Shall We Scream and Shout or Get Something Done?

January 12th, 2011

By Dan Miller

We have other tools available besides taking hard stances on the debt limit and repealing Obamacare in the House.

It’s been said, tongue-in-cheek I hope:

“When in Danger
And in Doubt
Run in Circles;
Scream and Shout”

Is that to be the Conservative Republican motto for the next couple of years or would we prefer that they actually accomplish something beyond being reelected? The national debt limit and ObamaCare seem to be among the first tests.

National Debt Limit

We are within a few hundred billion dollars of reaching the national debt limit and that won’t take long even without any newly authorized expenditures. There is lots of opposition to increasing the limit. We have already spent far too much! Gotta stop those wastrels. Rein them in! These statements are not only true but obviously so. However, the money has for the most part already been spent or obligated and this problem must be dealt with piece by piece and not as part of a suicide pact over the national debt.

I agree that refusing to increase the debt ceiling would be peachy, if the consequences were not draconian. Want to default on existing debts, foreign and domestic? Great. Then the dollar will forfeit any remaining status as an international currency and even as a respectable domestic currency. Halt Social Security payments? OK. Want to support your aged parents as you pay lots more for Chinese junk and foreign oil since we haven’t been able to follow the commandment “Drill, baby, drill?” Want to pay more for just about everything else? Then refuse to increase the debt limit. Punish the beastly Democrats? Sure. That would be nice. But let’s not punish ourselves and help to produce a resurgent Liberal Leftist majority in the process.

An increase in the debt limit need not, must not, and simply cannot mean increased spending if our CongressCritters are paying attention. All appropriations bills arise in the House because they have to; that’s what the Constitution requires and when on infrequent occasion the Senate has decided otherwise, it has been put in its place by the refusal of the House to give up its constitutional prerogative and pass the Senate-crafted appropriations. The Republicans are now in charge of the House and don’t have to fund anything unless they choose to. The Senate can’t do it and neither can President Obama.

Our Honorable Members in the House should be clever enough to understand that an increased debt limit does not compel them to appropriate more money or prevent them from appropriating less. It does not even mean that existing funding must be maintained. There are many places to deny funding almost immediately. Funding has only been provided through early March of this year; that’s when the government will run out of money (regardless of any action on the national debt limit) because the late but unlamented lame ducks were unable to pass an omnibus appropriation bill providing funding beyond that. A further interim appropriation bill can, of course, be passed to keep the government running in as low a gear as desired for another few months until appropriations can be fixed for the remainder of fiscal 2011. That’s where the focus must be. Starve ObamaCare, the EPA, even the sainted United Nations and a bunch of other ravenous beasts to death. That will work and will be healthy rather than suicidal. It will also greatly irritate the leftists, not a bad thing to do.

The repeal of ObamaCare has acquired much the same aura as refusal to extend the debt limit. ObamaCare is bad and so are hurricanes and floods. We are not in a position to outlaw or otherwise to prevent the latter two; resources dedicated to those ends would be wasted. What we can do is build strong houses and dams. That is not as effective as successfully eliminating hurricanes and floods would be but it is possible and does some good.

The House voted on January 7 to approve rules leading to the repeal of ObamaCare, 236-181. On January 8 the House postponed all legislative action for a week to “take whatever actions may be necessary in light of today’s tragedy.” Obviously a national tragedy, the shooting serves as a compelling reason for reflection rather than the sort of crass political opportunism to which the mainstream media has repeatedly and with obdurate persistence hitched its star. It does not, however, legitimize forgetting the other important business of the country.

As I argued here, outright repeal of ObamaCare just won’t work. Here’s why: the Republicans/Conservatives do not yet have a strong veto proof Congress. By 2013 there might well be a veto proof Republican/Conservative supermajority or a better president whose veto it will not be necessary to override — unless we spoil our chances. Getting to that point is something we can and should work very hard to accomplish. Until then, the death of ObamaCare and other obnoxious laws by starvation seems better than ineffectual threats of a cleaner demise. Despite the feel-good sensation produced by passing a repeal bill it is almost certain to amount to no more than sound and fury signifying nothing; perhaps worse.

Continue reading this article at Pajamas Media »

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5 Responses to “Shall We Scream and Shout or Get Something Done?”

  1. Tom Carter |

    This is the right political strategy if one is a Republican. There are undoubtedly those ideologues who will demand repeated efforts to repeal even though it isn’t going to happen. Strangling health care reform and other offensive elements of the Democratic agenda through appropriations is the only thing that will work. Failing that, the only thing left is to wait on the 2012 election in the hope of gaining more Republican strength and maybe even a Republican president.

    But here’s a red flag: As you said, this strategy will require a lot of work and tremendous attention to detail. There’s so much strangling to do that it’s inevitable that there will be overlooked details and unintended consequences — like mistakenly killing the only gander in the flock and expecting only a small reduction in the future population of geese. There’s only so much fine-tuning that Congress can be expected to get right.

  2. Dan Miller |

    Judging by most of the comments on the article at Pajamas Media, there are lots who want to set off fireworks rather than do something more realistically likely to be effective. Symbolism is, I guess, better than an embolism, but that’s about the best I can say for it in this context.

    I agree that mistakes will be made in the unlikely event that my suggestion is implemented; The law of unintended consequences is one of the basic and unalterable principles of the Universe. That said, what is a better alternative?

  3. Brian |

    Even denying funding to Obamacare is going to have unintended consequences. We cannot predict with any degree of accuracy what the effects on business will be.

    How do business leaders plan for the future when the future is made even murkier by a vacillating federal government?

    It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed? — James Madison

    A more apropos idea would be difficult to construct.

  4. Dan Miller |


    I agree that ObamaCare, with its thousands of pages, was too long, too complex and too little read or understood before enactment. I understand that the final version was not even available more than a few hours before the vote; that probably made little difference because it would have taken teams of lawyers, accountants, people knowledgeable in the workings of the health industry and others to understand it and to convey their thoughts to the Honorable Members who voted on it. Final versions of legislation to be voted on are important; they often differ in significant ways from earlier versions.

    There have already, apparently, been unintended consequences and ObamaCare has only begun to come into effect.

    I would not like to see that happen again and the complexity of ObamaCare would be a poor excuse. That’s why I have argued that defunding should take the time it takes. It will require a massive amount of hard work and I hope that precious time will not be squandered with rhetorical flourishes and symbolic gestures toward repeal. Repeal simply won’t fly; properly thought out and written defunding will. Will there then be unintended consequences? Of course there will be. However, with some really hard and thoughtful work they can be minimized.

  5. Brian |

    I hope I didn’t imply that we shouldn’t defund because I agree with you that this is our only viable option at this point. There is a larger point to what I said, though: legislation like this has no business being on the federal register.

    There are unintended consequences to nearly every law enacted. The more byzantine and far-reaching the law, the more unpredictable the consequences will be, with this one exception: people will always seek a way around them.

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