I’m as Mad as Hell, But I Guess I’ll Keep Taking It

April 4th, 2011

By Tom Carter

Federal Government ShutdownIn the great movie Network, the character Howard Beale, played by the late Peter Finch, told his audience: “I want you to go to the window, open it, stick your head out and yell: ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.'”

That’s the way I feel about the current crop of politicians in Washington — most of them, anyway.  In addition to all their other failures and misdemeanors, over the past decade (at least) they’ve abjectly failed to manage the nation’s fiscal affairs.

At this point, we’re running absurd annual deficits and burdened by what should be an unbelievable national debt.  That means, to anyone with common sense, that we have to have more revenue and reduce spending.  But, no.  None of them has the guts to increase taxes, aside from some Democrats and only if increases apply to a limited number of rich people.  Likewise, almost all of them are too cowardly to cut spending in the amounts necessary.

And look at the present situation.  There is no budget for FY 2011 because Congress passed none of the appropriations bills last year.  They were too busy with health care, presumably.  So far we’ve had six continuing resolutions (CR) to fund the federal government for short periods of time, amid a constant, unseemly squabbling between the parties about relatively insignificant funding reductions and riders on CRs for pet Republican causes.

The current CR expires on April 8 — this Friday.  The bickering children in Congress may not be able to pass another one, either a full-year CR or yet another interim CR.  If that happens, we go into an appropriations lapse or gap, presumably resulting in a government shutdown.  But does the government actually shut down?  No, of course not.  Essential employees providing essential services will continue to function, and those services will be funded.

Here’s the real question:  How can they keep spending money in the absence of appropriations?  After all, the Constitution says in Article I, Section 9:  “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law….”  I know, I know; there are cases in which previously appropriated funds can still be spent, there are authorized carryovers from previous fiscal years, etc.  There’s also the Anti-Deficiency Act which permits Congress to authorize spending of funds that haven’t been appropriated in some cases.  That alone is probably unconstitutional, but it’s never been legally declared as such.  You can read all about this stuff in a Harvard Law School paper — but get the coffee ready, and you might want a couple of toothpicks to keep your eyelids open.

So here we are.  The politicians in Congress will continue playing games, and maybe they won’t get around to performing one of their fundamental functions — funding the government.  In that case, we go into shutdown on April 9.  We won’t really “shut down” of course; essential things will be paid for, and the Constitution be damned.  Or maybe they will pass another CR, either for all of FY 2011 (through September 30) or for another few weeks, after which the dance will go on.

Meanwhile, you have to wonder what will happen with the FY 2012 budget.  Will they take time to work on it and get it passed before October 1, when FY 2012 begins?  Don’t bet the farm on it.  But what’s the big deal — President Obama’s proposed FY 2012 budget only shows a deficit of $1.1 trillion dollars — that’s $2.6 trillion in revenue, $3.7 trillion in expenditures.  That couldn’t work in the states because almost all of them are required by their constitutions to balance their budgets.  And in private business?  Proposing a budget so ridiculously out of whack would result in CEOs and CFOs being fired immediately for gross incompetence.

Yeah, I’m mad as hell, and I’d sure like to not take this anymore.  But I guess I will because I can’t do anything about it.  I can cast a few pathetic votes for a congressman and a senator and president, but it won’t matter.  Until we all get mad enough to make the necessary changes, we’ll all have to keep taking it.

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9 Responses to “I’m as Mad as Hell, But I Guess I’ll Keep Taking It”

  1. Brian |

    Tom, the only real choice is to cut spending. The way we execute our income tax at present depends on an ever-growing pool of money,which is a big reason we’re still having such problems.

    I know you know, but lots of people (like the millionaire Michael Moore) seem to think that soaking the rich is the answer. Here’s a video, called Eat the Rich, at youtube that’s both entertaining and depressing at the same time.

    As I have pointed out, not infrequently, increasing corporate taxes merely means that we shell out more cash at the register for the things that we buy, or corporations have less money with which to hire new employees or make capital investments.

    If we could trust the scoundrels with a temporary tax increase, I might be inclined to go along with it. But we have to face facts – another big reason we’re in this mess is because our taxes are already too high, and yet with tax receipts of $2.3 trillion, it just isn’t enough. I’m of the opinion that $2.3 trillion is more than enough to operate the federal government, including servicing the debt.

    I’ve written this before, but it bears being written again:
    1. A million seconds ago, it was 23 Mar 11
    2. A billion seconds ago, it was 1980
    3. A trillion seconds ago, we were at the tail-end of the last great ice age (about 31000 years ago)
    4. A billion minutes ago, the Christian Church was in its infancy
    5. A billion hours ago (about 115,000 years) man did not yet exist.
    6. A million dollars ago was 5 seconds at the US Treasury
    7. A billion dollars ago was late yesterday afternoon at the US Treasury
    8. If I gave you next year’s budget (let’s round it down to $3.65 trillion) and told you that you could only spend $1 million a day, it would take you longer to spend that money than civilization has existed (about 10,000 years).

  2. Tom Carter |

    Brian, a relatively quick look at the math tells the story — there is no way to resolve the problem through spending cuts alone. The math works the same way for Democrats, Republicans, and libertarians. There also have to be tax increases. Make them temporary, call them surcharges, do whatever you want. But there has to be a combination of more coming in and less going out.

  3. Brian |

    Tom, I understand the math and agree with you. The problem is…I wouldn’t trust any of these scalawags with my personal grocery money.

    Howsomever…the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. We’ve permitted them taxing us to the gross receipts of $2.3 trillion, is it? Giving them more isn’t going to solve the problem, it’s only going to encourage them to spend more.

  4. Ryan |

    I share everyone’s frustration with American politics, but it’s important to remember that things arent necessarily as bad as they seem. In absolute dollars, a $1.5 trillion deficit is a ton, and needs to be fixed. Fixed through reduced spending AND increased taxes. But even now, American is doing pretty well.

    America has the 61st lowest tax rate in the world, and the 56th lowest level of government spending (as %GDP). Yet we rank 12th in HDI. Amazing.

  5. Brian |

    Ryan, meaning no disrespect, but comparing us to other countries vis-a-vis our tax rate is akin to having an argument over what smells worse – cat pooh or dog pooh. Frankly, I don’t want either one of them on my living room carpet. If the Europeans wish to tax themselves into oblivion, I couldn’t care one whit less. I don’t live in Europe.

    I love Bordeaux red probably more than any American you know, but Sonoma and Napa produce some incredibly good reds, and Oregon produces outstanding pinot noirs as well. Other than wine and cheese, what is it that Europeans export?

    Think of it in these terms – if Obama gets the budget he wants next year, a little over 1/3 of what we are going to be spending is going to be borrowed/inflated money (at these levels, it doesn’t matter which it is, as they are both disastrous).

    Congress-critters, even Republicans, but most especially liberal, spendthrift Democrats, see more money as a license to increase government, not as a means to prevent the republic from disintegrating.

  6. Tom Carter |

    It’s time to stop all the debating about other countries, this-n-that, whatever. Listen to Erskine Bowles, the co-chair of President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility:

    I’m really concerned. I think we face the most predictable economic crisis in history. A lot of us … didn’t see this last crisis as it came upon us. But this one is really easy to see. The fiscal path we are on today is simply not sustainable.

    This debt and these deficits that we are incurring on an annual basis are like a cancer and they are truly going to destroy this country from within unless we have the common sense to do something about it. …

    This problem is going to happen … it may be two years, you know, maybe a little less, maybe a little more. But if our bankers over there in Asia begin to believe that we’re not going to be solid on our debt, that we’re not going to be able to meet our obligations, just stop and think for a minute what happens if they just stop buying our debt.

    What happens to interest rates?. And what happens to the U.S. economy? The markets will absolutely devastate us if we don’t step up to this problem. The problem is real, the solutions are painful, and we have to act.


  7. Brian |

    Tom, I have absolutely no faith in the feckless bunch who claim to be our “leaders.” We’re in for it, no error.

  8. larry ennis |

    As long as we can have access to this type of on line forum, we can do more than just “take it”.
    Don’t be put off by mocking names and references to you state of mind. Being patriotic even to a passionate degree isn’t grounds for ridicule. If you’re unhappy with the current political situation, make yourself heard.
    Being defeated after a decent fight is better than laying down like a whipped dog at the first sign of trouble.

  9. Brian |

    Who said anything about lying down?

    One of Winston’s Churchill’s finer quotes:

    If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without blood shed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.

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