Is The Middle A Place To Deal With Debt?

As of this writing, debate continues in the US Senate on the compromise Debt Ceiling bill, but one bit of information from the House vote presents an interesting view on the state of the Moderate position: all 5 of Iowa’s congressmen voted against the bill, even though we have 3 Democrats and 2 Republicans representing us.  (Update: Yup, the Senate approved it and Obama signed it… long day already!)

The reasons for voting “No” are drawn clearly along party lines.  The Democrats from Iowa (Braley, Loebsack and Boswell) all stated that “shared sacrifice” was lacking from the bill, which is code for “we want to soak the rich”.  King and Latham, the Republicans, were focused on fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget.

Saying that the Left and Right are closer than they think could be true in this regard: Many of those working on each side want desperately to be viewed as abhorring the middle in order to convince their base that they are

And since neither party holds both houses of Congress, neither side got what it wanted.  What we got, as Representative Braley stated, is more “partisan brinksmanship, broken promises, backroom deal making, and kicking the can down the road. ”

It is interesting that Representative Loebsack holds to the thinking that the influence of “political ideology” is the problem with how Congress has been approaching this issue.  And yet, he is holding on to his.  But I digress.

It remains unfortunate that people like Speaker Boehner lack the fortitude to do the right thing, and instead are taken in by the fear-mongering that has pervaded this issue.

What Should Be Done?

I hate to say that as an individual, I and many other Americans cannot express an opinion on this bill without some conflict of interest.  My 401K (such as it is, and it sure isn’t much) will probably perform better with this bill in place than it would have if we had continued without action.  Others see this bill as helping reduce the time we are stuck in the economic duldrums we have been experiencing since the Recession officially ended (if you believe the Recession is really over… some do not).  There is little doubt that our credit rating will take a hit even if this bill is signed into law, and until we take a serious shot at reducing the deficits we continue to run.  In my opinion, this bill fails simply because it does not take a serious hit on 2011/2012 spending.  Anything after that is meaningless since the new Congress that meets in 17-18 months can undo the spending plans outlined in the bill.  Without a Balanced Budget Amendment, we have no meaningful way to keep Congress in check other than our biennial elections.  If one thinks it through, the conclusion might reasonably be reached that short-term economic and financial impacts are more positive than doing nothing, but the long-term impacts could be devastating, if spending continues unrestrained.

What should be done?  If we’re not ready to cut spending with legislation, we can at least prioritize the payment of bills.  We don’t have to default on our credit, we don’t have to hold back Social Security checks, and we don’t have to hold back Military payrolls.  There is more than enough revenue to handle these expenses and more.  The good news is that if we have a real conversation about temporary priorities, we might start to see where real cuts are immediately practical.

Regardless of how we prioritize, we really need to do three things put our fiscal house in order:

  1. Enact a Balanced Budget Amendment
  2. Tie our spending to GDP
  3. Enact the Fair Tax, or a plan similar to it

These three things can help us operate effectively, spend our money wisely, and ensure that everyone is taxed in a fair manner.

Who’s In The Middle?

Here’s what I find interesting: The middle, the home of Moderates, is clearly smaller than it has been in years past as many politicians work adroitly to show themselves to be committed to their principles.  Those left in the middle don’t have the appearance of wrapping themselves around their party’s ideology, and I think they believe that they will be seen as the saviors of the country because they were willing to put aside their partisan rhetoric in favor of keeping the good name of our country afloat.

Unfortunately for them, yesterday’s vote in the House, and the expected vote today in the Senate, are almost certainly going to be a focal points of both Tea Party and extreme Liberal activists as we approach the 2012 Primaries and Caucuses.  We could find ourselves with a larger pool of very conservative Republican candidates on the 2012 General Election ballot.

I get that there is a need to govern from the middle in many areas.  This works fine as long as the middle isn’t a place lacking principles, that is, a combining of good ideas from both sides to create a solution that really works for everyone.  With this bill, the middle has become a cess-pool of fear, indecision, and fecklessness, lacking any real principles and becoming a more narrow place.

The big question is: How long is the electorate’s memory?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It was heartening to see Representative Gabrielle Giffords return to the US House in time to vote on yesterday’s bill.  Regardless of what you might think about the bill or her vote, her recovery is astonishing and it is good to see her overcome the unbalanced violence that was directed at her.

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