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April 23, 2014

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WHERE I STAND :

No time to abandon adult discourse

Tea party faction looks to undermine 200-plus years of democracy

Who is going to write the checks to balance our mostly unbalanced country?

When the Founding Fathers met to create the U.S. Constitution, one of the foundations upon which they agreed was a system of checks and balances. That concept manifested itself in three separate but equal branches of government — the judiciary, the executive and the legislative.

The system has worked well for more than 200 years — with a hiccup or two along the way — but it now seems stalled. And it is stalled not because there are not checks and balances but because another foundation upon which they all agreed — the right to vote — has worked against the citizens of the country. At least, so far.

I realize there are still a few days left before the United States officially defaults on its debts and, so, anything can and probably will happen to avert what every financial mind of any note has opined will be an economic nightmare. If we think the past three years have been difficult, just wait until the world finds out we stopped paying our bills! That is how the conversation starts.

The right to vote is one of our most fundamental rights. It is the basis for a democracy that is free and fair. Or, at least as free or fair as human beings can make it. An essential ingredient to the right to vote is the obligation to make an informed vote. That is the part of this deal that requires some citizen participation and, yes, some hard work.

It isn’t easy to keep all the candidates and their respective political positions in mind when we go into the voting booth, in part because the positions change based on yesterday’s polling results. And, yet, that is part of our responsibility because if we don’t choose well, we face the possibility of those we elect not acting, well, in our best interests.

It doesn’t matter whether you believe in taxes, spending cuts or anything and everything in between. What matters is that the United States not default on its obligations, which would challenge the full faith and credit argument that the rest of the world makes when discussing the safety of investing in the greatest democracy on the planet.

Simply put, when people to whom we owe money don’t get paid, they will act out. Some will dump their bonds on the market, driving down the values on a worldwide basis. Others will demand much higher interest rates the next time we try to sell them a government security. Still others will find somewhere else to park their money. The net result is that it will cost every American a whole lot more to live tomorrow than it does today.

Faced with that prospect, the single worst thing an elected official should do is refuse to take part in the solution. Stamping your feet and just saying or yelling “no” is not an answer. It is a reaction and a very childish one. And that is exactly what the Tea Party-led Republicans in the House of Representatives are doing. The people have made it clear that a balanced solution to our significant debt crises is what they prefer. A little tax increase on those who can pay, a lot of spending cuts for those who can’t afford it and some fiscal restraint going forward are solutions that sit well with the American people. They get it.

But those folks in Congress who refuse to even sit down in a responsible way to find a solution that isn’t 100 percent to their liking are playing with fire and they are playing with our economic lives. As if we haven’t had enough of that already!

Yes, folks, votes matter. And given our system of checks and balances, the kind of votes that put those meatheads in office is doing a grave disservice to people who don’t deserve such treatment.

It is long past time to let the grown-ups back there take charge. The Senate’s Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, while what they have isn’t perfect, may be our only chance for fiscal sanity. If they can get this deal done, we will all owe them a debt of gratitude. Along with all the other debts we owe!

•••

I know the email responses to what I just wrote will flood my not very smartphone (because it practically forces me to read them all), so let me talk a little bit about a different kind of flood.

My friend Pat Mulroy continues to make public what seems like a most intelligent plan to save our fellow Americans across the Midwest from the ravages of the floodwaters of the Mississippi River. She went very public with it this past week in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That’s the kind of organization that can turn a good idea into a great project if it decides it is good for business.

So let’s talk money. We all see the devastation on the evening news that the flooding has caused throughout the Midwest and South. I am sure the numbers are in the billions if you count the homes, businesses and lives that are lost every time such a disaster strikes.

Pat’s idea is simple. It is a pipeline that would take the rising water away from the Mississippi River and transport it westward to the Colorado River where, frankly, water is in very short supply. Over the next decade or so, many millions of Baby Boomers will be retiring to the Southwest, putting a further demand on the diminishing water supply. It makes perfect sense that we should take the water no one wants and move it to a place where everyone needs it. The only thing in the way is an old argument about water laws that should no longer, well, hold water.

Whatever that pipeline costs can probably be offset by the next few years of flood damage. That’s a pretty good return on investment.

Come on, Chamber of Commerce, show us what you can do with Mulroy’s good idea.

Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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  1. there was a great tea party moment last week when Virginia's governor, Mr. McDonnell, saw the light. Mr. McDonnell was one of those who said there is no need to raise the debt limit. That solid stance was dealt a blow when Moody's said that if the debt limit isn't raised that Virginia's state bond rating would be downgraded on August 3rd, along with 4 other states. Ahhhh --- put a little real terror on Mr McDonnell and all of a sudden he sees the light. You have to believe the very first person McDonnell called was Cantor --- the chief whiner in this process. funny how he to has gone silent of late.

    Mr. Greenspun --- these baggers are loud, therefore draw attention to themselves. but when push comes to shove they're not very convicted to the hot air they push. I doubt McDonnell is alone with his spineless act --- but only time will tell that story.

    You almost have to feel sorry for Mr. Boehner --- what with his knowing the reality at hand but trying to convince those who you describe above. I don't envy his position of having to explain very grownup problems with the children of his party. Lets hope he can pull it off.

    Of course all of this overlooks the 14th amendment --- which those who claim to know and love the constitution may come as a great surprise.

  2. The real argument isn't about raising the debt limit, it's about not raising the limit without spending cuts that equal or exceed the amount raised, AND some insurances that in the future our expenditures will exceed our revenues so we can over time reduce our national debt. Hence the push for a balanced budget amendment.

    What the Republicans are afraid of is a repeat of what happened twice before; they agreed to revenue increases NOW in exchange for a promise of spending reductions in future budgets. Promises which of course never happened.

    That is why they are trying various ways of achieving a zero deficit plan through spending cuts alone. They know they have to force the Democrats hand or America will get nailed again.

    And that is why they say America has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. The Democrats have a long history of intentions to spend more and tax more with no real intentions of stopping the ever increasing national debt.

    The Democrats know that, and that is why they cling to higher taxes as a way of offsetting spending. They mask it THIS TIME as a return to Clinton era tax rates as a way of claiming the balanced budget of that time when they know it was a result of the Gingrich Contract with America and control of the house that forced the Clinton administration to move to the center and away from their far left agenda. That is why they went after Hillary Care, it was intended to be the center piece and the start of their big government agenda and that is why Bill Clinton said the 'era of big government is over'.

    Obama, Pelosi and the far left in congress are just trying to reinvent the big government wheel, one more time. They have been unjustifiably successful in claiming the Gingrich balanced budget for their own. They are much better liars than the Republicans.

    The Republicans would agree to some form of higher taxes through tax reform if they were structured to force them NOW. Unfortunately the White House is insisting on spending increases now with only a promise of spending cuts in the future. We have been down that road before and we know any spending cuts that happen are temporary, the Democrats will always spend more and tax more. They also know it is much easier to increase spending than reverse spending cuts.

  3. I really have to giggle over the water pipeline idea, as I am so very thrilled that Pat Mulroy actually listened to my soon to be ex-husband, heavy construction expert, Bill Kogan's idea, an idea he has fielded well over 20 years now, over in White Pine County at the water meetings and in local conversations, or anyone who would give an ear, about a pipeline cross country gathering unwanted, excess water from the typically flooded, inundated zones there over in the Midwest. He was pitching that idea hoping it would grow some legs. This is great news for me. Ironic though. Hahahaha.

    His idea though, is to follow existing easements along the Highway 40 corridor and other Highways leading West to Nevada. And yes, not only will it help them, it provides American industry products and jobs, allievates flooding, diverts water for us, makes a happy, joy - joy world! YAY!

    The alternative plan of sucking water from Northern Nevada only spells d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r. There are all kinds of folks planning for its demise at every twist and turn, sabotaging it, every inch of the way, driving costs and schedule to the Netherworld. Does SNWA underestimate the skillset of the people up there? Hope not!

    On the other note, our ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES need to read the Constitution of the United States of America before they start each day to remind themselves of what they should be doing! Although Senator Harry Reid is far from perfect, at least he is there leading, and compelling these people to work for their Country and People they represent, rather than dogma and ideology.

    Teabagging is another RELIGION! People have faith in it, what it promises, what it performs. And there should be a "separation of Church and State."

    This 2-party system is so dysfunctional, beyond belief, that this current behavior is only opening the door for a massive change in the political hearts of Americans across the nation who are so fed up, adversely affected by bad politics for decades, and been hit by "economic default enhanced by the USA government," that there will be NO TURNING THEM BACK to what has been politically practiced before ever again!

    Over 3/4 of the United States of America is hurting in some way. Stop and talk to people, have conversations, and each person you speak with will testify to the profound impact LAWMAKERS AND POLITICS have had in/on their lives and the lives of their families and friends and neighbors. No one has escaped it! This is a serious crisis in our country, and here we got the House of Representatives being used as a political stage for 'acting out' characters!
    Not appropriate at all!

  4. There is a fundamental lack of trust by the American people that any increase in revenue will be used to eliminate the deficit and begin paying down our debt. Congress consistently shown us that any money available will be spent as fast as possible and then they will return for more.

    I think that most people are willing to pay for fair value received, but we are *not* getting that value when Congress continues to place an ever-increasing debt burden upon us.

    Again, I think that most rational people would agree to increased taxes if it was used to correct our debt problems, but I doubt that very many actually think that would happen. Therefore there is strong resistance to new or more taxes.

  5. This entire article is a biased ideological attack on reason and is based on a false premise. The overused and transparent tactic of framing the discussion to ones advantage prior to it is patently dishonest.

    Not one person I have heard or read suggests that the government or either party would intentionally and knowingly default on our obligations. That pretense is simply a lie. And no, that is not what the Tea Party is promoting either.

    What is taking place is a stark difference of opinion on how we proceed without defaulting.

    The Democrats would ultimately vote to abolish the debt limit altogether as voiced by Andrea Mitchell this morning on Meet the Press. Absent that, they want to preserve as much spending as possible justified by soaring rhetoric about investments, taxing the rich, fairness and jobs for the middle class which are all liberal speak for redistribution of wealth, social justice and fairness for the purpose of buying votes to keep them in power. True altruism is largely absent from the hypocritical actions and true intent of the left. Democrats ignore that every plan they have ever had increased yearly deficits, the national debt and mortgages the lives of future generations creating a new class of indentured servants bound to their parties only god and the communist ideal; central planing and complete government control. They ignore the fact that 42% of spending is financed. Some by borrowing from foreign governments, some by stealing from domestic trust funds, some by borrowing from private investors and some by simply printing and minting more currency than can be justified by our combined assets and obligations due. They aren't concerned one whit about that and in fact don't even see anything wrong with it. In fact their only problem with it is that too many say it will cause us to implode from within. Left to their own devices, Democrats would go on merrily spending until we die from a combination of hyperinflation and not foreign trade. Democrats see equality as a responsibility of government to provide for those who can't or won't provide for themselves not on a basic level but until the high are brought low and the low are given the means to reach them beyond where they would reach on their own, even with equal opportunity. They seek not to provide equality of opportunity but to right perceived wrongs of previous generations by confiscation of achievement from those they feel are underserving.

    Cont:

  6. Cont:

    The Republicans would if they could minimize central and government in general to the smallest level practical allowing the maximum amount of personal freedom, stoping just short of anarchy. They see all government beyond the structures of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as oppression against a free people. Republicans would left to their own devices reduce taxation to the lowest level possible to pay our obligations after first limiting our obligations. They would eliminate entire departments and millions of restrictions on personal freedom and free enterprise satisfied that personal responsibility, enforcement of existing laws and buyer beware rule the day. They see equality as equal opportunity for all through lack of restriction and control with a minimum safety net and private charity filling the void left by failure or lack of ability. Republicans place the majority of the responsibility for personal achievement on the individual and desire to make no promises beyond that which provides for the immediate needs for food, shelter, medical care and public education. Cont:

    Those who claim independence from either political party and are erroneously grouped under the banner of the Tea Party pledge allegiance to neither party, defend their right to support neither and rely on the principles of fiscal responsibility and independence. They are willing to contribute to the point necessary but differ with both parties as to that point and more importantly the makeup of the point. They demand that based on the failures of both parties in the past and the corrupted process that controls them that they are bound by that process and are willing and able to shortcut the convoluted and tortuous path the congress labors under. They don't support in general the subsidies, political favors and unnecessary expenditures utilized by both parties to curry favor with their supporters. They are more ideologically pure than either party and favor their political freedom over process, party or associations. Their fidelity is to the country over all and not to lessor gods.

    This article frames the issues as do most media or media member sourced pieces from the presupposition on the current debt issue that some would elect not to pay our debts and the Republicans are at fault being the handmaidens of the Tea Party. The author fails to acknowledge or even mention that the treasury has sufficient revenues to meet our bond and statutory obligations to our citizens. He lacks honesty in his failure to mention that the shortages that would occur could be dealt with by the layoffs of government workers largely through non-essential functions. That is likely because he believes as the left does that there are no non-essential government services or positions and as the government is responsible for jobs they cannot eliminate them or the services they provide.

  7. Cont:

    The Tea Party on the other hand sees many of these services as not the purview of the government regardless of how much we have come to rely on them and that we can be asked to either do without them or provide them for ourselves. They deny that government is intended to act as a partisan advocate for labor unions, special interest groups and some whom are well meaning beyond self purpose.

    In the end it boils down to one party seeking to force the other to stop the uncontrolled and unconstitutional growth of government at the individuals expense and the other party seeking to insure as much of those things that they desire and see as important for their version of society, regardless of what is constitutionally mandated. Hence the oft repeated idea that this foundational law of the land is a 'living document'. That selfish fantasy denies relevancy and ignores the legal process of constitutional amendments to affect change. They seek through abuse of power in congress and executive power to circumvent and by pass it to achieve their ends without the inconvenience of legal process.

    The author fails to acknowledge the cross roads the nation is at. He fails to admit that a type of revolution has started and for good or worse things will never be the same, regardless of consequence, that both parties are irrevocably shackled to their respective ideologies and that compromise only comes from the existence of common goals separated by different paths. Today we are a divided nation, not by different paths but by different goals that are not compatible.

  8. The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can't pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. " Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that "the buck stops here." Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

    ....Senator Barack Obama 2006

  9. Brian,

    The real question is; Who is going to bring spending down and put us back on a path towards fiscal sustainability.

    President Obama came to Congress in January of this year with another routine increase in the national debt limit. The House said 'not so fast.' President Obama asked for the largest debt increase in American history, on the heels of the largest spending binge in American history.That spending binge brought us a massive health care bill that most Americans never asked for. A 'stimulus' bill that was more ineffective in producing jobs. And a national debt that has gotten so out of hand it has sparked both a debt and now a credit crisis. This President and the democratic-led senate failed to present and pass a debt ceiling/deficit plan in the senate while the house of congress passed it's plan; Cut, Cap and Balance.
    It is abundantly clear that this President and his party failed to take our nation's debt & deficit problem seriously. And that is why you see him scrambling to deflect blame towards the only party who has passed a bill in congress to remedy the problem. There is a huge difference between a problem-creator and a problem-solver.