THE BLOG

The "Ignorants" Own the Debt Ceiling Debate

07/18/2011 05:46 pm ET | Updated Sep 17, 2011

The debt ceiling debate is more political than financial. Not the actual crisis -- just the silly back and forth that passes for a debate on the issue. It shows all of us, and The Rest Of The World, the staggering level of ignorance running rampant among those who are actually our elected lawmakers. It's shocking beyond belief. Imagine telling a doctor that your knee hurts -- and the doctor doesn't know what a knee is! That's pretty much what's happening right now in our Congress.

The noise coming from members of our distinguished Congress, that which passes for reasoned debate, is all about deficits, spending and taxes. Yet, the debt ceiling has nothing to do with the deficit, nothing to do with spending and nothing to do with tax policy. The debt ceiling only deals with paying the bills of the United States.

It's almost as if you received your credit card statement in the mail, looked at it in horror and declared that you were about to "cut spending" by not paying the bill you were holding in your hand. You would have forgotten that every charge on that bill was for something you've already bought, used, eaten or perhaps given to someone as a gift. It represents money already spent, not future spending. It is a bill due and payable and each and every charge was freely made -- by you -- and all the benefits have already been enjoyed -- by you.

No president of the United States can appropriate money - not a dime. No President can authorize future spending - not a dollar. And no President can pay the nation's bills unless the Congress authorizes the borrowing of more money. Simply put, we don't have enough money of our own. We have been spending more money than we take in for quite a long time and in amounts not commonly discussed by regular folks. Remember, a billion dollars is a million dollars a thousand times over! Many billions of dollars must be borrowed each month to pay the current bills of the United States. So it has been -- so it will be. This coming August is no different. Without borrowed dollars we will be unable to meet our existing obligations. If we never spent another penny as a nation we would still be liable for August's payments. If we never added another dollar to the national debt we would still be liable for the bills reflecting things we've already bought. If we raise, lower or leave taxes alone we must still pay our bills in August, September and all the other months for years and years to come. The money has already been spent.

The debt ceiling has been raised more than 100 times since it was made law in 1917. The sainted Spending-Cutter Ronald Reagan raised the debt ceiling 18 times while he was president. George W. Bush raised the debt ceiling 8 times during his administration. Many of today's recalcitrant Republican Congressmen supported or voted for those increases without a word or a whimper. What's different about this President?

If you're looking for someone to blame -- someone who is responsible for all this -- look not to the White House. This is not Barack Obama's doing. Look instead to the halls of Congress -- to the very men and women who are screaming the loudest, hoping this crisis covers the president like icing on their tasty reelection cake. Look to those saying this is really all about... deficits, spending and taxes. Look to the House of Representatives.

Under our system of government, every dollar spent by the federal government must be appropriated by Congress. And every appropriations bill must originate in the House.

For a current member of the House of Representatives to refuse to allow existing obligations to be paid in a timely manner -- that's a revolutionary act, as close to terrorism as a public official can get. The House previously approved those expenditures and appropriated money to pay them. The Senate voted for them too. And this president, or a previous one, signed that law and the subsequent appropriation into law.

The ignorance of so many members of Congress is certainly not unknown in the White House. But, most likely for reasons of civility and politeness -- or worse, complicity -- the president does not identify those idiots for what they are. He will not call a spade a spade. Probably for fear of being called one himself, again. Because, underneath it all, that's what this is really about -- that's what everything the Republican Party and their nutwing-Tea Party right flank is motivated by. Fear Of A Black President has been tolerated too long in America. And now it threatens to destroy the American economy and the economy of the whole world which remains primarily based on the credibility of the American dollar.

Why do the Ignorants persist? Because they are -- ignorant.

Will we continue to treat these Ignorants, these men and women who lead the Republican Party, plus every Republican running or threatening to run for president next year, as serious persons in this debate? Or will somebody please stand up and tell Boehner, Cantor, Bachmann and the rest of this loony crowd, "The money is already spent. Now pay the damn bill!"

More:

Debt Ceiling