Congressional inaction is no joke

October 8, 2010


— A president’s first midterm election is inevitably a referendum on his two years in office. The bad news for Democrats is that President Obama’s “re-elect” number is 38 percent — precisely Bill Clinton’s in October 1994, the eve of the wave election that gave Republicans control of the House for the first time in 40 years.

Yet this same poll found that 65 percent view Obama favorably “as a person.” The current Democratic crisis is not about the man — his alleged lack of empathy, ability to emote, etc., requiring remediation with backyard, shirt-sleeved shoulder rubbing with the folks — but about the policies.

And the problem with the policies is twofold: ideology and effectiveness. First, Obama, abetted by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, tried to take a center-right country to the left. They grossly misread the 2008 election. It was a mandate to fix the economy and restore American confidence. Obama read it as a mandate to change the American social contract, giving it a more European social-democratic stamp, by fundamentally extending the reach and power of government in health care, energy, education, finance and industrial policy.

Obama succeeded with health care. Unfortunately for the Democrats, that and Obama’s other signature achievement — the stimulus — were not exactly what the folks were clamoring for. What they wanted was economic recovery.

Here the Democrats failed the simple test of effectiveness. The economy is extraordinarily weak, unemployment is unacceptably high and the only sure consequence of the stimulus is nearly $1 trillion added to the national debt in a single stroke.

And yet, to these albatrosses of ideological overreach and economic ineffectiveness, the Democrats have managed in the last few weeks to add a third indictment: incompetence.

For the first time since modern budgeting was introduced with the Budget Act of 1974, the House failed to even write a budget. This in a year of extraordinary deficits, rising uncertainty and jittery financial markets. Gold is going through the roof. Confidence in the dollar and the American economy is falling — largely because of massive overhanging debt. Yet no budget emerged from Congress to give guidance, let alone reassurance, about future U.S. revenues and spending.

That’s not all. Congress has not passed a single appropriations bill. To keep the government going, Congress passed a so-called continuing resolution (CR) before adjourning to campaign. The problem with continuing to spend at the current level is that the last two years have seen a huge 28 percent jump in non-defense discretionary spending. The CR continues this profligacy, aggravating an already serious debt problem.

As if this was not enough, Congress then adjourned without even a vote — nay, without even a Democratic bill — on the expiring Bush tax cuts. This is the ultimate in incompetence. After 20 months of control of the White House and Congress — during which they passed an elaborate, 1,000-page micromanagement of every detail of American health care — the Democrats adjourned without being able to tell the country what its tax rates will be on Jan. 1.

It’s not just income taxes. It’s capital gains and dividends too. And the estate tax, which will careen insanely from 0 to 55 percent when the ball drops on Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

Nor is this harmless incompetence. To do this at a time when $2 trillion of capital is sitting on the sidelines because of rising uncertainty — and there is no greater uncertainty than next year’s tax rates — is staggeringly irresponsible.

As if this display of unseriousness — no budget, no appropriations bill, no tax bill — was not enough, some genius on a House Judiciary subcommittee invites parodist Stephen Colbert to testify as an expert witness on immigration. He then pulls off a nervy mockery of the whole proceedings — my favorite was his request to have his colonoscopy inserted in the Congressional Record — while the chairwoman sits there clueless.

A fitting end for the 111th Congress. But not quite. Colbert will return to the scene of the crime on Oct. 30 as the leader of one of two mock rallies on the National Mall. Comedian Jon Stewart leads the other. At a time of near-10 percent unemployment, a difficult and draining war abroad, and widespread disgust with government overreach and incompetence, they will light up the TV screens as the hip face of the new liberalism — just three days before the election.

I suspect the electorate will declare itself not amused.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. letters@charleskrauthammer.com


Maddy Griffin 7 years, 5 months ago

Get over yourself Krauthammer. Obama can't do it all by himself.He has to wait for the 545 members of the House and Senate to get it together, which they have shown no desire to do. A little cooperation from the Party of "NO" would go a long way.Doesn't anyone take a civics class any more?He can only sign the items that make it to his desk.They have to get there first.

Pete Kennamore 7 years, 5 months ago

Who is it that control both houses of Congress?

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 5 months ago

Control? I believe there are 3 branches of government. Judicial, Legislative and Executive. No one branch controls the other although they all balance each other out and usually work together for a specific outcome.Obama can sign bills, but they have to get to his desk for that to happen.He doesn't write them.Nor does he write the budget.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 5 months ago

gram, elrond's question concerned Congress, not the entire federal government. The Democrats control both houses of Congress. BTW, the Democrat-controlled Congress has avoided writing a budget. I can't wait for the mid-terms.

Majestic42 7 years, 5 months ago

Yup, grammaddy dodged the question. Snap, you got it right. It's the fact that they've had the opportunity to do stuff and have flat-out REFUSED to that is so concerning.

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 5 months ago

Sorry, wasn't trying to dodge the question, Just misunderstood it. Yes, the Democrats are the majority in both houses, but without the "Super-majority" needed to stop a filibuster, they are not really" in control". Just exactly what have they REFUSED to do?

fester0420 7 years, 5 months ago

the problem is both partys act like babies and just fight each other. it doesent matter that something might help the country if the other side proposes it they just fight it on princable. we need to think about the people and not by political parties that people follow like mindless drones

remember_username 7 years, 5 months ago

Good question. Due to the wonder of filibusters it only takes 40 united Senators to control the Senate. It's really beyond simple blue and red numbers. If the Republican party captures a majority in both houses the Democrats will probably stop their infighting and unite in the same way as the Republicans did two years ago. Like Frank Herbert said "He who can destroy a thing, controls a thing."

jafs 7 years, 5 months ago

Source for the claim that we've had 40 years of a Democratic Congress?

And, yes, I have read that food stamps offer the greatest "multiplier" effect for government spending, since they must be spent, and the money circulates as a result. Do you have any evidence to the contrary?

jafs 7 years, 5 months ago

What's your point about food stamps?

It's completely unclear, even for you.

They are the kind of government spending with the greatest multiplier, hence the most beneficial in terms of circulating money into the economy.

So the Congress from '54-'94 is responsible for our problems, in your view?

Presidents during that time had nothing to do with it, and the combination of presidents and congresses from '94-'2006 were irrelevant as well?

Richard Heckler 7 years, 5 months ago

The most recent republican party put 11 million out of worked and effectively killed their medical insurance coverage,retirement plans, cost millions of them their homes and killed our economy. This was a repeat of the Reagan/Bush savings and loan home loan scandal in the 1980's.

The Reagan/Bush Savings and Loan Heist http://rationalrevolution0.tripod.com/war/bush_family_and_the_s.htm

The Bush/Cheney Wall Street Bank Fraud on Consumers http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2009/0709macewan.html

What did Bush and Henry Paulson do with the $700 billion of bail out money? http://www.democracynow.org/2009/9/10/good_billions_after_bad_one_year

Without Social Security and Medicare so many of these unfortunate 11 million would be on the back of Social Services. Unfortunately too damn many have been forced in that direction. This is one more way republicans increase our taxes

Such consistency is not only unacceptable but so reckless and not something OUR economy can support.

Not only that the repub party spent years lying to the public about Social Security.

Why did former Pres GW Bush travel the USA to Lie About Social Security?( This would cost taxpayers $4 trillion,place taxpayers insurance money at risk and wreck the economy again) http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2005/0505orr.html

Why spread lies about a wonderful insurance program?

Flap Doodle 7 years, 5 months ago

Woo hoo! Haven't seen that set of links in a couple of days. merrill, do you get anxious if you haven't barfed those up in a little while?

Majestic42 7 years, 5 months ago

Merrill uses Copypasta. It's not very effective.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 5 months ago

Social Security Myths

Myth: Social Security is going broke. Reality: There is no Social Security crisis. By 2023, Social Security will have a $4.6 trillion surplus (yes, trillion with a 'T'). It can pay out all scheduled benefits for the next quarter-century with no changes whatsoever. After 2037, it'll still be able to pay out 75% of scheduled benefits—and again, that's without any changes. The program started preparing for the Baby Boomers' retirement decades ago. Anyone who insists Social Security is broke probably wants to break it themselves.

Myth: Social Security adds to the deficit Reality: It's not just wrong—it's impossible! By law, Social Security's funds are separate from the budget, and it must pay its own way. That means that Social Security can't add one penny to the deficit.

Sources: 1."To Deficit Hawks: We the People Know Best on Social Security," New Deal 2.0, June 14, 2010 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=89703&id=22140-1285051-8ACVPdx&t=4 2. "The Straight Facts on Social Security," Economic Opportunity Institute, September 2009 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=89704&id=22140-1285051-8ACVPdx&t=5 3. "Social Security and the Age of Retirement," Center for Economic and Policy Research, June 2010 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=89705&id=22140-1285051-8ACVPdx&t=6 4. "More on raising the retirement age," Washington Post, July 8, 2010 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=89706&id=22140-1285051-8ACVPdx&t=7 5. "Social Security is sustainable," Economic and Policy Institute, May 27, 2010 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=89707&id=22140-1285051-8ACVPdx&t=8 6. "Maximum wage contribution and the amount for a credit in 2010," Social Security Administration, April 23, 2010 http://ssa-custhelp.ssa.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/240 7. "Trust Fund FAQs," Social Security Administration, February 18, 2010 http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/ProgData/fundFAQ.html 8."To Deficit Hawks: We the People Know Best on Social Security," New Deal 2.0, June 14, 2010 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=89703&id=22140-1285051-8ACVPdx

notajayhawk 7 years, 5 months ago

Did anyone read merrill's rant today or skip over it like I did? Just wondering if his cut-and-paste litany of worthless links had anything new to laugh at.

notajayhawk 7 years, 5 months ago

I actually read one of his diatribes the other day. He was ranting about president Bush - in the present tense. I really found that one amusing.

notajayhawk 7 years, 5 months ago

Okay, I just scanned his post - look at number 1 and number 8.


fancy80 7 years, 5 months ago

to Merrill's credit (wtf am I saying)...the point was so important, it warranted being on the list that no one reads, twice.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 5 months ago

I started attempting to read this, but realized that it was going to be yet another patented Cal brain cell killer.

jafs 7 years, 5 months ago

Actually, I think he's right about a couple of things here, surprisingly.

notajayhawk 7 years, 5 months ago

A couple of things? He only said one thing, and that's that Social Security funds are kept "separate" [snicker] and therefore it can't add to the deficit. Since he's wrong about that, which "couple of things" do you think he's right about?

jafs 7 years, 5 months ago

Sorry, Charles.

The author of the editorial.

fancy80 7 years, 5 months ago

are the SS funds kept in a lock box? because that is important to note. They must be locked...in a box.

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 5 months ago

Nope, cookie jar. So anyone can grab whatever they might come up short in other areas.

fester0420 7 years, 5 months ago

if you think the pres can get us out of this your not to bright. it will only be solved by the businesses themselves.

jafs 7 years, 5 months ago

"your not to bright"


"you're not too bright" would be correct.

notajayhawk 7 years, 5 months ago

Hmmm. In your case, either "[Y]ou're not too bright" or "... you're not too bright" would have been correct.

jafs 7 years, 5 months ago

Was that a shot at me?

I thought we'd gotten past that point in our relationship.

Gene Wallace 7 years, 5 months ago

Government layoffs? Read Census workers released from employment. Each assignment, (I was given three), was considered to be a new hiring. but, there was only one layoff at the end of the project. Three hires for 1 layoff. Some worked 5 and 6 assignments. Imagine one person hired 6 times and layed off once. Sure bends the figures a bit. but it did end.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 5 months ago

"Breaking News Alert: Employment rate stays at 9.6 percent; economy loses 95,000 jobs October 8, 2010 8:41:13 AM"

The USA cannot employ the world much less the 23 million people out of work due to the Reagan/Bush Global Economy in which the chief export was USA industry and Jobs. This is supported with a USA tax break on profits made abroad.

Fueling the USA export of industry and jobs were the hostile takeovers,leveraged buyouts and merger mania that took center stage during the Reagan/Bush and Bush/Quale era.

Corporations decided that BORROWING wayyyyyyy too much money to acquire corporations they knew nothing about yet required that they reduce expenses by moving abroad into the slave labor markets.

So it appears as though USA banks have been making reckless loans for more than 23 years.

Guess what? On the horizon is a big problem. Yes commercial properties owe more money than they are worth or were not worth the money loaned in the first place. Kinda like the repubs home loan fiasco under Bush/Cheney eh?

On the horizon is another scam that has been perpetrated by the financial industry on the consumers. REVERSE MORTGAGES is putting more and more and more people out of their homes due to shady shady sales techniques.

Another matter which has been putting large numbers of working middle class people out of their homes is an act known as bankruptcy. Bankruptcy as a result of medical care. The icing on the cake for these working middle class homeowners is they had been paying out thousands upon thousands upon thousands of dollars for medical insurance for several years. Out of nowhere or somewhere in the small print the medical insurance industry cut them off.

As a result of the Global Economy,shady reverse mortgage scams, shady medical insurance scams,shady savings and loan scams and recent home loan scams there are millions of homes on the market losing value and commercial properties losing value daily.

Thank you Reagan,Bush and Bush.

Beware of buying any property during this long term period of value decline!!! Your purchase may be worth less tomorrow than it was today.

Majestic42 7 years, 5 months ago

Merrill uses Copypasta again. It's still not very effective.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 5 months ago

"Breaking News Alert: Employment rate stays at 9.6 percent; economy loses 95,000 jobs October 8, 2010 8:41:13 AM"

If you study the facts you likely would not vote republican for several decades.

Study these facts and you will understand my position. Repubs became experts at ripping apart our economy and watching millions upon millions of jobs go abroad.

The Global Economy and Reagnomics have been absolute failures for the USA!!!

This is what I mean:

  1. The Reagan/ Bush Savings and Loan Heist "There are several ways in which the Bush family plays into the Savings and Loan scandal, which involves not only many members of the Bush family but also many other politicians that are still in office and were part of the Bush Jr. administration.

Jeb Bush, George Bush Sr., and his son Neil Bush have all been implicated in the Savings and Loan Scandal, which cost American tax payers over $1.4 TRILLION dollars (note that this was about one quarter of our national debt").

The Reagan/Bush savings and loan heist was considered the largest theft in history at the time. George Herbert Walker Bush then took $1.4 trillion of taxpayers money to cover the theft. http://rationalrevolution0.tripod.com/war/bush_family_and_the_s.htm

  1. The Bush/Cheney Wall Street Bank Fraud on Consumers Yes, substantial fraud was involved. For example, mortgage companies and banks used deceit to get people to take on mortgages when there was no possibility that the borrowers would be able to meet the payments.

Not only was this fraud, but this fraud depended on government authorities ignoring their regulatory responsibilities." http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2009/0709macewan.html

  1. Only 3 major Financial Institutions were at risk in spite of what we’re told ? "There were just a handful of institutions that were terribly weakened. AIG the insurer, Bank of America and Citigroup, Those three were clearly in very weakened form. Many of the other big banks simply were not. http://www.democracynow.org/2009/9/10/good_billions_after_bad_one_year

  2. Privatizing Social Security Would Place the Nations Economy at Risk "Social Security privatization will raise the size of the government's deficit to nearly $700 billion per year for the next 20 years, almost tripling the size of the national debt.

Put simply, moving to a system of private accounts would not only put retirement income at risk--it would likely put the entire economy at risk." http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2005/0505orr.html

  1. Still A Bad Idea – Bush Tax Cuts - The ENTITLEMENT program for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class = tax increases for the middleclass. http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2001/0301miller.html

Flap Doodle 7 years, 5 months ago

merrill, how many times have you posted the same drivel today?

jafs 7 years, 5 months ago


Nice (and unnecessary) anti-gay slur there.

It prevented me from even looking at your link - you might want to reconsider that mode of expression.

jafs 7 years, 5 months ago

The same one who slapped you for laughing?

jafs 7 years, 5 months ago

Well, then I'd consider the source.

jafs 7 years, 5 months ago

Factually, when the minority party is able to filibuster, the majority party cannot simply pass any legislation they want.

Or if the president vetoes it, and Congress cannot override the veto.

beatrice 7 years, 5 months ago

Had McCain won, we would be in another Depression right now, looking at 25% unemployment by now. Obama did what was necessary to make sure that didn't happen. The stimulus helped -- not as well as he said it would, but it helped.

By the way, did anyone read about the West Virginia Republican's ad of locals badmouthing Obama? The problem isn't that they weren't local, or that they were actors, but they were actors who answered a call for "hicky, blue collar looking people." That is what the Republicans think of those who are anti-Obama -- nothing but a bunch of hicks. Must be nice to know what your beloved party thinks of you. http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/07/folksy-ad-not-so-folksy-after-all/?scp=1&sq=hicky%20looking&st=cse

MyName 7 years, 5 months ago

Yet another meaningless bloviation by the Kruthster.

Please explain the magic wand that the Democrats (or anyone else) could wave to make the economy better? Was there a Republican party master plan that they declined to share with the rest of us? The thing about prosperity is that it is bipartisan.

And can the Kruthster also explain how a healthcare plan modeled after ones that a Republican Governor and (once and future) candidate for President implemented is somehow this "socialist conspiracy". Newsflash: nearly every western government views access to healthcare as yet another non-partisan/bi-partisan feature of civilization. What we have now is not even close to "socialized medicine" by any fair standard.

And this was something that Obama campaigned on, how can the Kruthster claim that this was hidden from the American public? Recycled worthless ideas and ramblings that don't make sense. This is what passes for "Conservatism" these days.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 5 months ago

In other news: "...Obama’s political party defaulted on their Congressional duties by adjourning without even passing a budget resolution, despite spending more money than any Congress in history. They didn’t even set the tax rates for next year – they scurried out of Washington without voting on extension of the Bush tax cuts. They could have voted those tax cuts into oblivion, and returned to their districts to face honorable judgment for their decision. Instead, they ran from the halls of Congress in disgrace, a dereliction of duty that should serve as Nancy Pelosi’s letter of resignation. The same Congress that claims the right to compel your purchase of health insurance, and dictate a thousand aspects of your life according to the ideology of the ruling party, abandoned its essential duty to prepare a budget for this $3 trillion government..." http://hotair.com/greenroom/archives/2010/10/08/the-failed-state/

Gene Wallace 7 years, 5 months ago

We played this in one of my Communications classes at Cal State LA in 1968: What I learned has stayed with me for 42 years.

The PROPAGANDA GAME: the hilarious but effective antidote for the daily barrage from advertising, public relations, Politics and the Mass Media - all seeking to manipulate our attitudes and behavior. Inoculate yourself, your family and students by learning to identify the many blatant and subtle persuasion techniques used by professionals. Soon you'll be seeing them everywhere and, in the process, learn to stand firmly outside their insidious grip.

PROPAGANDA is a delightful, highly social game in which players first learn to identify techniques such as: prejudice, casual oversimplification, faulty analogy, tabloid and wishful thinking, hasty generalization, attacking a straw man, appeals to ignorance, emotion, flattery, pity, prestige, folksiness, joining the bandwagon and many, many more. Once players become adept at identifying the techniques exemplified in the humorous examples provided with the game, they graduate to the "expert" level where they gather and create their own examples from the real world or their imagination. The PROPAGANDA GAME is a truly wonderful experience in which "who is right" is ultimately less important than the power of your arguments and the assessment of how convinced your fellow players are. Based on the book "Thinking Straighter" by George Henry Moulds, The PROPAGANDA GAME strikes a joyful blow for clearer social thinking.

Seems that quite a few posting here use many of these "Propaganda Techniques" Liberals hate this game. It exposes their methods. Play it with your kids. Teach them to recognize the deceptions and deflections.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 5 months ago

Congressional inaction is a "no" joke perpetrated by the GOP.

End the filibuster.

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