Debt Limit and Government Funding – It’s All On Our Tab!
We’re into week two of the government slowdown and the stakes for government resumption have just been raised. Negotiations for funding the government, which have been stifled by the White House until the House of Representatives abandons their principles, are now merging with the imminent debate over the federal debt limit. This creates another “crisis” for the White House that will yield new opportunities for making the nation suffer as much as possible until the president gets his way.
What began as a courageous effort on the part of the House to derail the Obamacare train before it crashes and damages the economy and our health care delivery even further, has weakened dramatically over the past two weeks. The latest iteration of the House’s terms is to simply do for individuals what the president did unilaterally for businesses; allow a one-year delay in implementation.
Something as logical as a delay in implementing the individual mandate for healthcare insurance can hardly be expected from such an ideologically driven White House, even if the Healthcare.gov website is a complete bust. Digital Trends said of the first week of operation, “the befuddled beast that is Healthcare.gov has shutdown, crapped out, stalled, and mis-loaded so consistently that its track record for failure is challenged only by Congress.”
Describing the technological debacle, they continued, “The site itself…still rejects user logins, fails to load drop-down menus and other crucial components for users. The site is so busted that, as of a couple days ago, the number of people that successfully purchased healthcare through it was in the ‘single digits,’ according to the Washington Post.” Well, it would appear the American people have bought another government “lemon,” for the bargain price of $394 million!
What’s even worse is that despite the efforts to apply a quick fix to the site, it continues to crash, reset user passwords, and stall. CNBC interviewed a technology expert this week who said getting the “bugs out” could “take years.” Sounds to me like a one year reprieve for the individual mandate is well warranted.
And still there is no end in sight for the government slowdown. The House has offered to raise the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling for six weeks without resumption of full government funding. The president still refuses to even talk to House majority leadership until they are willing to completely cave to his demands.
What will likely happen is the Republicans will cave, the government will be funded with a “clean” Concurrent Resolution, and the debt limit will be raised another couple of trillion dollars to allow us to mortgage the nation and our children’s futures with an even more menacing and potentially disastrous debt. In other words, the can will be simply kicked down the road again, with no reduction in spending, no plans for reducing the debt, and no plans for increased fiscal stability for entitlement programs. And the Democrats will likely win a new look at increasing taxes.
Which brings us to the debt ceiling discussion. The notion behind having a debt limit is to force those in government to be fiscally responsible and keep the national debt below their self-imposed boundary. Instead, the debt limit is increased with much drama and political demagoguery and they then sprint to the newly imposed limit only to repeat the drama and demagoguery all over again. It’s very much like a spendthrift who hits their credit card limit and then whines and moans to the bank until they increase the limit, and a new spending binge ensues. Gratefully there’s an increasing number in congress who’re refusing to kick the can down the road any further without meaningful fiscal reform, but they’re still in the minority. And ironically, even though they seem to be the only fiscally sane ones, they’re vilified by the mainstream media and their liberal demagogue counterparts.
And the threats by Treasury Secretary Lew and the president of defaulting on our debt shouldn’t even be on the table. It is unconscionable that they would jeopardize the credit worthiness of the nation to achieve their political objectives. Section Four of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution declares that the nation will honor the debts that we have incurred. But that is only meaningful to politicians who actually honor their oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and there seem to be precious few of those.
More significant, is that according to the General Accounting Office, we hit the $16.7 trillion debt limit in May. By prioritizing payments, juggling the issuance of new debt securities, and accounting gimmicks, the Treasury Department has flat-lined the federal debt for the past five months. With over $250 billion in tax-receipts collected each month, there is no more reason for a default in October than there was in May. It’s only a possibility with an administration steeped in the Saul Alinsky ideology of political chicanery, posturing, and strong-arming.
Prepare for the drama and the politics of self-destruction. After all, we, our children and grandchildren, will be footing the bill and paying the price for the inevitable procrastination of meaningful fiscal reform.
AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].