Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Monday, December 16, 2013 :::

For the manyth time in recent history, the US faces the collision of mutually incompatible laws (let's simplify and imagine that this is the product of 3 "laws"):
  • The legislative process has stipulated taxes that raise a certain amount of revenue
  • The legislative process has authorized borrowing to raise a certain amount of money
  • The legislative process has stipulated certain spending that results in a certain amount of expenditure
In short, Congress and the President have created a set of laws separately determining X, Y, and Z, while the laws of mathematics have decreed X+Y≤Z.
The President has insisted that this requires a change in Y; a reasonably astute observer might find two other ways to address the conflict. What is curious — and a bit dismaying in at least one way, and possibly more — is that those Republicans who would like at least one of the other two parts of the inequality to yield at least a bit are adopting language that adopts his assumptions, along with a (thereby necessary) bellicose tone. They speak as though refusing to sign off on the President's proposed resolution to the problem is an aggressive act designed to extract "concessions", which (if history is any guide) will never result in X or Z yielding nearly as much as Y does, anyway. Does "fighting for good" play better at home than a more straightforward act of seeking compromise? I don't get it.
As it happens, there is occasionally some discussion of simply having Congress authorize the treasury to borrow as much as necessary to satisfy the inequality; in fact, that is the current law, under a short-term deal, but that unlimited authority lapses in (I think) February. I don't like internally incoherent law, but I also think the "debt ceiling" — we again seem to have inverted, in our language, acts and omissions, and "debt ceiling" is the term we use for this particular lack of a blanket delegation of authority — is a nice compromise between the idea of a "balanced budget amendment" and the blank check approach. I don't actually want the level of rigidity that a necessarily (one dreams) precise constitutional amendment would require, but I would like to have some legislative mechanism to force revenues and expenditures toward some alignment. Perhaps an arms-length commission determining the "debt-ceiling" and leaving the normal legislative actors to trade off competing demands for spending with the required tax hikes would be an improvement on our current system, but that would introduce its own problems, and seems less likely to happen, anyway.

::: posted by dWj at 4:54 PM

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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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