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January 25, 2015

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Letter to the editor:

Congress acts just like the rest of us

Another view?

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Let’s talk about the word “compromise.”

Congress, in its failure to compromise, has failed to produce a budget for years. It seems that every problem America faces can’t be solved because of Congress’ failure to compromise.

But while Congress has earned its 15 percent approval rating because of its failures to compromise, how has this spilled into the public? Here’s what I see around me:

The public is quick to complain when Congress does not come up with solutions to the problems we face. However, on those rare occasions when it does pass something, am I the only one who perceives that the American people have a difficult time in accepting what has been enacted?

Yes, the spirit of compromise is also lost on the rest of us. Why can’t we, as the people of America, accept the results of bills as part of the democratic process? Why do we mirror Congress and find flaws in everything we hear and see? I believe that the American people have been swept up in a severe state of brinkmanship. It is akin to choosing a professional team and blindly rooting for it, while hating the opposing teams.

Maybe the more we all can make compromises in our lives, we will live our lives with more serenity and less turmoil.

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  1. Letter Writer:

    It is not Congress, as you said, which failed to produce an annual Federal budget in the last 4 years. It is the US Senate under the tutelage of leader Harry Reid that failed to do so. The House passed a budget every year for the last 4 years, as required by law: The Budget Control Act of 1974. Sadly, Reid chose to break the law every year for the last 4, because, in part, there is no enforcement process for failing to do so [pass an annual budget].


  2. Americans should not have accepted continued low taxes and increased spending in other areas when we had two wars and a new Department of Homeland Security to pay for during the Bush years, but we did.

    Americans should not be accepting of this level of continued quantitative easing, deficit spending and increasing debt under President Obama, but we are.

    We have not been asked to sacrifice much of anything by former President Bush or President Obama or Congress and we have accepted that.

    Politicians are not going to ask for any sacrifices of us unless we signal that we will accept them. We are not sending that signal... and if we really want any actions that matter, we must say we are ready.


  3. We are witnessing "in your face" politics as a substitute for governing. As a few examples the House of Representatives:

    1. Failed to extend the Violence Against Women Act
    2. Failed to pass an Agriculture Bill
    3. Failed to pass a single job creation bill that had any chance of passing the Senate or being signed into law but did manage to shut down airport construction projects.
    4. Did find time in their busy schedule to vote 33 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act which would never have passed the Senate or been signed into law.
    5. Managed to achieve an approval rating just slightly higher than Fidel Castro.

  4. Mr. Anderson is correct. Even after the recent deal,Americans on both sides were complaining that they were unhappy with the elements of the deal. One example is the payroll tax hike after the temporary reduction expired. Everyone should have been aware that the two year reduction was going to end. Even the republicans who were initially opposed to the payroll tax decrease are now complaining that restoration of the full tax represents an Obama tax increase even though both parties voted for the restoration which is a contribution to the Social Security fund. This complaining by the republicans is dis ingenuous. Compromises will never be perfect. They will involve some pork and violate some pure ideology.

  5. It's been said before, but is worth repeating: "The less the government does for us, the better off we are." Why do we need to "support" agriculture? Why do need Washington to "create" jobs? For around the first 200 years, we got along fine with less Washington and more self-reliance and self-initiative. It's only since the "progressives" and their kooky ideas gained momentum that Americans have become so slothful and dependent on politicians to hand them "goodies." 47 million on food stamps; bailouts to corporations; farm subsidies; oil subsidies. You name it and it has a constituancy and lobby in the pig sty known as Washington, DC. It's long past time to end all subsidies except for those folks truly in need and they must be able to prove it. The rest is just Washington creepolas buying votes with tax dollars.

  6. Sorry Carmine, nothing in the Constitution requires Congress [either house] to pass a budget. The only requirement is that no expenditure of public funds may be made without an appropriation. That requirement is always met and that is the debt ceiling problem. The House , where spending bills originate, and the Senate have agreed on certain expenditures. Now, like drunks after a hard party, a number of them don't like it and want to welch on the bill...that would be your basic Tea Party ignoramus spouting something recently gleaned from a bumper sticker.

    I know that it is politically correct for Teeps and trolls to bash Harry but in this case he's simply spending the Senate's valuable time and effort elsewhere. Spending bills are still originating in the House, passing the Senate and getting signed into law. The government continues to function, corporate farmers get their payments, the oil companies continue to get massive subsidies, roads and bridges get built, and geezers like me live high on the hog with our entitlements.

    Advice from Scalia....don't read stuff into the Constitution simply because you think it ought to be there.

  7. "Yes, the spirit of compromise is also lost on the rest of us. Why can't we, as the people of America, accept the results of bills as part of the democratic process?"

    Anderson -- are you really so deficient you don't know how this republic works? If a bill, which is only a proposed law, is unConstitutional, there can not be any compromise. Otherwise we are ruled, not governed. Much of the mess our republic is in because of the avalanche from Congress of laws it has no authority to make. It also subjects its members passing those laws to criminal charges for perjuring their oaths, a form of treason.

    "It's been said before, but is worth repeating: "The less the government does for us, the better off we are." Why do we need to "support" agriculture? Why do need Washington to "create" jobs?"

    lvfacts -- good reminder to all. As I've posted many times, government at every level needs to get a lot smaller so We the people can thrive. That's where jobs and prosperity comes from, not government!

    "...a legislative act contrary to the Constitution is not law." -- Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 177 (1803)

  8. "Sorry Carmine, nothing in the Constitution requires Congress [either house] to pass a budget. " @ Pat Hayes

    "The Congressional Budget Act is actually part of Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. This piece of legislation was created to govern the role of Congress in the process of passing the U.S. budget."


    Read more: What Is the Congressional Budget Act of 1974? |

  9. Here's another excerpted source on the legal requirement for annual passge of a budget:

    "Tuesday, January 8, 2013 marks the 1,350th day since the Senate passed a budget. The law requires Congress to pass a budget every year, on the grounds that Americans deserve to know how the government plans to spend the trillions of taxpayer dollars it collects, along with dollars it borrows at the taxpayers' expense. But Majority Leader Harry Reid, who last allowed a budget through the Senate in April 2009, has ignored the law since then.

    There's no mystery why. The budget passed by large Democratic majorities in the first months of the Obama administration had hugely elevated levels of spending in it. By not passing a new spending plan since, Reid has in effect made those levels the new budgetary baseline. Congress has kept the government going with continuing resolutions based on the last budget signed into law.

    While Reid has forbidden action, the House has passed budgets as required. Senate Democrats have been highly critical of those budgets, designed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. But under Reid's leadership, Democrats have steadfastly refused to come up with a plan of their own."


  10. "The only requirement is that no expenditure of public funds may be made without an appropriation. That requirement is always met and that is the debt ceiling problem. " @ Pat Hayes

    Non-sequitor. "Debt Ceiling" is NOT a Constitutional requirement. Congress can chose instead, as use to be the case during most of US history, to vote separately on the issuance of each federal debt instrument.


  11. WRT President Obama raising the debt ceiling on his own accord, as Nancy Pelosi and others in the White House claim under the provisions of Amendment 14, Section 4, and/or any other Constitutional bases: It is a canard. And it is incorrect and constitutionally risky. The 14th Amendment grants no power to the President whatsover to raise the debt ceiling/borrowing limts. Quite the contrary. Instead, the 14th Amendment grants Congress the 'power to enforce by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.' Never the president.


  12. If the Republicans really want to stand for reduced spending (something I highly doubt), the place to fight for that is not over the debt limit increase. Let the President have what he wants. If Republicans fight over that, he will make them look worse than they look now.

    They would have a much better argument if they waited a month or two, until the sequestration comes up again. There are spending reductions in there that some Republicans don't like and some that Democrats don't like. That is where Republicans have a stronger argument.

    Taxes have been raised, as the President wanted. If I were the Republican leadership, I'd point out that the President called for a 'balanced' approach and some of what is in the sequestration was also in the Simpson Bowles plan, from the commission he appointed.

    Americans have said that they are worried about the spending. Republicans should be willing to call for some of the spending reductions in the sequestration, even some they don't agree with.

    The Republicans, when they controlled most of the government were not serious about reducing spending. I don't think President Obama and the Democrats are either. If Republicans want to become relevant again, they need to demonstrate that they will make some tough and unpopular calls on spending and call the President's bluff. If the only thing Republicans are willing to cut is entitlements, they may as well surrender. That's a losing position.

    If they buck up and propose a range of spending reductions found in the sequestration (including some they don't like), President Obama will either agree, which would be good, or he'll fight, which would go a ways toward showing that he really isn't serious about reducing spending.


  13. Future,

    Do you honestly think the Republicans should fight over the debt limit? That's a terrible strategy.


  14. "The only requirement is that no expenditure of public funds may be made without an appropriation."
    @ Pat Hayes

    Currently, as noted by the link provided below, Congress and the President have not passed any fiscal year 2013 appropriations. The US Federal government is spending based on a CR [Continuing Resolution] which allows the Federal government to spend at the same levels/limits as it did in fiscal year 2012. The CR expires on March 27, 2013. At which time, if the individial appropriations have not passed, and the current CR not extended, no further expenditures of government funds can be made. In short, the government ceases to operate except to close the government in an orderly fashion. Even if the "debt ceiling" is raised separately to allow the President to do so [continue spending].

    Think of the relationship of the appropriations [CR in this case] and debt ceiling as that of personal wealth and a checking account. I may be worth $1 MILLION dollars [Appropriations/CR] but only have $30 thousand in my checking account [debt ceiling]. Technically unless I increase my checking account balance I can't spend beyond $30 thousand. That doesn't mean I am not worth $1 Million. It means I can't spend beyond $30 thousand unless I increase my checking account.

    Now, I have a choice. I can make a lump sum increase in my checking account balance. Or I can pay for each additional expense one at time by increasing my check account balance every time I incur another expense.

    Same with appropriations and debt ceiling and Congress and the president. Of course the latter is more troublesome and time consuming. But still constitutionally legal. And in fact the way Congress and the President spent federal funds up to 1917.


  15. Deficit spending at the rate of forty cents per dollar is simply another form of taxation. Deficit spending simply inflates the money supply, and in doing so devalues each and every dollar. What I find interesting is that this type of taxation is both regressive and provides perfect cover for politicians who have run out of Politically Correct things or persons to tax.

  16. Again Carmine...there is no constitutional requirement to provide or pass a budget....just one to pass appropriations. They are two different things. The budget requirements to which you refer are laws passed by Congress many of which seem to be routinely ignored by Presidents and Congress itself. Arguing that Harry is responsible for the budget is arguing picayune minutae. Everyone concerned is engaged in political dancing....the President's proposed budget will be ignored by the House, the House budget will be ignored by the Senate, the Senate has no intention of getting dragged into the clusterfrackas if it doesn't need to be. I believe that the word "gridlock" has been applied.

  17. Future,

    I really dislike the Republican party and the Democratic party. I think both are destroying our country. That said, until a viable 3rd party comes along, we need each of these parties to balance each other out. If the Republicans wound themselves a few more times, they may die, and then we'll be left with all Democrats, all Progressives all the time. On some social issues, that would not necessarily be a disaster. On the economic side, it would be a disaster.

    The ONLY way Republicans should even consider holding up raising the debt ceiling is if they will go 'all the way', hold the line no matter how much our credit rating is lowered, how many Americans are impacted by not getting paid or getting benefits; no matter how much they are vilified in the media, etc, etc.

    That isn't going to happen. I know that and you should know it. They will cave, Future! They will cave!

    Make a show of opposition, then cave and live to fight another day.... perhaps with the sequester, perhaps something else.


  18. Bradley,

    We have had and have hypocrites representing us. When the debt was smaller back in 2006, Senator Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling and so did many Democrats. They said doing so was not responsible, and it was not acceptable to pass that debt onto future generations.

    I'm not saying just Democrats are hypocrites because that isn't true, but there should be some spending reductions passed along with raising the debt ceiling. That was done in the Clinton administration and it should be done now.


  19. Jon,

    Excellent letter. That's exactly right. Too bad most Americans cannot see the truth. It is the truth, whether it is Republicans deficit spending or Democrats deficit spending.


  20. At 1002 am, CarmineD (Carmine DiFazio), in discussing the debt ceiling wrote "Think of the relationship of the appropriations [CR in this case] and debt ceiling as that of personal wealth and a checking account."

    Correct, to a degree. The better comparison would be the relationship between your credit card and your cash accounts (checking and savings). There is no restriction prohibiting you from charging to the hilt on your credit card. BUT - once the statement comes in, you are legally obligated to promptly pay the balance due. If your cash accounts can't cover that, you have a personal problem and need to take some form of action and only have two choices - increase your cash account balances or default and take the consequences. Cutting spending now won't help a bit - it's PAST spending that created your problem.

    Congress (no, NOT the President) has already done the spending. The bill is now in and due. To avoid violating the 14th amendment requirement that the validity of the public debt shall not be questioned there are only three options - borrow from Peter to pay Paul (increase the debt ceiling), immediately raise new taxes and require they be paid immediately, or advance the due date on current taxes (forget "April 15" - your personal/business income taxes for 2012 will be due in full RIGHT NOW TODAY!)

    Granted, cutting spending AFTER raising the debt ceiling will fix the problem for the future - IF you can cut enough spending fast enough.

  21. Pssst.......lets not mention to Bradley Chapline how Rex Nutting's claim was countered. See article linked below.


    Until Barack Obama took office in 2009, the United States had never spent more than 23.5% of GDP, with the exception of the World War II years of 1942-1946. Here's the Obama spending record:

    -- 25.2% of GDP in 2009

    -- 24.1% of GDP in 2010

    -- 24.1% of GDP in 2011

    -- 24.3% (estimates by the White House ) in 2012

    What's more, if Obama wins another term, spending--according to his own budget--would never drop below 22.3% of GDP. If that forecast is right, spending during Obama's eight years in office would average 23.6% of GDP. That's higher than any single previous non-war year.

    Yet financial columnist Rex Nutting of MarketWatch tries to portray the president as being downright stingy in a piece entitled, stunningly, "Obama spending binge never happened"

  22. Re All: Read the Constitution. Budgets and expenditures are the responsibility of the Congress, not the President. Quit blaming Obama for gridlock and failure to take responsibility for what the Constitution clearly points out. The GOP is the problem, not the solution.

  23. Teamster,

    The problem with the President's statement are the words 'discussion' and 'balanced'. A 'discussion' would be fine if it were followed by some 'action' that really did start to reduce spending, but I suspect all we will get is 'discussion' and no 'action'. When we are 16 trillion in debt and spending more than a trillion more than comes in every year, a 'balanced' approach should mean that when government gets more revenue through higher taxes, that revenue is applied to reduce the deficit spending, not cancelled out and exceeded by even more spending. The latter is what I expect to see.

    I hope I am wrong but I doubt if I am.


  24. "Again Carmine...there is no constitutional requirement to provide or pass a budget....just one to pass appropriations. They are two different things." @ Pat Hayes

    You're splitting hairs IMHO. I respectively disagree with you on the budget for the same reason: You are splitting hairs. It is the law for Congress to pass a budget and the President to sign/approve. The Federal budget is "appropriated" into amounts by Departments and agencies for spending. Check the current CR link I posted. It's divied up by appropriations. Appropriations are the way the Federal government tracks "OBLIGATIONS" to spend money. [New word for you]. Obligations are a way to keep score of Congressional/President limits in spending by source and purpose AND PREVENT ANTI-DEFICIENCIES [also a new word for you].


  25. "Correct, to a degree." @ Robert Leavitt

    Yours is an excellent example but not the best. I like it, but prefer mine. Keep in mind, unlike a credit card, my checking account, like the US government coffers, gets direct deposits. I get a pension. Gov't gets payroll taxes. So my checking account and the US coffers, unlike a credit card balance, is always being replenished. The US uses the balance to pay current debts and interest to avoid default. Without increases beyond the payroll taxes, or in my case the average checking account balance I keep [$30,000], the US government and I cannot incur NEW EXPENSES. That is the real issue of the debt ceiling [new spending not past debts] not default as the president and Dems maintain if ceiling is not raised.


  26. "Budgets and expenditures are the responsibility of the Congress, not the President. " Gary Lind

    Not quite. The President is required by law to present an annual budget to CONGRESS in mid February every year. The 15th I believe but may be wrong. Congress [both Houses] are required to pass their own budgets too and consolidate both and then approve. The result is presented to the President for his approval so he can issue by October 1, the beginning of the new federal fiscal year. It covers the entire fiscal year. Sadly, because the CBO said the President's 2013 budget wasn't actually a budget and the Senate did not pass a budget, the US is spending under a Continuing Resolution which ends on March 27, 2013.

    The House passed a 2013 budget. Senate and President did not even have one.


  27. The US Senate had an up and down vote on President Obama's 2013 budget. 99 against. 0 for. [If I recall correctly the recorded vote]. BTW, the Congressional Budget Office said the President's 2013 budget lacked the specifics to be "scored." Scoring is a CBO word for putting costs to expenses. CBO said the President's budget was a narrative of talking points only.


  28. Carmine: A Congressional "appropriation" is approval, and requirement, to spend money in the future. Congress can appropriate $100 million to be spent for a specific purpose during each of the next 5 years. That action has no effect whatsoever on today's level of debt.

    The President is now legally required to spend $100 million, no more, no less, in each of the next 5 years for that specific purpose. He does so - but since most government spending is not COD, the spending is put on the cuff, to be paid in cash later: in consumer terms it's "put on the credit card."

    We now have the set-up for a cash-flow crisis: aka a "debt ceiling" problem. The spending has been properly approved; goods/services have been contracted for and delivered. When it comes time to pay the bill, the government finds it doesn't have the cash right now, today, to so. That is where we are right now. The only possible actions at this point are to refuse to pay the legally incurred bill (default), move up receipt of cash income (advance tax payment due dates), or issue more debt and use the resulting cash to pay the due bills. The debt ceiling closes off that third option by placing a hard and fast limit to the amount of debt the government may have outstanding.

    Note two points: 1) Current spending, other than on a COD basis, has no impact whatsoever on the current level of debt, only on the future level. 2) A cash flow problem need have no relation whatsoever to overall financial strength. Many private companies face cash flow problems routinely, and resolve them by borrowing. But then private companies normally don't face Federal laws limiting their ability to borrow cash as necessary.

  29. "Carmine: A Congressional "appropriation" is approval, and requirement, to spend money in the future. Congress can appropriate $100 million to be spent for a specific purpose during each of the next 5 years." @ Robert Leavitt

    Check your appropriation laws and requirements. Multi-year appropriations, for more than one year, are no longer used for Federal budgeting except under rare and unusual cases and circumstances. One year is the norm and stndard now and has been for quite a number of years for federal budgeting.


  30. FYI:

    "The federal budget is calculated largely on a cash basis. That is, revenues and outlays are recognized when transactions are made. Therefore, the full long-term costs of entitlement programs such as Medicare, Social Security, and the federal portion of Medicaid are not reflected in the federal budget."


  31. The reason congress has such a hard time passing any meaningful legislation is because the Republican party or Tea party has moved so far to the right that we as Democrats cannot except their terms. Everytime a budget deficit comes up the Repblicans want some thing in return to pay the governments bills. These bills that are due are appropriated ahead of time by both parties and when it comes time to pay they don't want to pay for them thus holding us for ransom. Then cry that we need to cut spending. If they don't want to pay the bill then why did they vote to appropriate the money in the first place?