

    @bb in GA

    The federal government pays all its payables due in full because to do otherwise would be a logistical nightmare. You might be able to decide to buy food or gas instead of making your credit card payment, but the federal government has thousands, maybe millions of payables coming due every month.

    If we reach a spending constraint from crossing the debt ceiling my guess is bills are going to be paid oldest first and some are going to sit in arrears until sufficient funds are available to pay them.

    So maybe the analogy is pretend that you paid all your bills oldest first as the only priority and you lack sufficient funds to pay them all in full as they come due. At some point one of those is going to be the mortgage or a credit card payment.

  21. Assistant Professor Says:

    Adding on to what Dial Tone said, there are a lot of expenses that Uncle Sugar pays out that are required by law (things like Social Security) and so it treasury didn't pay them out, it would in fact be breaking the law. To continue the household analogy, imagine if a big portion of your budget outside of mortgage, credit card, etc. were traffic tickets that you'd have to pay or else get put in jail.

  22. bb in GA Says:

    @DT

    Thanks, even w/o econ 201, I was able to understand that clear explanation.

    //bb

  23. Major Kong Says:

    Not picking on you bb but that's my standard response when someone uses the (very tired at this point) household budget analogy.

  24. bb in GA Says:

    @major and asst prof

    many thanks, this has confused me since the debate began several years ago.

    //bb

  25. deep Says:

    It's the Cavuto mark all over again…

  26. daveawayfromhome Says:

    I've never liked the household budget analogy because it pretends that there isn't enough income to pay for things. There's plenty of money, we just don't want to spend it on government.
    A better description might be an extended family living in a great big house. Everyone is supposed to pitch in to pay for things, and although perhaps some of the family can't (or even won't), for the most part everyone contributes. Lately though, one member, we'll call him Uncle Scrooge, hasn't been contributing as large a percentage of his income as most of the others, even though he is by far the most well off (and has the nicest set of rooms). Meanwhile, utilities are going up, insurance is going up, Uncle is actually arguing that he should pay less, and everyone else is feeling the squeeze.
    How do you deal with this situation? We're supposed to be a family, but it's starting to look like blood is thinner than money.

  27. anotherbozo Says:

    "…for-profit media addicted to Breaking News" — I'm rooting for Al-Jezeera America, at least to make it interesting. They almost sound the way a well-financed public network would. May they catch on, hiring away some highly recognizable news faces, with Mr. and Mrs. Mainstream.

  28. Benny Lava Says:

    "If you are taking in $200-300 billion per month in tax revenue and you owe $20-30 billion per month in 'must pay' interest, how do you define yourself in 'default' because the debt limit is not raised.?"

    Good question. You are in default because the money going out is greater than the money coming in. Period. The Supreme Court has roundly rejected the idea that the president has the power to pick and choose what money gets spent where. Rather the power of the purse is the role of congress. Everything from impoundment to line item veto was unconstitutional.

    Once we hit the debt ceiling all borrowing stops and the president is unable to prioritize bond repayment. Though curiously conservatives are adamant that the president does have this power. I suspect it is an attempt to create an imperial presidency so that the next time a republican wins, and eventually one will, he can simply stop funding a program he doesn't like such as HUD, SNAP, ACA, etc.

    If we must make a comparison to home finances, this is like ringing up a huge credit card bill and deciding not to pay the minimum balance "just because". You can't tell the credit card company that you want your payment, which is less than the minimum, to only pay the APR.

  29. mothra Says:

    As Middle Seaman pointed out, the debt ceiling threats actually did accomplish quite a lot of Republican goals–cutting and slicing programs they didn't like. The Dems fell for their threats enough to give them what they wanted. Now that those programs are sliced, we'll never get money back for them because the Republicans will happily point out that those programs have managed just fine without that extra money. They blind themselves, of course, to families made homeless or malnourished as a result of that slicing.

    anotherbozo: Jon Stewart pointed out that the only useful and in-depth coverage of Francois Hollande's visit came from Al-Jazeera America. The U.S. MSM could only talk about Hollande's penis and where it has and has not recently been. Gah.

  30. Dave Dell Says:

    I highly recommend the following introduction to the Modern Monetary System

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1905625

  31. Sarah Says:

    It makes sense once you realize it's not about the debt.
    It never was about the debt.
    It never will be about the debt.

    It's about cutting programs that Republicans don't like. The debt argument is simply a means to that end.

    Yep. If it were about the debt, then Gee Dubya Shrub that war criminal who was our 43rd president would have taken the BUDGET SURPLUS which the previous DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENT had left, and used that to pay down the debt. But, he didn't, so it's obviously not.

    bb, you are still an illiterate moron. How is it that you have no outrage over Bush 43 using that BUDGET SURPLUS (you do understand what a BUDGET SURPLUS is, right? It's also called an excess of revenue! It means that Bush HAD MONEY THAT HE COULD HAVE USED TO PAY DOWN THE DEBT!) to give tax cuts to the richest people in this country, and then getting NINETEEN RAISES ON THE DEBT CEILING during his presidency?

    Oh wait, I bet I know why. This story (in Spanish) which I posted for yesterday's thread explains it. Or maybe it's just a coincidence that all this outrage comes after a law was passed which will give a lot of uninsured brown and black people who speak languages other than English access to health insurance.

  32. Phoenician in a time of Romans Says:

    BB: Simple minds like mine default to the micro scene.

    VISA says they will not raise my credit limit. SUX for me.

    OK, I have to pay minimum payments to them and my mortgage payment, car payment,…Wait, I have to cancel the cable, and Netflix, and and my gym membership..

    I have not defaulted.

    I have been here long enough that you know I'm not trolling. Please show me on the macro scale what is different.

    As people have mentioned, the Government prints money. Imagine you can sign a small piece of paper whenever you want, and Visa is legally required to accept it as full payment for your debts – still worried about your credit limit?

    A better analogy is to consider the economy a giant Monopoly game with everyone a player, and the Government a separate Banker. The catch is that the Monopoly game HAS to keep going, or everyone starves to death.

    There are two issues highlighted by this analogy:

    i, What if the Bank runs out of the printed money and is unable to pay someone the $200 they're owed when they pass Go? Game ends and everyone dies.

    This is easily solved – indeed, it's in the very first paragraph of the rules. The Bank can create more money to pass to players. the game continues and everyone lives.

    ii, What if someone grabs all the money and bankrupts everyone else? Game ends, everyone dies.

    There are, of course, simple redistributive solutions to this too. But since the players think their survival depends on winning, when it in fact depends on the game continuing, it's difficult to persuade those winning that these measures are necessary.

  33. Major Kong Says:

    @sarah

    No need to be mean.

    I have to stick up for bb here since I'm usually the one giving him a hard time.

  34. Nunya Says:

    Take it easy, Sarah. BB in GA is a long time reader and he asked a polite question. There's no need to devolve to name calling at this point.

  35. bb in GA Says:

    @sarah

    you have no idea what my opinions are on GWB's actions..you just assume 'cause 'we all look alike.' And before I ask questions, must I run them by you so that I can get the proper Bush outrage points (or any others) that I need to append/prepend?

    Thanks Major and Nunya for spoking up for me, but comparatively, 'illiterate moron' is pretty mild compared to what gets slung around on some other sites.

    Sarah, I think it is pretty evident that I'm not as knowledgeable on some subjects as many readers here. Kinda why I ask questions in a forum where there is an opinion or ideas I might not be exposed to elsewhere.

    I find you to be articulate and passionate.

    //bb

  36. mathuin Says:

    why not transfer the "micro=macro" misunderstanding into an analogy those using it would appreciate more: businesses?

    do household budgeters really think the only way to start and run a business is in the black? or, even better, in the black *without consideration given to real property and other non-monetary assets*??

    now scale that business up, to a nation state with its own fiat currency…

    this is why household budgets are terrible analogies.

  37. bb in GA Says:

    @Dave Dell

    Thanks for the link. I have started reading Mr. Roche's paper.

    //bb

  38. Xynzee Says:

    @bb: this should help.
    http://youtu.be/3TprzRL6gzs

    The way I think of the "family budget" analogy is like this:
    You work hard and get yourself into the top-floor office, with the commiserate pay, perks and bennies. You my friend are rolling in it!
    You immediately go out and by a mansion in the Hamptons, a Veyron and all the trappings. Now on your current pay bracket these things are easily affordable and you can save and enjoy life.
    However, as soon as you put pen to paper you immediately quit this gig and go to work for McD's. Now you seem flabbergasted that you cannot seem to make ends meet on your current salary range.
    **That ** is exactly what Shrub did to the US. It had a positive cash flow, debt was going down etc. It was bad enough for him to take on the debt of two wars, it was that he "quit" the CEO gig to go "flip burgers".

    The other break down in the "family budget" analogy is the assumption that income is *fixed*—as in a permanent condition, like the law of gravity, and is not subject to revocation sense of the term fixed.
    The concept that the family must "cut" spending in this paradigm is the only option ever bandied about.
    There's a second option. Get a better paying job! This is after all America. Why does the concept of "upward" mobility never enter the picture? Isn't that what the whole American story is about? Dissatisfied with current position, move to a better place. That's what I did. I hated having crappy paying marginal jobs, so I got a better one with perks.

    As for the government, it can either cut spending, borrow to cover its debts or increase revenue. In the government's case, it took a pay cut (Shrub's tax cuts), and is being paid a burger flipper's rates and not the CEO salary. So now it's going back to the proper salary.

    It's like someone offering you an awesome well paid gig, but refusing to take it for sheer bloody mindedness.

  39. sluggo Says:

    @ sarah
    Wow. What did bb do to you? That sure is a lot of bitterness thrown on his direction.

  40. Xynzee Says:

    @Dave Dell: did you mean this:
    http://pando.com/2014/02/12/the-wolf-of-sesame-street-revealing-the-secret-corruption-inside-pbss-news-division/

  41. purpleplatypus Says:

    "The complete and total surrender that Tuesday's vote represents was barely a blip. Maybe a paragraph on Page 10."

    It was the top headline in the e-mail I get daily from the New York Times, for example. I wouldn't call that "barely a blip" and the page 10 bit is just factually wrong.

  42. Phoenician in a time of Romans Says:

    why not transfer the "micro=macro" misunderstanding into an analogy those using it would appreciate more: businesses?

    Because even then, the analogy is dangerously wrong.

    In a country where (a) you run a trade deficit and (b) people want to build up private financial assets, you must have a government running a budget deficit. A government is NOT a household or a business.

  43. Nunya Says:

    BB in GA, we may not always see eye to eye but you are a reasonable and honest guy. I just want to see a fair exchange of views in this forum. It's one of the last places where I can find reasonable and articulate people discussing important topics.

  44. Kevin Says:

    While I rarely agree with BB, and sometimes can't tell if his oversimplifications are honest opinions or trolling, we shouldn't chase people like him away. Even if he is trolling (which I don't think he is in this case), look at all of the great responses he elicited! I'm better off for it.

  45. Mo Says:

    I chalk up Sarah's rude name-calling to exasperation that's reached valium level. Not an excuse, but then, we've all had episodes when self-control just gets too provoked and blows, haven't we?

    BB: Simple minds like mine default to the micro scene.

    Having a simple mind is no virtue. It is possible to educate oneself in just about anything nowadays. Hence, maintaining a simple mind is dishonest, there's simply no excuse for it. Puzzled about macroeconomics? Spend some quality time with Paul Krugman's columns. Oh, but that's work! Thinking through stuff is so hard! Besides, he's a Liberal, so whatever he thinks doesn't count.

    Stupidity in economic discourse

    So I take Sarah's response as anger directed at the deliberate disingenuousness in which the right wing is awash. "I'm just a lil' ol' country bumpkin askin' a simple question…"

    Krugman also gives a hat tip to a deathless classic on this problem from John Stuart Mill.

  46. bb in GA Says:

    @Mo

    Yours is the superior intellect, Kahn…

    We forgive Sarah because bb is a purposeful untermensch.

    Yeah, that works for me.

    //bb

  47. ArlingtonRob Says:

    "Instead we have a political and media environment wherein the only thing that matters is making the accusation; eventually you'll be exposed, but the first part is all anyone will hear."

    We've all seen this before…but where was it? Oh yeah!

    The Clinton administration…

    It's just part and parcel of the right wing movement.