Debt Limit Dancing View 683 20110711-1

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View 683 Monday, July 11, 2011

The Debt Limit Dance continues. As ObamaCare kicks in so will massive increases in entitlement spending: any reduction in those will be termed ‘massive cuts’ ‘on the backs of the poor’ and will be used as justification for tax increases labeled ‘elimination of loopholes’ or ‘tax breaks for the rich.’

The Republicans must ‘compromise’ by raising new taxes. What must not happen is actual cuts in the size of government, elimination of needless jobs like Federal Pet Rabbit Permit inspectors and Department of Education SWAT teams, or layoffs of workers doing things which may be nice but are luxuries in harsh economic times. There will be no discussion of drastic reduction in regulatory budgets. The Americans with Disabilities Act charades will continue to insist that being drunk on the job is due to the disability of alcoholism and it’s the responsibility of the employer to burden the other workers or go through a raft of procedures to justify firing a drunk. Note that the procedures will involve a lot of highly paid government workers including administrative judges, counsels, clerks, and the like. I doubt that any discussion of what parts of the Federal government could be turned over to the states and eliminated from the national government will take place. That’s the way Washington thinks.

This budget debate Kabuki continues. Now there is a round of dancing on whether the 14th Amendment allows the President to borrow money without bothering to go through the ritual of a Congressional debt ceiling limit. This trial balloon radiated out from the White House, got picked up by bloggers, became national news, and for a brief period was seriously argued by government spokespersons. It’s constitutional nonsense, but it does show the imperial mindset of the White House staffers who originated and defended it. No one will now admit originating this imperial notion. I don’t know, but I do recall that the President was once a lecturer on constitutional law. There’s a reasonable discussion of this in The Atlantic on line.

Buried in all this is a rather simple solution to many of the US problems. Leave the debt limit in place. When the crunch comes, the government is obligated to pay the real debts – bonds, and such – from monies in the Treasury and from current income. Current income is more than enough to service the national debt. Pay it. Now allocate what’s left by priority. That would automatically require some thought about what we really need as opposed to what we would like to have. A salutary happening.

Meanwhile the Republicans can get back to what the new Congress was created to do: dismantle ObamaCare. If that is repealed a great deal of the budget pressure goes away. But don’t do it too early. Let the crunch force the real debate: in these economic times, of all those things we want, what can we do without? That’s the debate we need. Maybe the Debt Limit Dance can have that as the finale? Because at the moment, everyone is still acting as if cutting future growth of entitlements is called a cruel and horrid cut. Such are the times.

The President has just announced that he won’t budge: the Republicans must raise taxes. The Republicans are saying they won’t do it. The President insists that the only way is to continue to take money from those who have it and give it to those who want and probably need it. Precisely what will be left for investment is not entirely clear. And the new taxes in the ObamaCare laws loom closer.

Can we let them all go home now? The deficit crunch will force choices.  I am beginning to look forward to a discussion of what parts of government are needless, what parts are luxuries, and what are our real needs.

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I remind you that there’s a new Kindle edition of Fallen Angels by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Michael Flynn. It’s beautifully edited and contains a new Afterword by the authors. And if you want a picture of the future as it might have been, and might still be if America once again becomes a space-faring nation, there’s A Step Farther Out.  Amazon lists Niven as a co-author of that; actually he wrote a foreword for it. Correcting Amazon is tedious enough that I haven’t got around to it.

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BYTE is Back. Go have a look. http://www.informationweek.com/byte/ 

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View 682 20110710

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View 682 Sunday July 10, 2011

I did a new column over the weekend. It will appear at Chaos Manor Reviews after the formal launch of BYTE Tuesday. CMR and BYTE will coexist and support each other, and I will have additional materials in BYTE itself. We’ll see where this goes. Gina is a ball of fire, and if anyone can restore the glory, she can.

The Washington Kabuki continues. Does anyone suspect that there will be actual cuts in expenditures? To Washington, the failure to give an institution more money is a “cut”. When all this is over, there will still be SWAT teams in the Department of Education, and inspectors whose job is to be sure that stage magicians who use bunny rabbits in their acts have federal licenses. There will still be 16 layers of management between the Secretary of Agriculture and the forest ranger, and between the Secretary of the Interior and the oil rig inspector. There will still be a bloated Department of Education which does more harm than good. The SEIU will still be paid and receive pensions.

And the manned space program will end when Atlantis lands.

It will be a long road back.