Fiscal Cliff

Fiscal Irresponsibility Day

Washington rams through an appropriately hideous deal.

|

It's the deficit-reduction package that doesn't reduce the deficit. It's the debt-ceiling deal that doesn't touch the debt ceiling (and doesn't cut debt). It's the long-term entitlement negotiation that—after nearly three years of wheedling—does not delay, let alone stave off, a Baby Boomer retirement bomb currently on pace to swallow half of federal outlays by 2030.

Say this for the fiscal cliff-avoidance bill that passed on New Year's Day—it is a near-perfect expression of Washington's grotesque devolution since Bill Clinton left office. Not only have a succession of Republican and Democratic presidents and congresses combined to jack up spending from $1.8 trillion in Clinton's last year (a bit more than $2.3 trillion in today's dollars) to a baseline level of $3.6 trillion and above, but the process for arriving at these hideous figures has degenerated into a series of endless, man-made, deadline negotiations in lieu of actual budgeting.

If you squint hard enough you can see some comparative upside to this circus freakshow—it could have been worse, and maybe (as my colleague Nick Gillespie suggested this morning) "the government has effectively kicked the can so far down the road that they've run out of road."

But that's the same claim that was being made three years ago…by President Barack Obama.

"What we have done is kicked this can down the road. We are now at the end of the road and are not in a position to kick it any further," Obama told The Washington Post in January 2009, shortly before inauguration. "We have to signal seriousness in this by making sure some of the hard decisions are made under my watch, not someone else's."

It's hard to remember now, but one of the president's biggest and most effective selling propositions in 2008 was that he and the world-weary Democratic majority would finally bring some adult supervision to a Republican-led budgetary process that took to heart then-Vice President Dick Cheney's maxim that "deficits don't matter." "We will maintain fiscal responsibility, so that we do not mortgage our children's future on a mountain of debt," the 2008 Democratic Party Platform promised. The president's first budget was actually titled A New Era of Fiscal Responsibility.

Instead of any of that, Obama's Washington no longer does budgets, period, and can-kicking is on pace to replace baseball as our official National Pastime by the end of FY 2013. Consider these upcoming manufactured deadlines:

* February 28: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's current estimate for when the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling will run out.

* March 1: When the "sequestration cuts," which disproportionately impact Republican-favored defense spending, will once again theoretically materialize unless negotiators come up with some new dodge.

* September 1: When the dreaded "milk cliff"—i.e., the scheduled but not-seriously-contemplated removal of wasteful government subsidies for milk producers—is back again to haunt us.

* January 1, 2014: What, you think we won't be doing this again next year? Read this summary of the bill: "The legislation would provide for an extension through 2013 of over 50 provisions of tax law known as tax extenders." In plain English, these are year-to-year special tax exemptions and subsidies for various well-connected groups. As the summary points out, "The legislation would allow increased tax rates for many small businesses, while providing some large corporations with tax breaks through the 'extenders' package.  These include tax breaks for wind energy, motorsports racing tracks, film and television productions, and cellulosic biofuels production." 

* January 1, 2018: There are "stimulus extenders" in the bill as well, adding another five years each to various American Opportunity Tax Credits, Earned Income Tax Credits, and so on. Estimated price tag: $134 billion.

So forget those quaint hangovers, televised parades, and college football games: New Year's Day is now and forever going to be Fiscal Irresponsibility Day, where politicians who claim poverty will throw last-minute money at NASCAR and Goldman Sachs in the name of one day thinking about forming a commission to ponder cutting the growth of entitlement programs and military spending.

It's revolting, it's discretionary, and it's our future, unless and until we start electing officials who are serious about cutting the size of government. 

NEXT: Obama Calls for Immediate Vote on Sandy Relief Bill

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. See, Matt? The word “fuck” was necessary.

    “No, fuck you, cut spending!”

  2. I don’t think it’ll stop until news outlets stop portraying these very important negotiations in near-apocalyptic terms (complete with Independence Day-style ticking clock bug on the lower right screen). All of the normal, everyday people I was running into in the weeks before were scared to death of what might happen on January 1 (while at the same time, not knowing what the whole deal was about).

    1. It won’t stop until there are actual consequences. There are no consequences now for this kind of irresponsibility, so why should they bother trying to fix it?

        1. Don’t forget the cleansing, cleansing flame.

          1. Pure, cleansing flame. The best solution to government overreach.

        2. one word, ROPE.

    2. It has been going on in Eurotardia for seemingly eons now. Every time I read the news headlines, it’s something like:

      Europe on the brink, only seconds now to save the world. Merkel meets with someone at last minute.

      I am really sick of it all. And this is where we learned this crazy shit from, the Eurotards.

  3. “Washington” hasn’t devolved since the Clinton era. Republicans have, and they were bad enough back then. How can you do a budget, or do anything, when Republicans are willing to shut down the government, downgrade the credit rating of the US, and crash the global economy in order to ensure tax rates for the very wealthy stay low–their only apparent budget priority (it certainly isn’t addressing the deficit)?

    1. Fuck you, cut spending.

      1. Seriously, New Year’s Resolution: I will not respond to the trolls. Try it with me.

        1. Did you hear something? Must have been the damn wind again…

        2. I will not respond to trolls.

          1. You know, that is actually easier than it looks.

          2. Fuck you, cut troll responding?

    2. “Washington” hasn’t devolved since the Clinton era. Democrats have, and they were bad enough back then. How can you do a budget, or do anything, when Democrats are willing to shut down the government, downgrade the credit rating of the US, and crash the global economy in order to ensure tax rates for the very wealthy go up–their only apparent budget priority (it certainly isn’t addressing the deficit)?

      There, I fixed it for you.

      1. I never understand what it is the House is supposed to do to get the President and the Senate to pass a budget.

        If they pass a Continuing Resolution as they have the past three years, the President and the Senate get a pass on doing an actual budget. If they don’t, then they “shut down the government” and everyone wrings his hands.

        1. They should say this is a disaster in the making and refuse to play along.

        2. I thought that all spending was supposed to originate in the House? Of course, I read that in some 200-year-old document somewhere, so nobody likely pays any attention to that anymore.

          1. Well, the House has passed multiples of budgets. The Senate just refuses to even look at them, so when it comes time to fund government, we get a Continuing Resolution. I have no idea where the CR originates, but it just rewards the bad behavior of the President and Sen. Reid.

        3. If they don’t, then they “shut down the government” and *Clinton gets a blowjob*.

          There ya go…

      2. Raising taxes is actually a way to address the deficit. Okay I will give Republicans the benefit of the doubt: they do want to reduce the deficit, they just want poor people to pay for it.

        Just because that’s what you want too doesn’t mean you can’t see things from the Democratic point-of-view. And no the Democrats never threatened the stability of the global economy to get their way on anything.

        1. OH….. MY…… GOD………

          It’s like looking into a singularity of stupidity. He’s spinning so fast that there is no event horizon: just a naked singularity.

        2. Please explain how you can raise taxes while refusing to cut spending in any meaningful way and still reduce the deficit. Indeed, your party has been increasing spending at a blinding rate. Please substantiate your statements.

          By the way, when the United States currency crisis happens as a result of the runaway spending of both parties, your precious Team Blue will be directly responsible for threatening the stability of the global economy.

          1. The Democrats have increased spending at a blinding rate on what, specifically?

            It’s virtually impossible to envision a “currency crisis” in the United States, and even if it were a remote possibility, it’s far, far from the biggest thing we have to worry about.

            1. T o n y| 1.2.13 @ 5:47PM |#
              “The Democrats have increased spending at a blinding rate on what, specifically?”

              Shithead posted this. I’m not kidding; shithead really posted this.

              1. So clearly you can name something.

                1. T o n y| 1.2.13 @ 5:57PM |#
                  “So clearly you can name something.”

                  Shithead posted this also.
                  I presume shithead harbors some belief there is informational content in the post. I’m certain there’s a lie, but it’ll probably take translation from ‘brain-dead liberal’ to be sure.

                  1. So clearly you can’t name anything and have outsourced your brain to right-wing talking points.

                    1. T o n y| 1.2.13 @ 7:01PM |#
                      “So clearly you can’t name anything and have outsourced your brain to right-wing talking points.”

                      Ooh, shithead! Thanks for asking in English; you should take courses in it.
                      Anyhow: Obamacare!
                      Does that do it for you. sleazy asshole?

                    2. T o n y| 1.2.13 @ 7:01PM |#
                      “So clearly you can’t name anything and have outsourced your brain to right-wing talking points.”

                      Shithead, just so you don’t feel required to dispute that, we can add:
                      1) Social Security; the greatest Ponzi scheme ever foisted on anyone. Thank you, FDR; a democrat and among or *the* the worst presidents.
                      2) ‘War on Poverty’; a waste of money never shown to have accomplished anything other than building the poverty-pimp industry, and we’ll presume you are among that group of sleazebags. LBJ.
                      3) Medicare; One more LBJ hand-out; never examined for results, just passed since it ‘feels good’.
                      Got it, shitbag?

                    3. Stimulus, military. There’s 2. That was easy.

            2. They have continued the previous rate of military spending, increased the obligations of the government via Obamacare, stimulus spending, the increasing need to use the general fund to make up for the lack of anything real in the Medicare and Social Security “trust funds”, etc. The budget deficit under Obama has exceeded one trillion dollars every year he’s been in office.

              In any event, way to completely dodge my request to substantiate your statements, which was the point of my post. This is your typical pattern to avoid having to engage in any meaningful discussion. Again, how does raising taxes without considering spending fix the deficit?

              By the way, I’m sure the citizens of Spain and Greece couldn’t envision a currency crisis either. Just because you can’t envision it doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Indeed, the downgrading of our bond rating would seem to argue that it is indeed a possibility, since our currency is completely based on the perception that the government can make good on its debts.

        3. Fuck you, cut troll responding.

        4. Raising taxes is actually a way to address the deficit.

          Sure does, it makes those whose taxes go up take additional steps to ensure they pay as little as possible while the government plans its spending around some larger expectation of revenue, thus increasing the deficit. Look at all the millionaires in France moving to Belgium, for example.

          1. The assumption is we’ll get $680 billion over 10 years in revenue from this dogshit bill. It’s not spread out evenly over the decade but round-balling it means $68b per year or $5.7b per month. We spend roughly $325b per month of which we borrow 40%, or $140b. We will never see that $680b because the folk at the top end of the tax bracket are clever bastards and will find ways to avoid, delay, and hide.

        5. Tony and every coed freshman in junior college agree. You and they should leave this to the adults. Head over to TMZ, there’s a thing about somebody Kardasian on.

        6. You, T o n y, are beyond stupid. Black hole stupid. Stupid so stupid you make Soviet Political Officers look like rocket scientists. God, you’re stupid.

        7. But Democrats don’t want to raise taxes, at least not anywhere near enough to matter.

          You could confiscate 100% of all income over $1,000,000 a year and not come anywhere near closing the deficit.

          No, all Democrats care about is showboating by giving the appearance that they are socking it to “the rich” by raising their taxes slightly and then they try to offset that by tax cuts on everyone else.

        8. Because even the rosiest expectations of the revenue increase from the tax rate increase on higher incomes is peanuts compared to the spending rates, and the Dems are fighting decreases in the rate of growth of spending tooth and nail?

    3. Of course, I forgot Tony. It is only the evil Republicans, who have an all consuming, irrational hatred for Barack Obama and just love the rich to the exclusion of all others, who prevent our ascension to the nirvana envisioned by your Democrat heroes. The Democrats did not even bring a budget to the floor for a vote when they had a filibuster proof majority in the senate, control of the house, and the presidency. Please explain how the Republicans were responsible for that.

      Please explain how Obamacare, which most of the country didn’t want, got passed when you couldn’t “do anything”. Please explain how the Republicans destroyed the U.S. credit rating when the downgrades were over concern about the level of debt to GDP ratio, which has skyrocketed while Team Tony has been in charge. Finally, please enlighten us how Team “1.5 trillion deficit” Tony is addressing the deficit. We’re waiting.

      It’s people like you that are the problem, Tony, on both sides of the aisle. You are so blinded by your unswerving commitment to your ideology that you ignore any and all evidence. You explain away your failures by blaming everything but your own intellectually bankrupt set of beliefs. Essentially, you’re a zealot.

      1. The Democrats never really had a filibuster-proof coalition (that’s a right-wing myth that is oddly self-indicting), and they never should have needed one, and for that Republicans are absolutely to blame.

        Obamacare got passed on a technicality that circumvented the filibuster, and it got passed because it was one of Obama’s primary campaign promises. Because it was so compromised, people both on the left and right don’t like it. There’s not much to like about it except that it was an incremental step in the direction of more healthcare coverage.

        The downgrade was about Congressional dysfunction and the threat that poses to the economy. Republicans tried to extract a bunch of their ideological demands in exchange for the US government not defaulting on the debt. That’s terrorism, not governing.

        My only point is that the two sides aren’t equal. Republicans are more to blame for our problems than Democrats. That’s not zealotry, it’s actually a fact.

        1. T o n y| 1.2.13 @ 5:52PM |#
          “My only point is that the two sides aren’t equal. Republicans are more to blame for our problems than Democrats”

          Shithead is truly incapable of posting that which isn’t a dishonesty in some for or other.
          But I’m reminded that stupidity is the default choice rather than maliciousness, so rather than presume shithead is smart enough to fabricate his bullshit, we’ll just allow he’s stupid enough not to know he’s posting bullshit.

        2. Republicans tried to extract a bunch of their ideological demands in exchange for the US government not defaulting on the debt. That’s terrorism, not governing.

          Default only happens when the government doesn’t pay interest on the current debt.

          What not raising the debt ceiling would have forced the government to do, however, is work under a balanced budget–no spending that can’t be paid with current revenues. Given that Obama’s averaged 24% spending to GDP while taking in about 15% revenue to GDP, even the most mathematically-challenged should be able to see that even “the rich” can’t continue funding left-wing GIBMEDATS forever.

          1. It was for costs already incurred. Costs passed as laws by Congress. Paying for what you buy is the first step in fiscal responsibility. So clearly they don’t get to call themselves fiscally responsible anymore.

            I get it. You think Medicare and Social Security are evil socialist redistributionist schemes. That’s your prerogative. But being responsible means you repeal the programs before you stop paying for them. That they’re so wildly popular is not irrelevant to the lack of balls on the part of Republicans.

            1. T o n y| 1.2.13 @ 7:04PM |#
              “It was for costs already promised with no idea where the money was coming from’.

              Yes, shithead, we understand that ‘costs’ means any damn thing you and other despicable assholes promise to other despicable assholes.

            2. But being responsible means you repeal the programs before payou stop paying for them.

              As I recall, it was ALLAH HUSSEIN OBAMA that approved the cut in the payroll tax that made SS cash-poor. And your blooing about Medicare is laughable considering that it’s contributed to the exponential growth of medical costs since its implementation.

            3. Paying for what you buy is the first step in fiscal responsibility.

              What have the deficits been the last three years again?

            4. Too bad SS and Medicare could have both been paid along with interest on the debt no problem under current revenues.

              Also, buying shit on a credit card that you have every intention of defaulting on and declaring bankruptcy isn’t really “paying for it” in any ethical sense.

        3. Again, how did a “not really filibuster proof coalition” prevent them from bringing a budget to a floor vote in the Senate?

          Obamacare was a large tax increase coupled with a sweetheart deal for pharma and insurance companies. Your contention that it got passed only because it was Obama’s promise (never mind the whole end the wars earlier, close Guantanamo, transparent government, etc. that weren’t kept and wouldn’t have required nearly the log rolling) and therefore is a lousy law doesn’t match with your party’s rhetoric since its passage.

          The downgrades are expressly about the amount of debt we are carrying versus our ability to repay. If we had a low level of debt, political stonewalling wouldn’t even be an issue. This certainly isn’t the first time in our history that Congress has been at loggerheads. The latest downgrade by Egan-Jones:

          “From 2006 to present, the US’s debt to GDP rose from 66% to 104% and will probably rise to 110% a year from today under current circumstances; the annual budget deficit is 8%. In comparison, Spain has a debt to GDP of 68.5% and an annual budget deficit of 8.5%.

          We are therefore downgrading the US country rating from “AA” to “AA-“.”

          Does that make it clear for you yet?

        4. And before I forget, I am really sick and tired of “my side is less to blame than the republicans!” You’re both to blame, and you’re both to blame for the continued inability to admit that we can no longer pay for all of the crap that you’ve promised to your political bases to keep your leaders on the gravy train.

          And since you, again, didn’t address it, what are the democrats doing to eliminate the deficit and pay down the debt again?

        5. Republicans tried to extract a bunch of their ideological demands in exchange for the US government not defaulting on the debt. That’s terrorism, not governing.

          Thanks for the good laugh. Cause it’s not like the Dems ever did something like add a rider to a spending bill like “let Nelson Mandela go free” just to claim all those who voted against said spending bill were in favor of jailing said individual.

          Idiot.

    4. T o n y: In case you didn’t get it the first (thousand) times, Fuck. You. Cut. Spending.

    5. That was the sound of Tony flicking through the pages in the shitty liberal economic hand book.

      “Let’s see here. Right! Republicans and Bush! Of course! I shoulda had a V-8!”

  4. Jesus Christ, I thought they at least would have bothered to simply get rid of sequestration altogether. Why even pretend?

    1. Look, I told you you were getting fucked in the ass, didn’t I? That includes the retarded media circus.

      1. your strange obsession with my ass continues unabated. What happened to your New Year’s Resolution, nicole?

        1. I didn’t make one. Or are we talking about not reading Slate/Salon?

  5. Oh, no plan they could come up with was going to satisfy you people. Congress knows that debt reduction is a strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

  6. It’s revolting, it’s discretionary, and it’s our future, unless and until we start electing officials who are serious about cutting the size of government.

    Let’s re-nominate Romney for 2016 to run against the Biden/Clinton ticket.

    1. What I’d like to see is Romney run as a Democrat. And win.

      1. You’re on to something here. He’s very electable…

        1. As a Democrat, I think he is. His positions are mostly right, and where they aren’t, well, people love a redemption story.

    2. Joe Biden as POTUS, with Hitlary for his evil side kick?

      My God, what hath we wrought? What madness has consumed us? Is it really possible that we have sunk this low?

      Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. We are truly fucked.

      1. Is it really possible that we have sunk this low?

        Obama slid back into power during a bad economy, record high gas prices and high unemployment. Yes, we’ve sunk this low.

        1. I’m still stunned that an abject failure like Obama won.

          1. Yeah, and at that point you might think that we have finally hit bottom, and then along comes uncle Joe.

      2. Look on the bright side, they can’t possibly be as demonized as Obama has been. The right surely can’t muster that amount of rage. And they’re white.

        So once their relative level of hysteria ticks back down to roughly where it was when they were hysterical and conspiratorial about Bill Clinton, it will filter down to you by whatever pathway that happens and you will be slightly relieved.

        1. “The right surely can’t muster that amount of rage. And they’re white.”

          Uh huh, that crazy “white rage”. How about taking your racism and shoving it straight up your asshole you fucking twat.

        2. T o n y| 1.2.13 @ 7:08PM |#
          ‘Look on the bright side, they can’t possibly be as demonized as Obama has deserved’

          FIFY, shithead.

        3. ROFL!

          Coming from a guy whose only religious belief is that George W. Bush might have actually been the literal manifestation of evil.

          Why do you hate white people Tony?

    3. the Biden/Clinton ticket

      That would be a historic ticket: the first ticket in history where both candidates had actual, medically verifiable brain damage.

      1. Not enough melanin. They’ll run Deval Patrick in 2016, and never run another white male for President again.

  7. “What we have done is kicked this can down the road. We are now at the end of the road and are not in a position to kick it any further,” Obama told The Washington Post in January 2009, shortly before inauguration. “We have to signal seriousness in this by making sure some of the hard decisions are made under my watch, not someone else’s.”

    If you remind any Democrat of this, the response will be, of course, that it was all Bush’s fault that nothing was done.

    1. That and those damn Tea Partyers. All three of ’em!

    2. There must have been some pretty complicated mental gymnastics among Dem voters in 2012 (as well as Republican voters). If you voted for Obama on his known positions in 2008, you would have been pretty disappointed by 2012.

      1. Pretty sure it was Skeptic Magazine which printed a study on ‘end of the world’ cults. When it didn’t happen, they just claimed a small mistake an changed the date.
        Obozo voters constitute such a cult, and when he doesn’t do what he claims, they just figure he’ll do it ‘soon’.

    3. It already is. HuffPo had an article on the debt ceiling this morning and the first comment was “It’s not Obama’s fault we have to pay for 8 years of Cowboy Bush.”

      1. Unbelievable.

      2. yeah, somehow they’ve convinced themselves that you can pay soldiers and buy bombs and bribe tribal leaders for 7 7 years and never put a dime on the books. That money was borrowed. It was the reason for Bush’s large deficits. Coupled with Medicare Part D. Obama’s are a result of passing a $785B stimulus and then keeping it going with CRs for 4 years.

  8. Any constituent who dares to point to his or her legislators out what a pathetic clown show this all has been will be branded as a Tea party thug.

    Civility means never expecting results.

    1. Well, after all, in a civil society, isn’t it really about fairness and not results?

  9. Typical edit fail.

    Any constituent who dares to point out to his or her legislators what a pathetic clown show this all has been will be branded as a Tea party thug.

  10. Tar, feathers.

    Tea Party thug!

    1. If the Tea Party would tar and feather a few people, I might actually join their ranks.

      1. Well, there are more than a few congress critters who would look quite chic in a new suit of tar and feathers, don’t you think?

        1. Reminds me of my campaign slogan:

          435 heads on the Capitol Lawn!

          1. The tree of liberty should be watered with the bladders of someone else!

  11. 435 heads on the Capitol Lawn!

    Why give the Senate a pass? Or do they just get a pyramid of their very own?

  12. Me thinks the real news and financial fun goes on down at the Fed. They’re basically buying all the debt the Treasury prints, by printing money to buy said Treasury debt.

    Interest rates are amazingly low on Treasuries for some reason. Matter of fact, the interest rates on Treasuries have GOT to be low or Fed balance sheet goes bananas(republics) for real faster than the books can be cooked anymore. So we’re locked into a QE death-spiral with our own debt, owing it to ourselves as Keynes would say.

    No matter totalitarian flavor of the month, that is a financial structure eating itself, like what-was-a-stable star’s dismal end making one last, huge mega-stupid red bubble. Then it collapses. How this bubble collapses I have no idea, so many angles there. But this “modern financial system” shit’s just about over when its all down to In Xerox We Trust. It always is.

  13. Alt text: Joe Biden says “now you see my finger” and “now you don’t”.

  14. Every day is Fiscal Irresponsibility Day.

  15. I never thought about it like that dude. Wow.

    http://www.otAnon.tk

  16. “It’s hard to remember now, but one of the president’s biggest and most effective selling propositions in 2008 was that he and the world-weary Democratic majority would finally bring some adult supervision to a Republican-led budgetary process”

    “effective” to whom? If you believed that, that’s your own fault, since it was pretty obvious to anyone paying attention that it was bullshit.

    Though I seem to remember a bunch of Reason staffers endorsing Obama at the time, so even theoretically intelligent people weren’t immune to Messiah-mania.

  17. Everything. I mean everything – even when the resident jester Biden takes over – the Dems do that will (likely) fail will ALWAYS be traced back to Bush among the left.

    Always.

    What I don’t get is why the stock markets reacted so positively. Has anyone seen how the bond markets reacted?

  18. “Cut spending”

    “no” – America.

    What counts is that we tried.

  19. How To Cut Spending: End Corporate Welfare!!!

    As Rex Nutting of Marketwatch noted in his 12/18/2012 article “Why isn’t Obama demanding corporate welfare cuts?”, “$2.6 trillion could be saved […] It’s possible to achieve all the budget savings we need for the next 10 years simply by cutting the fat out of discretionary spending programs and tax expenditures [removing all of the corporate welfare] without raising tax rates on the wealthy or cutting the safety net at all.”

    Oil and gas companies, which are raking in record profits, certainly don’t need $4 billion a year in subsidies, and even the oil company CEOs admit they don’t need it!

    Why are cuts to Social Security and Medicare even being discussed while literally billions in corporate welfare are constantly spilling out of the Treasury?

    White House petition to End Corporate Welfare:http://wh.gov/Qa6f

    1. They don’t get subsidies, they get deductions given to all similar industries.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.