More Dogs on Main
July 15, 2011
The great debt-ceiling debate in Washington has disintegrated into the name-calling stage, with both sides leaving meetings and running to press conferences to say the other side is being a bunch of jerks. Senator McConnell of Kentucky came out and did his best Col. Sanders imitation and proposed a plan that came right out of "Alice in Wonderland." They could pass a resolution refusing to raise the ceiling, and the president could then veto that, and somehow, in the twisted world of parliamentary double negatives, that would allow Obama to raise the debt limit and give the Republicans the ability to say they had all voted agin it. It’s not a vote, it’s an "un-vote."
Congress hasn’t adopted a budget in a couple of years now. Everything is being done on "continuing resolutions" which keep doing what we were doing because we can’t figure out what we want to do next. But the continuing resolutions authorized spending, and that spending is in excess of the revenue coming in. They all knew that when they voted for it. So they have approved a spending plan that requires borrowing money big money and then they refuse to authorize the borrowing to pay for what they have already committed to spend.
This isn’t a refusal to authorize some future spending binge. This is like driving a new Cadillac Escalade off the lot and, as the salesman waves to you, you roll down the window and tell him that the check you just wrote is going to bounce, and you don’t have any plan to cover it.
Orrin Hatch made the news this week as part of the great debate. In denouncing the Democrats’ proposal to raise the income tax rate on households making over $250,000 a year by 5 percent, he made the point that "fairness" works both ways. The Democrats insist that it is "fair" that those with the ability to pay more should. Hatch’s response was basically that he would approve a tax increase on the well off when those deadbeats with no income at all started paying some income tax. Yes, according to Orrin, the only thing standing between a balanced budget and our current precarious position is that the unemployed aren’t paying enough income tax.
In his free-market logic, if you tax something enough, it will go away. Tax cigarettes enough and people will quit smoking. Back when the Republicans were for a "cap and trade" regulation on carbon emissions, the idea was that you could tax pollution enough that businesses would quit polluting. So Orrin’s big idea now seems to be a heavy tax on being poor. If you tax poverty enough, people will simply decide they can’t afford to be poor any more, and will start being wealthy. And he is now one of the longest-serving members of the Senate.
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Not to be distracted by the prospect of 80 million federal checks bouncing in three weeks, Congress turned its attention to the pressing problem of the incandescent light bulb. Way back in 2007, when the country was governed by that flaming socialist George W. Bush, Congress passed a bill that set efficiency standards for lighting as a way of reducing energy consumption. The manufacturers of light bulbs decided they could easily meet the standard with the new compact florescent bulbs, and announced they would be phasing out production of the bulb developed by Thomas Edison by 2012. Nobody cared, though there has been some hoarding of the old-style globes among people who park Cadillac Escalades on heated driveways. The bill was not the least controversial when Bush signed it.
Now, it has become a crisis for the Republicans who simply cannot stand the idea of using less energy. It says right there in the Bible, "Let there be light," and it doesn’t say anything about, "Let there be light with a slight delay and a kind of sickly color cast if you buy the really cheap florescent globes." Our own Rob Bishop has decided that it is a states’ rights issue, and that Washington has no business setting a uniform national standard. It would be much better for the manufacturers if they had 50 different standards. Maybe we can have our own socket size for Utah.
One way or the other, the Republicans are determined to take up time discussing light bulbs because they are simply incapable of doing their job. I’m assuming that the first federal checks to bounce will be the paychecks to Congress. Given their job performance, drawing any salary is nothing short of theft.
If they don’t get this one solved, I think the American people have every right to demand 535 resignations on the morning of August 3.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column for 25 years.