The Debt Ceiling’s Collective Action Trap

July 7th, 2011 at 11:22 pm David Frum | 88 Comments |

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If you’re a Republican elected official, you want two things from the debt-ceiling budget talks:

1) You want the talks to succeed – to produce a deal that keeps the government in business and averts a financial catastrophe.

2) You want to align yourself personally with those who (unsuccessfully!) oppose the deal. (Watch Bill Kristol on Fox for a preview of how it will be done.)

Here’s the obvious problem: Depending on how the House Democrats vote, it’s possible dozens of Republican members of Congress can get both their wishes. But if every Republican indulges wish #2, then they will fail to realize wish #1.

David Brooks called the debt-ceiling vote the “mother of all no-brainers.”

Unfortunately it is also the “mother of all collective action problems.”

The coming vote is one where almost every House Republican will want to be on the losing side. But if they all get their wish – then they win.

And of course … the country and the world loses, and loses horribly.

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88 Comments so far ↓

  • Canucker

    The choice between your career, your ideals and your country.

    Why were you elected, do you remember?

    When you voted, what did you vote for? Were you voting for an ideological principle, or a principled representative?

    I really wish we could vote for principled people rather than parties. We may not always agree with what they do, but I sure would love someone who did it because they thought they were doing the right thing and when they are asked to fall on their sword for the greater good, they would. Too bad the kind of people who would be willing to do that aren’t the kind who would be in a political race in the first place.

  • Slide

    rather sad isn’t it that this great country of ours is so governed? Very sad.

  • NYNewMex

    Why the hell must this always be about who wins or loses politically: I am specifically talking about that ahole Crystal. How about you aholes do what’s in the best interest of the damn country. Hey Bill, I have deficit reduction idea. How about you and your neocon buddies write the Treasury a check for $4 trillion so you can pay the country back for lying us into a war. While you are at it, go parachute into Iraq so that they can shove a roadside bomb up your ass.

    • Derek

      Who needs a foreign war when you have America hating terrorists attacking it from within?

  • baw1064

    1) You want the talks to succeed – to produce a deal that keeps the government in business and averts a financial catastrophe.

    Is this premise actually correct, though? It should be for any sane, well-informed person with any knowledge of financial markets. But if you have a fixation with the gold standard, and your knowledge of economics consists of random sound bites from Ayn Rand and…

    I fear that a significant number of the Republican House Caucus really don’t get it, and will look on in slack-jawed amazement when the bond vigilantes show up.

    • ProfNickD


      sound bites from Ayn Rand and

      If the U.S. government had been operating according to principles expounded by Rand and Mises, the country wouldn’t be in the position that it is, i.e., bankrupt.

      It definitely hasn’t been Rand and Mises followers who’ve had their say.

  • ProfNickD

    A representative is elected to serve the people in his district — that’s what representative democracy is. If the people don’t want to approve more debt, then that’s the final argument as far as a representative’s actions are concerned.

    He doesn’t serve some sort of “higher” purpose, i.e., a purpose other than the wishes of the people he represents.

    • SFTor1

      That is such complete bullshit. He or she is also supposed to lead—to take care of their constituents’ interests where they are unable to make sound decisions due to lack of information, sophistication or whatever else.

      What you are suggesting is ochlocracy—mob rule. That is not how it works.

      When and only when a representative has shown his or her ability to wisely lead, they get re-elected.

    • pnumi2

      If the Republican party had been operating for the last 30 years on principles that it hadn’t sold to the highest bidder, the county also wouldn’t be in the position that it is in (fucked upside down and backwards.)

  • Slide

    you have a perverse view of democracy dear fake professor

  • IntelliWriter

    Bill Kristol hasn’t gotten one prediction right for years now. Even the boy who cried wolf got it right once.

    • TJ Parker

      Exactly right!

    • John Q

      Bill Kristol hasn’t gotten one prediction right for years now

      Actually, he has had (exactly) one. He predicted Sarah Palin as VP nominee.

      (Of course, he also lobbied hard for her. A self-fulfilling prophecy?)

  • pnumi2


    “A representative is elected to serve the people in his district — that’s what representative democracy is.”

    And if the.people in his district want polygamy, he better serve it up.

    And if 50.1% want to take the rest of the country over Niagara Falls in a barrel, I suppose we all have to go with them.

    But if the tea party does take over, I’m sure that the American Military won’t make.the same mistake that the Wehrmacht made in Germany in 1936 and 1937.

    • ottovbvs


      “A representative is elected to serve the people in his district — that’s what representative democracy is.”[/i]

      Thereby the “Prof” demonstrates he doesn’t understand the most basic theory and practice of representative government.

  • Moderate

    Kristol’s panties are in a bunch because this deal will probably lead to Obama’s reelection. I’m tempted to say “Serves you right, asshole, for foisting Sarah Palin on the GOP,” but my desire to spite Bill Kristol is exceed by my desire for Romney to win.

  • SteveThompson

    Here is an examination of the issue showing just how frequently the debt ceiling has been raised in the past decade and how the entire situation has reached the point of absurdity under both Republicans and Democrats:

    The Bush II Administration played a major role in the issue that will cripple the American economy for future generations and, unfortunately, the current Administration is doing very little to fix the problem.

    Why is it that the new debt ceiling so rapidly becomes the new debt floor?

  • Xunzi Washington

    One thing I do think is true: no matter how treasonous, irresponsible, petty, and malicious the Republicans act – no matter how much they hold the entire country hostage and threaten to derail the economy – the political impact they will feel for this later (whatever that turns out to be) will be a fraction of what the Democrats would have suffered if they’d pulled these stunts.

    Part of this may be a total failure of messaging capacity on the Democrat side, and an amazing ability to hammer away at a message, over and over 24/7, on the part of Republicans. I’m not sure what it is. But I’m sure that messaging incompetence is surely a massive failure on the part of the Dems, and it does indeed create part of what intices the whack jobs to do what they do. After all, messaging builds pressure. Dems collectively just don’t seem to possess the capacity to do it. Not very well, anyway.

    • armstp


      You are right and isn’t that always the case. I blame the MSM. They should be all over their networks blasting Republicans for holding the economy hostage or even telling their viewers what the ramificiations of a default would be. But, no we get nothing. Not even on the financial networks. Zero analysis of the impact of a U.S. government default.

      With the Media is too held to its corporate ownership or they are too scared to actually ask some real questions.

  • ottovbvs

    Ahh Frum, there’s the rub. With power comes responsiblility. In the previous congress the Republicans didn’t have to do anything other than block any attempt to govern by the Democrats. Now they actually have to legislate or take responsibility for their failure to do so. And does anyone really think the Republicans are going to escape universal condemnation if they plunge the country and the world into a huge economic crisis because of their failure to raise the debt ceiling? As Brooks pointed out it is a no brainer.

  • armstp

    I am not sure why voting for raising the debt ceiling if you are a Republican automatically means that you lose your job. That is bullshit. I don’t think voters in districts really care all that much. All they care about is to get the economy going and their kitchen table issues.

    This whole “fear” of the Tea Party is bullshit, even in primaries. The Tea Party lost more of their candidates than they won in GOP primaries in 2010. This is just a Republican excuse to bargain hard or to get what they want.

    The general election voter base will be much different. I think these moranic Republicans should be fearing Independents much more than the Tea Party in 2012.

  • Raskolnik

    The Tea Party lost more of their candidates than they won in GOP primaries in 2010.

    This is an important, and often overlooked, point. Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, and whoever that guy was who challenged Lisa Murkowski, all lost. The Tea Party is a paper (astroturf?) tiger.

  • DFL

    Bill Kristol is right. Just like in 1982 and 1990, all the spending cuts will be phony or non-existent. On the bright side, unlike those two budget deals, the tax increases will be minimal. President Obama is doing this for the cameras. If a deal comes to pass, Obama is the short term winner.

    Negotiating a long term deal while owning one house of Congress was foolish on the Republicans part. They should have presented the Obama Administration a one-year budget with substantial discretionary cuts as the price for raising the debt ceiling. Historic budgetary reforms should wait until the Republicans have the presidency and both houses of Congress.

  • nhthinker

    Kristol has been tone deaf many times in the past several years.

    For conservatives, size and scope of the federal government is the most critical issue.
    That is fully a function of spending as a percentage of GDP.

    The Tea Party supporters and the Ron Paul types are still ascendent- the NeoCon’s and the Wall Street types are continuing to be reviled- leaving Bill Kristol and David Frum both pissed off.

    The liberals used to point out how good the European system of large government, high spending democracies were and how the US should get closer to the European model.
    With Europe in a funk and Greece and Portugal teetering on defualt- the US liberals have muted themselves about how good Europe is as a model. In fact, the liberals have been relatively laughed at on their dual track of higher taxes and getting more into debt.

    I should have voted for Pat Buchanan… Live and learn.

    We should find out Sunday what the potential deal is. The Tea party will likely be the winners here with the deal closer to what they asked for than what the President’s budget asked for. If its not, it likely won’t pass. Instead, a bill even closer to the Tea party demands will be passed in the House and the Senate and the President will have to swallow it or close down parts of the government.

    The House will definitely pass a Debt Ceiling extension.

    • ottovbvs

      With Europe in a funk and Greece and Portugal teetering on defualt- the US liberals have muted themselves about how good Europe is as a model.

      Greece and Portugal are about 5% if the European economy. Most of the 27 members of the EU are doing just fine. We’d give our high teeth to be Germany in economic terms.

      “The Tea party will likely be the winners here with the deal closer to what they asked for than what the President’s budget asked for.”

      You mean like the huge win they had on the 2011 budget. hahaaha

      • pnumi2

        We’d give our high teeth to be Germany in economic terms.

        Especially when it comes to the percentage of the budget spent on defense.

  • dgkerns

    All the talk about the Tea Party’s power or lack of it obscures the fact that these folks are the useful idiots of the real and traditional influences on the GOP – the very-deep-pocket individuals and corporations who finance Republican politicians – from the Koch Brothers to the insurance companies, from the petroleum corporations to Big Pharma. The Roves and Armeys completely understand this and leverage it to the max. The right wing echo chamber amps it to “11.” We’re left with a massively manipulated and marketed “people’s uprising.” It’s real alright, but it ain’t the people with the tea bags on their hats who keep the pot boiling, or the GOP’s arms twisted.

    • ottovbvs

      It’s real alright, but it ain’t the people with the tea bags on their hats who keep the pot boiling.

      Absolutely agree. There’s a new bit of research out on the makeup of the tea party crowd and it’s overwhelmingly middle aged and aging and therefore collectively a major recipient of govt programs of one sort and another. And yet they are opposed to govt spending. They are useful idiots that provide a nice income for operatives like Armey and Rove.

  • Solo4114

    It’s not strictly a “collective action” problem. I suspect that the real question is how much “political cover” the GOP can secure to allow for minimum number of members to cross the picket lines (so to speak) and make the deal happen. The collective action issue is real, but it can be mitigated by effective behind-the-scenes work by Boehner and others in leadership positions.

    Ultimately, I think a deal will be reached and nobody will like it, but at least we’ll have averted disaster again. This time. But I sure hope America is getting an eyeful of GOP intransigence and maybe is starting to reconsider.

    Make no mistake — while the media has not fully explained the consequences of a failure to raise the ceiling, and while it’s only too happy to wonder “Who wins and who loses?” in the perpetual horse-race, the GOP is taking most of the negative press at the moment. The general tone of news coverage seems to indicate that it is the GOP who are refusing to budge, the GOP and its insistence on no tax increases, that are gumming up the works. I would figure that while the GOP may secure the concessions it wants, they will be momentary, fleeting, and will possibly be overturned when independents again leave them for the apparently more “reasonable” Dems.

  • Balloon Juice » Three Hundred Sixty Five Degrees

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  • Frumplestiltskin

    DFL: They should have presented the Obama Administration a one-year budget with substantial discretionary cuts as the price for raising the debt ceiling.

    Yep, we are in a serious demand side recession and Republican solution is to…cut demand.
    And what substantial discretionary cuts are you talking about? The non defense discretionary budget was 369 billion in 2001, today it is….369 billion, this after an increase of millions of Americans.
    So what would you cut? Get rid of the State Department? Who needs those pesky foreign embassies where the people in those countries don’t even speak English. Or get rid of the EPA. What has the environment ever done for us?

    Give me a detailed list of what you would cut and by how much, otherwise you are blowing smoke out of your ass.

  • Too-Late Glasnost Among Pro-GOP Pundits | Poison Your Mind

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  • DFL

    Frumpy, first, tax cuts and child allowance/tax credit increases would be the extent of my stimulus. Second, all economies in the history of mankind have had their winter seasons. Stimulating an economy artificially would be like giving a drug addict more heroin. The world economy needs a massive enemy to get the housing bubble out of its system. Yes, it will hurt yet few people are actually hungry. Millions still will go to NFL games this fall or Disney World and the beaches this summer. For an economic recession, it is a rather pleasant one.

    • Traveler

      You are quite out of your mind. First, will there be an NFL? Second, do you think there are still will be enough people left to fill the stands at the inflated prices they charge after the lockout? Heroin for those left that can afford it, I suppose.

      BTW, did you mean enemy or enema? Nice Freudian slip there. Does a good job explaining the trillion burned on Iraq that put us in the hole we are in today. I think you are the one needing an enema. Metaphysically of course, but perhaps a real one might get lessen the amount of the shit you spew.

      This is quite some pleasant recession of yours. Haven’t seen anything like it in 30 years and that wasn’t near this bad. You must remember the depression to call it thus. Bizarre perspective.

      BTW, lots of work in Asia for folks with any gumption. We invented a lot of technology in the US, even though we cannot apply there anymore.

      Edit: you caught yourself before I pulled the trigger. And I was a bit harsh, so I apologize. I am just totally pissed at the economy, and its the refugs that need the enema. Great slip though.

  • scarshapedstar

    I hereby name this the GOPrisoner’s Dilemma.

  • DFL

    RE: my last post
    massive enema, not enemy….sorry

    • ottovbvs

      massive enema

      Actually the world has had a massive enema. Depending on which numbers you want to go with 15-25 trillion of global wealth has evaporated over the last three years. The US alone has sustained the worst economic downturn since the war.

      • pnumi2

        “15-25 trillion of global wealth has evaporated over the last three years.”

        I have heard a larger number (not saying). And the vulnerability of the equity markets has to give all of us pause. For example, if the surge protector for the QE computer at the Fed breaks down.

  • Primrose

    “For an economic recession, it is a rather pleasant one.”e

    It isn’t pleasant for all the people who can’t move for work because they can’t sell their house. It isn’t pleasant for the families of people out of work, or underemployed. It isn’t pleasant for the small business going under because people can’t afford to spend as much.

    You completely and utterly delegitimize any thought you have on the subject by that stupid, stupid statment.

  • Primrose

    Prof Nick D,

    The entire point of representative democracy is to mitigate the swings of popular opinion. The founders had a great fear of the mob, despite their belief in democracy. That is why we have the senate, as well as the house of rep. Our founders wanted congress not only to represent the people but to wisely lead this country.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    DFL, you said you would cut the discretionary non defense budget. Give me the programs you would cut and how much you would cut from each.

    I have no problem with getting rid of farm subsidies or tax credits of big oil, but this is just a small portion of the budget.

    The real meat is in entitlements and defense. We are spending twice as much today on defense as in 2001 and far more in entitlements.

    So break it down. I get tired of Republicans stating that there are hundreds of billions that they can cut from the budget right now without touching defense and entitlements (and the Ryan plan doesn’t even tough entitlements now, but 10 years from now…useless twerp that he is, like saying we will get rid of your cancer but not today, wait 10 years)

  • Primrose

    I think Mr. Frum that this is the classic prisoner’s dilemma of game theory fame. The reps have to predict what their fellow reps will do, so it doesn’t look good.

    And this is where leadership comes in. The leadership must stop this game. It simply is far too cynical, and far too dangerous.

    I’m sure you are asking this as well, but where is your leadership? Why won’t they end it?

    I think there needs to be a united conservative front calling for an end to this behavior, something that might make individual reps think of the country not themselves.

  • El Gipper


    I’d eliminate Departments of Education, HUD, HHS, Commerce, Labor, and Agriculture, and most of Energy. Excepting Census Bureau and some statistical collection and regulatory agencies within these departments, every other function they perform could be performed at the state level. Let each state raise taxes to pay for the services they feel are essential.

    Disband Fannie Mae, and every other mortgage subsidizing entity. Repeal PPACA. All of these items will save hundreds of billions before we dig into defense and entitlements.

    If Obama offered the Republicans that, then Republicans would accept an elimination of tax expenditures (home mortgage deduction, tax-deductibility of employer-provided insurance, etc.), and lowering of rates to collect 20% of GDP from tax revenue (up from current projection of 18%).

    Sound fair?

    • NYNewMex

      You do realize that 61% of DOE’s budget goes to supporting our nuclear weapons program. I’m sure in your libertarian fantasy world the states would do a bang-up job with this mission.

      With that being said, I am sure that blue-donor states such as New York, California, New Jersey, Conneticut, Illinois, etc. would not mind telling the red welfare states who vote straight Republican that they can pick up their own damn tab for many of these government services. The blue states would automatically have balanced or surplus budgets while better serving the interests of their residents. Meanwhile, the red states would begging for federal assistance turning their anti-government Republican politicians into stauch proponents of Washington spending.

  • ottovbvs

    Sound fair?

    You see Boehner’s dilemma. There are actually large numbers of people loose in the GOP who hold nihilistic opinions like this. They’re going to be awfully disappointed when that debt ceiling is raised.

    • pnumi2

      “Boehner’s Dilemma”

      It sounds like the title of the new Philip Roth novel

      • ottovbvs

        How about Cantor Confounded…. McConnell’s Version…

        • pnumi2

          “How about Cantor Confounded…. McConnell’s Version…”

          Nah. No sexual innuendo. Very important for this crowd.

  • DFL

    Frumpy, I agree with defense cuts. Rather large ones. With the Soviet peril long gone and the only potential foes are China, a Pacific power that is economically dependent on trade with America, and the Muslim Jihadists, who are military weak and have to resort to the occasional terror attack, attacks which never come close to toppling the regime they target. America needs to have a smaller, more efficient military, with much fewer global responsibilities.

    You are also correct about farm subsidies, most of which go to the wealthiest, most politically connected farmers. NASA should be severely cut, Kennedy’s mission long accomplished. Federal road building should end and the Interstate system should be given to the states, the Eisenhower mission long accomplished. I would go on but I don’t want to bore.

  • Raskolnik

    Reagan’s Latino ghost says,

    Repeal PPACA. All of these items will save hundreds of billions before we dig into defense and entitlements.

    1) For what I sincerely hope is the last time anyone has to explain it to you, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the ACA aka “Obamacare” is revenue positive, that means it saves money over the status quo. Repealing the ACA and replacing it with nothing would add to the deficit and, thereby, the debt.

    2) Eliminating all the departments you mentioned might well save “hundreds of billions” of dollars, however I can’t help the feeling you must have failed elementary school mathematics (you certainly must have failed elementary school reading comprehension). At the risk of engaging in armchair psychology, perhaps this explains your antipathy toward the Department of Education?

    In any case, since you are one of the children left a bit further behind the others, here is a lesson in basic math. You’re welcome. “One hundred billion” is 1/10th of one trillion, as one trillion is one thousand billion. So, given that the last estimated price tag for our foreign wars was in the neighborhood of ~$4.5 trillion, which is actually something of a low figure but let’s use it just for the sake of argument, that is an order of magnitude (i.e. 10 times) larger than putative savings of $400-500 billion. In other words, even if you cut all those departments to zero, saving “hundreds of billions” of dollars in the process, you wouldn’t even be able to cover half of our annual deficit. Before the engagement in Libya, it was reported that about $1.2 trillion of the $1.4 trillion of our current deficit is due to military spending.

    But go ahead, call me a “leftist” again. It’s not like you could possibly look any more stupid.

  • El Gipper


    I know how CBO scores PPACA. However, it would make far more sense to repeal PPACA’s expenditures and utilize whatever revenue it raises to reduce the deficit.

    I’m all for cutting entitlements and defense. Get out of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya immediately. Convert Social Security and Medicare into means-tested programs to cut TRILLIONS.

    I’m also for raising tax revenues similar to suggestions by Bowles-Simpson. But Frumpie asked for discretionary program suggestions, and I gave them. I think Republicans would agree to raise the debt ceiling without going into entitlements and defense if those cuts I suggested were offered.

    I’m aware of the Dept. of Energy’s role in nuclear weapons work which is why I qualified my cuts to its budget compared to the other departments. Of course, I’m dealing with a bunch of Stalinists who can only hurl ad hominen attacks when confronted with impeccable logic and reasonable suggestions. Don’t attack a straw man argument. Attack mine.

    I’m not sure I understand what is so nihilistic about proposing that vast sectors of the federal government be shifted to the states? States don’t have a federal reserve bank to bail out their budgets when they run deficits so it makes sense to have states do as much as possible for fiscal sanity. But ottobvs conflates federalism with a total opposition to any kind of welfare program. Not so.

    • ottovbvs

      Convert Social Security and Medicare into means-tested programs to cut TRILLIONS….But ottobvs conflates federalism with a total opposition to any kind of welfare program.

      Social security represents 100% of income for 50% of retirees and over 50% of income for 80% of retirees. Average SS payments are around $20,000 per retiree. The typical cost of a no frills health insurance policy for a 65 year old is around $15,000 assuming there’s nothing seriously wrong with them. IOW these programs are essential assuming you don’t want 90% of retirees living below the poverty line. And you think 50 different Medicare programs and 50 different SS programs from states with massively different revenue bases would be more efficient and equitable. As I said this is Boehner’s Dilemma there are loads of simplistic buffoons loose in the GOP.

  • NYNewMex

    Impeccable logic? Really, since when does ~40% (the amount not related to nuclear weapons) constitute “most” of 100%?

    Once again, I would love to see the red welfare states to try fend for themselves in the event the agencies you want to see eliminated turned into reality. While we are it, lets make them pay for their own highways. They will squel like pigs for a return of federal funds.

    Please tell me what the heck is reasonable about eliminating HHS when 10% of the funds it receives are for discretionary things such as the FDA, the CDC, and the NIH. The rest of the money is to adminster and fund Medicare and Medicaid. I am sure the invididual states, particularly the cheapo red ones, would do a bang up job on food inspection to prevent food poisoning outbreaks or setting up a national response to a swine flu outbreak. I’m sure that 50 different state based crop insurance and food stamp programs will be far more effective and cost efficient than anything we could do at national level through the Department of Agriculture.

    I am sure this wonderful state-based system of yours will serve us very well in a globalized 21st century economy. Forgot about the fact that we tried this experiment prior to the Constitution, and it failed.

  • El Gipper


    Maybe we need some cuts in the nuclear budget, moron! Geez, you would have figured that out by following my logic.

    Let the red welfare states, like Texas, fend for themselves. All their losers will migrate to New York so that you can smother them with compassion. More highways equals more pollution. Why subsidize more pollution? Oh, I know, so that we can have cap and trade legislation!! Very bright.

    • ottovbvs

      Let the red welfare states, like Texas, fend for themselves. All their losers will migrate to New York so that you can smother them with compassion.

      Boehner’s Dilemma….any questions?

    • NYNewMex

      You name one red state that is not a federal welfare queen. How about we go over the list that are.

  • El Gipper

    Well, we have 50 different governors and 50 different state legislatures. Let’s really get efficient and get rid of state government! I wasn’t advocating 50 different Medicare and SS programs. Never said that. Only referred to the Depts. of Education, HUD, HHS, Labor, Commerce, Agriculture, et. al. when it came to federalism.

    Medicare and SS would remain at federal level as means-tested programs. Obviously, you have to have a phase-in of provisions by age. Also, it is possible to bend the medical cost curve by significantly raising Medicare tax rates, and then offering significant discounts to taxpayers who take annual exams measuring body fat percentage, blood pressure, cholestorol count, and nictotine levels. Measures are not based on pre-existing conditions. Each is under control of individual through diet and exercise. I don’t accept $15,000/yr. as a given fact. It can be changed with behavior modification. It’s simple, just not easy. But we cannot afford to continue Medicare fee-for-service model. It’s a joke, and too expensive for a non-socialist nation like ours.

    • ottovbvs

      I don’t accept $15,000/yr. as a given fact.

      Well then you don’t know what you’re talking about. I currently pay that for a fairly basic policy for my wife who is 63 and as fit as a flee. And you’re ignoring the numbers I provided which rule out means testing when 90% plus of seniors would be in penury without SS and Medicare.

      • El Gipper


        Which part of the phrase “age-transitioning” don’t you understand? I’m not expecting to bring the hammer down on everyone in the program today. It has to phased in.

        I accept $15,000 as given fact for TODAY. It’s just not an exogenous variable that cannot be altered by future policies for TOMORROW! Man you are a dense old fart.

        And also, where is it written that people must begin receiving SS when they are 67? Hey, if you cannot afford to retire, then keep working, pal. You cannot expect young taxpayers to foot the bill for a stupid entitlement program voted for and expanded by your generation. Ditto for Medicare.

        • ottovbvs

          It’s just not an exogenous variable that cannot be altered by future policies for TOMORROW! Man you are a dense old fart.

          Apparently this dense old fart is aware that medical insurance inflation has run at around 9% a year for the last forty years and you think that by some magical process this is going change and reduce the real cost of a policy for a 65 year old from $15,000 to what? In fact magical is just about the kindest thing I could say about your reasoning capability. It’s amazing to behold.

        • El Gipper


          “you think that by some magical process this is going change and reduce the real cost of a policy for a 65 year old from $15,000 to what?”

          Magical process? You’re probably one of those folks who think that people who weigh 300 pounds and have type 2 diabetes are just unlucky. You probably think that I should be happy to pick up the tab for all those slobs. The fact is that Europeans don’t have a plethora of 300 pounds slobs waddling around their streets because they have superior dietary and exercise habits to Americans. It’s all the fatties who believe that watching 6 hours of TV per day, eating 3000 calories, and driving everywhere is part of normal behavior who think that lowering health care costs is a fantasy created by waving a magic wand.

          If I was in charge of your dietary and nutritional regimen, I guarantee that you would not be costing the taxpayers more than $2,000/year. But since I can’t be Big Brother, I’ll say that $5,000/yr./person is a resonable figure.

  • dante

    I posted this in the other thread, but I’d bet serious money that the negotiations going on behind closed doors include a Democratic threat to vote “present” when this comes up for a vote… The GOP wants to pass this thing with all of the Democrats and a few moderate GOPers, so that then they can use it as a battering ram against the Democrats politically.

    The House Dems have shown already (during the budget debate several months ago) that they’re not going to play that game. It’s either everyone puts their hands in the middle and agrees to this, or the Democrats are going to place the failure of it directly on the Republicans in the House.

  • Saladdin

    David, I think you’re giving GOP reps too much credit again. When Conservatives continually state that either of the 2 following are true, you have issues:

    1) It doesn’t matter if we pass the debt ceiling, because the consequences won’t be that bad. Michele Bachmann, ConHomeUSA.
    2) It’s better if we default, that way we can finally deal with entitlements. Paul Ryan

    If the economy doesn’t pick up, then Mitch McConnel’s strategy of pure opposition will have been successful. Woe is the case for the President’s successor if this is the case and he/she eventually has to face an opposition House or Senate.

  • pnumi2

    “Woe is the case for the President’s successor.”

    I think a lot of us said that before Obama had the great misfortune of succeeding Bush.

  • El Gipper


    The problem with your analysis is that it’s the Democrats who want to spend money. What would Democrats ever gain by being obstructionist in the majority against a Republican president? They have no leverage. Republicans want defense spending, but the Democrats have learned since the 70′s after McGovern that the anti-military rhetoric loses votes with the mainstream.

    There is no risk whatsoever in what the Republicans are doing right now. There won’t be a default. The Democrats will never allow 44% of federal spending to cease over night. All the Democrats can hope to do is predict the apocalypse and pray that Republicans are stupid enough to believe the hype.

  • Saladdin

    it’s the Democrats who want to spend money.

    In what world are tax cuts not spending money we don’t have? Only in the current Conservative sense. The Bush tax cuts (which Frum wants extended forever) didn’t do much for the economy.

    That and the lax regulations in re to housing and wall street contributed to the problem regulations, by the way that the GOP wants to eliminate are similar to regulations that Canada put into place PRIOR to the recession. Something that neutralized their being hit by such.

    Of course there’s not going to be a default. The market would crash and Wall Street fat cats and bankers would be unrealistically upset… you have to pay your masters in politics after all.

  • El Gipper

    Only a Democrat could have the mindset that not taxing someone more money is a form of spending. Can we at least keep our language and concepts of accounting straight. Expenditures are spending and revenues are not spending.

    It’s the percentage of GDP going toward federal expenditures that is key for Republicans. Guess it’s the fat cat Democrats at Goldman Sachs who have their panties in a knot over the thought of shutting down the Treasury desk. Ahhhh. I feel very sorry for them. Don’t see many Republicans giving 2 craps about it. So much for your vaunted class-warfare, psuedo-Marxist analysis of political forces in the US. It sound so ’60s and dated nowadays.

  • ottovbvs

    it’s the Democrats who want to spend money.

    Apparently our resident fiscal genius is unaware that Reagan tripled the public debt and Bush doubled it. When it comes to spending money these guys beat any democrat hands down.

    • El Gipper


      Wow, I guess that means that Republicans should just continue to be as irresponsible as their predecessors. Brilliant argument!

      Well, they’ve changed, and obviously, you like the old Republicans better.

      Also, the Republicans DON’T CARE ABOUT THE DEFICIT!!!! Will you quit moaning about the deficit? Republicans care about the percentage of GDP spent by the federal government!!!!

      That’s the key variable. Not the deficit. If I read one more post moaning about Reagan, Bush I, or Bush II deficits, then I’ll puke. Deficits only matter for talking points for dummies. Even Krugman doesn’t care about deficits. Why should Boehner?

      • ottovbvs

        Also, the Republicans DON’T CARE ABOUT THE DEFICIT!!!!

        I know that, Dick Cheney told me.

  • Xunzi Washington

    El Gippo

    “Only a Democrat could have the mindset that not taxing someone more money is a form of spending.”

    “Spending” is not an abstraction. It is a term that is linked to costs.

    I would say that if you have zero debt and are not spending any money on anything whatsoever, and do not anticipate having future spending needs, a tax cut is not spending because you don’t and can’t owe anything. Thus, the tax cut is not costing you money because you have no debt, or future debt. You have no potential costs to create a meaning for “spending”.

    However, if you have a positive debt and are spending money, and anticipate future costs, you need revenue to pay for that spending and revenue to pay interest on the debt because you have (or anticipate having) a deficit. If you drop taxes and this raises the deficit, then “yes” you have spent money – because you now OWE more money than you did before. Your costs went up. You spent money.

    It hard to imagine how deficits can rise without spending, isn’t it? I’m interested to see how you will twist into a pretzel to show me that tax cuts are not spending without arguing the ridiculous claim that tax cuts always pay for themselves. Although if you go that route, you’ll have to agree that tax cuts are themselves spending, it’s just that the ones you like work out so that they are not.

  • El Gipper

    Spending and deficits are 2 different concepts. That’s why we have 2 different words for these concepts. You are saying that anything that increases deficits is “spending.” Not true.

    Deficits = Revenue – Spending .

    OK, it’s really that simple. I know that you’re probably a journalism or communications major that can’t grasp simple 5th grade arithmetic, but don’t spin complexity into simplicity.

  • Xunzi Washington

    El Gippo

    I didn’t say they were the same thing, so I can tell you were not an English major or your reading comp skills would be better. But even if I HAD said that, “Bachelor” and “unmarried male” don’t mean different things, are the same concepts, yet we have two words. If you are unconvinced, go check the dictionary.

    You’ll have to do better than that, homey. Start over and address the actual argument.

    • El Gipper


      Hey, broh. When revenues go down, you assume that spending just keeps chugging along. Why are you making that assinine assumption? It’s the key to your entire stupid, idiotic, infantile, argument.

      You treat spending (expenditures) as fixed and unchanging. Like I said, there are 2 parts to the equation. If you cut revenues, then spending could be cut too.

      Deficits = Revenues – Spending . Revenues and Spending are variables, not fixed.

      No wonder you leftists just cannot fathom how spending (other than defense) could ever be cut.

      • Xunzi Washington

        Hey broh, just the reefer down and pay attention because no, retard, that is not what I was saying. Clearly you have a serious reading comp issue. I’ll explain it again, because you seem to be having difficulties here.

        “Spending” as a concept exists in a monetary matrix, not as an abstraction. You “spend” when you either (a) take on an actual cost or (b) you defer a cost. In a world in which there are no (a) and no (b), there’s no “spending”.

        If the government is in a situation in which it has no costs or defered costs and no anticipated costs ever, tax cuts are not “spending”. Then we would live in your bizarro world in which tax cuts are not and never are “spending”.

        In the actual world (not the bizarro one you live in) tax cuts are spending because they result in costs, either actual or deferred.

        What this means is that for every tax cut, there is a level at which it is not spending, because it does not result in costs, and there is a rate at which it does result in spending because it does. Any economist not in bizarro world will tell you this.

        Now if you have an alternative to what “spending” means that is applicable in the actual world, go ahead and let’s hear it.

        Until then, your insults are comical.

  • Saladdin

    El Gipper, what on earth makes you assume I’m a Democrat? I am what is referred to as an Eisenhower Republican. The first man I voted for actually. Where have these folks gone? Your namesake, the Gipper actually agreed to huge tax increases as President, in fact raising them 6 separate times. This tends to be forgotten history by the modern GOP.

    As a matter of fact, Reagan’s economic adviser, the one who came up with the idea of Reaganomics, after leaving the administration to return to his professorship at Harvard had to rewrite his thesis on Reaganomics to adjust to “real world” actualities.

    Don’t see many Eisenhower Republicans anymore, maybe Mitt used to be one, but now Mitt 2.0 is an ultraconservative. Maybe he’ll refute his ideologies after the primary and become Mitt 3.0. Who knows what he actually believes or thinks.

    • El Gipper


      My apologies for the partisan slur. You might have read that I’m also in favor of raising tax revenue ala Simpson-Bowles Commission. I detest Grover Norquist.

      However, the Tea Party is right about insisting on using the Debt Limit to impose massive cuts in entitlement programs. In the short-run, Republican intrasigence on tax increases is a great negotiating strategy to force Democrats to cry uncle and make painful political choices about cutting entitlement spending. Once cuts are instituted, then Republicans will have to consent to tax revenue increases.

      I see an easy out for Boehner. Under current law, tax rates go up in 2013. Boehner could cut a deal today that lowers tax rates compared to 2013, but increases them relative to Bush rates. Then he could argue that he delivered a long-run tax cut vis a vis current law. However, Obama will have to offer PPACA on a silver platter plus other entitlement cuts as the price for that concession.

  • ottovbvs

    El Gipper // Jul 8, 2011 at 6:27 pm


    “you think that by some magical process this is going change and reduce the real cost of a policy for a 65 year old from $15,000 to what?”

    Magical process? You’re probably one of those folks who think that people who weigh 300 pounds and have type 2 diabetes are just unlucky. [/i]

    Actually I’m 6′ 1″ and 170 lbs….and what has this got to do with medical inflation averaging around 9% for 40 years and a policy for a healthy 65 year old costing $15,000? Nothing. It’s the usual bs that you think is an effective substitute for facts and rational argument.

    • El Gipper


      Well, if you’re so damn healthy, what are you worried about? Get out there and whip your fat-ass Democrat brethren in Mississipi, Michigan, Ohio, and Louisiana into shape. That’s how we’ll bend the cost curve. People must make intelligent choices about exercise and nutrition. Not nationalizing healthcare.

      I know that this scientific fact ruins your political fantasies about blaming big greedy corporations and championing a single-payer solution, but you’re going to have to concede I’m right.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    oh, please ignore this blathering fool El Gipper. He just wants to provoke people. No one can possibly be this stupid as to say: hey, lets get rid of the CDC or the FDA or a host of vital government agencies.

    These la la libertarians have ZERO concept of the real world. A country like Japan has an unemployment rate of 4.6%, has a higher taxation rate and universal health insurance. Japan pays 8% of their GDP on healthcare and has better outcomes versus 16% in the US with our having 60,000 million without insurance.

    The Roman empire achieved its greatness by having a vibrant and vital government sector, financing roads, sewage, aquaducts, the military, schools, ports, etc. etc.

    Contrast that with societies that had weak governments…kind of hard since they didn’t last.

    “Republicans care about the percentage of GDP spent by the federal government!!!!” This is his fundamental idiocy. If morons like him were around during WW2 we would all be speaking German, “Oooohhhh, we can’t spend more than 18% of our GDP to defeat the Axis. That am Tirany”

    What a freaking troll. Without Government we would have no civilization nor laws. You want to go run around naked go to some deserted south pacific island and have sex with coconuts.

  • El Gipper


    I would not eliminate CDC or FAA or food safety, inspections, etc. The Romans and the Japanese spend a lower percentage of GDP on Government than the US. Japanese have much healthier life styles and diets than Americans to account for much of their better health outcomes. American healthcare system is bulloxed up by tax code, state regulations, and a host of other regulatory nonsense. Don’t blame free market economics for that.

    Yeah, I suppose that it’s inconceivable that I could possibly make an exception for increasing the federal share of GDP during a world war where the Pacific Fleet was sunk in Pearl Harbor. Wow, that’s a big stab to my ego. You nailed me on that one big time.

    I know that you love to attack caricatures of libertarian-anarchists because that makes things easier for your feeble intellect. But you guys cannot handle dissent. You’re a bunch of lazy, envious, idiots.