October 4, 2010
The Looming StandoffBy George Scaggs
Last week, Congress skipped town to head home and hit the campaign trail. It seems they left a bit of unfinished business. Not only did the Democrat-controlled body fail to deal with the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire on December 31, but in case you didn't hear, this year, Congress failed to fulfill one of the most fundamental duties it has. They did not pass a budget.
Actually, they never bothered to create a blueprint for government spending at all. Barely managing to address the issue, the House passed only two of thirteen necessary appropriations bills, and the Senate passed none. This was no small dereliction of duty. In fact, it was a first for the U.S. Congress under the current budget rules, which have been in place since 1974.
Perhaps we should have expected as much from the 111th Congress. Every time we thought they couldn't get any worse, they managed to reach another new low. Their entire tenure was fraught with one affront after another: passing major legislation without reading it, blocking the minority party from the legislative process, prohibiting legitimate debate, last-minute backroom deals, unchecked corruption, etc.
This bunch seemed to make up the whole game of governance as they went along, routinely abandoning the processes by which we should be governed. Perhaps never has a body empowered by the people proven so unworthy. Indeed, the electorate appears most anxious to bid them good riddance, and rightly so.
Once the Democrats finally figured out that they were in genuine disfavor, they found the constitutionally mandated tasks of taxation and spending too problematic to deal with. Though out of absolute necessity, with the federal government's new fiscal year beginning October 1, both houses did manage to pass catch-all continuing resolutions to keep the whole operation chugging along, ever closer to the edge of the proverbial cliff.
All politics and philosophical differences aside, this is no way to properly run a government. If this is not tyranny, then how shall we define it? At what point of indiscretion and reckless abandon do we start calling it what it is?
Still, while Congress-bashing is all too easy with the 111th, and the current powers that be are more than deserving of the fate that awaits them on November 2, if Pelosi, Reid, and gang are nothing else, they are cunning and manipulative. They're not done yet. Something wicked this way comes.
Considering the Democrats' whole one-party rule approach to running the country, we must ask ourselves, what are their intentions during the post-election session that will convene on November 15?
The Democrats' continuing resolutions were based on Obama's train-wreck of a budget proposal for 2011. Coming in at a whopping $3.83 trillion and borrowing forty cents of every dollar it spends, it is a grand scheme to create an additional $1.6 trillion of debt.
Actually, it will prove worse than that. The administration's numbers, forecast last February, were based on the failed Keynesian notions that economic growth would be much greater than it has turned out to be. The subsequent loss in revenues will only widen their projected deficit gap.
Obviously, the stage is set for more mischief to come. Something has to give. A lame-duck Congress will have only until December 3 to continue funding the federal government, and that's with a generous Thanksgiving break thrown in. A precious few days to deal with appropriately spending such a massive sum is begging for a standoff.
The mountain of debt in Obama's budget is bad enough, but the means by which Democrats appear to be planning to implement it is despicable, effectively adding a heap of insult to a ton of injury.
Essentially, lame-duck Democrats will be in the position to shove a budget down our throats, one that they avoided properly dealing with in an attempt to save their electoral hides and know will be rejected by the newly elected Congress. Thus, they will not be inclined to use another continuing resolution to push the matter into the next session.
Adding to the tension will be the sticky matter of extending our current tax rates, a simultaneous unfolding drama that will only heighten the partisan rancor. Behind that, the new Congress must deal with raising the debt ceiling, currently at $14.3 trillion, within a few short months. If anything like the Obama budget gets passed, our amassed debt will be well north of $15 trillion within the 2011 budget year.
How will Republicans react to all of this? Presumably during the lame-duck session, we will get a quick test of the current GOP congressional leadership's mettle. Will they have the fortitude and integrity to shut down the federal government? It may be their only option to avoid being steamrolled.
And what of us, the groundswell of Americans demanding sweeping change in the way we are governed? Are we ready for it? Given the nation's less-than-desirable economic and fiscal circumstances, it stands to reason that substantial sacrifice is going to be required sooner or later.
Are conservatives, with the hue and cry of a huge dependent class and relentless attacks from the media, prepared to weather the storm?
Ultimately, if we are to expect the kind of bold and stern leadership that the times demand, then we are going to have to damn well back it up.
The exuberance of a conservative takeover of Congress will be short-lived indeed. The struggles we have endured in the last few years, all the protests and the hard work done to produce electoral change in this year's elections, may prove relatively easy. They will pale by comparison to the challenges quickly coming our way.
Hold on...it's about to get interesting.
George Scaggs is a writer, commentator, voice actor, and audio-video producer based in Austin, TX. You can find more of his work at Bargain Citizen Media, Ramparts360.com, and TexasInsider.com.