New York Times Botches the History of Budget Conflicts and Government Shutdowns

The big change wasn't Gingrich, but an obscure ruling in 1980

|

David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick write in the Times this morning:

These threats used to be much rarer. For most of the 20th century, the raising of the debt ceiling and the funding of the federal government's operations tended to be sleepy, technical subjects. Members of Congress would fight over how to spend money rather than the basic mechanics of enacting that spending. Although Gingrich failed, congressional Republicans adopted his tactics during Barack Obama's presidency and did win significant cuts to domestic programs.

The new era began in the 1990s, when Newt Gingrich, then the House speaker, tried to force Bill Clinton to cut Social Security and other programs.

The idea that shutdowns over spending began with Gingrich has become conventional wisdom, but it's wrong. As I've explained in the Columbia Law Review Forum (footnotes in the original, but not reprinted below),

Before 1980, gaps in government funding did not necessarily result in cessation of any government operations. In 1980, federal officials determined that under the Anti-Deficiency Act, a funding gap legally required a full or partial shutdown of the portions of government that had run out of funding. In 1981, the Democrat-controlled House refused to agree to President Reagan's budget demands, resulting in a four-day shutdown when Reagan vetoed a compromise bill that passed the House and Senate. During the remaining Reagan and Bush years, the government shut down eight times after congressional Democrats refused to agree to the budgetary or policy demands of the Republican President.

During the Reagan years, the media often portrayed these incidents as Reagan shutting down the government. For the sake of consistency, however, if congressional Republicans shut down the government when they refused to pass spending bills acceptable to Presidents Clinton and Obama, then the Democrats in Congress shut down the government when they declined to pass spending bills acceptable to Presidents Reagan and Bush. This undermines the notion that congressional Republicans beginning in 1995 have played a uniquely rough and novel game of political hardball by threatening and occasionally following through with government shutdowns.

In short, what really changed was the 1980 conclusion that funding gaps required government shutdowns, something that Democrats took almost immediate advantage of in 1981. The major change in 1995 was that the media, with Gingrich's own self-defeating connivance, portrayed the president's refusal to sign budget legislation passed by Congress as Congress, not the president, shutting down the government.

NEXT: Getting Back on Track

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. ” if congressional Republicans shut down the government when they refused to pass spending bills acceptable to Presidents Clinton and Obama, then the Democrats in Congress shut down the government when they declined to pass spending bills acceptable to Presidents Reagan and Bush.” if congressional Republicans shut down the government when they refused to pass spending bills acceptable to Presidents Clinton and Obama, then the Democrats in Congress shut down the government when they declined to pass spending bills acceptable to Presidents Reagan and Bush.”

    No. Just… no.
    It is not the job of Congress to pass spending bills acceptable to the President.

    1. Oh, I agree. But if you’ve followed the Times over the years, when it’s GOP president and Democratic Congress, the president has shut down the government. When it’s a Democratic president and a GOP congress, it’s Congress that has shut down the government. As noted, part of this is Gingrich’s fault, but still, this isn’t quite random.

      1. I’m not arguing your choice of which party to blame, or your premise that both should be treated equally for doing the same thing. I’m objecting to the exact phrasing you chose, which is unambiguously YOUR choice.

        1. Ironic. Biden voters oppose the death penalty. Thanks to the groveling Taliban appeaser, Biden, the Taliban are resuming their mass executions and hand amputations.

          https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/the-taliban-is-bringing-back-executions-and-cutting-off-hands-as-punishment-after-retaking-control-of-afghanistan/ar-AAOKzeP?ocid=msedgntp

          1. Perhaps your anger should be directed at the person who negotiated the deal with the Taliban that let them retake Afghanistan.

      2. That could actually be true though – the GOP brand is much more aligned with a government shutdown than the Democratic brand is.

        1. Try not to tell them that they’re cutting off funding for deportation hearings.

    2. Prof. Bernstein is simply too polite to explicitly point out that the NYT and their media comrades have a simple rule: Republicans are responsible for any government shutdown.

      Even now, with Dems controlling both houses of Congress and the White House, and bipartisan opposition to the budget bills (but unipartisan support), media are mostly pointing at Sen. McConnell and Republicans for refusing to help pass a bloated, counterproductive budget. That’s exactly what the NYT opinion piece in question is doing.

      1. pointing at Sen. McConnell and Republicans for refusing to help pass a bloated, counterproductive budget.

        What they are pointing the finger at McConnell about is refusal to raise the debt ceiling, which is an entirely different thing.

        1. Democrats don’t need a single GOP vote to raise the debt ceiling. They can do thru reconciliation.

          They don’t want to because they don’t have a final reconciliation bill ready because of internal disputes.

          1. So that excuses the gross irresponsibility of McConnell?

            Frankly, in a sensible system his refusal would disqualify him for office.

            1. Why is it that pushing back on constantly raising the debt ceiling is irresponsible, but refusing to reign in federal spending to fix the budget problems is not irresponsible?

              1. Since McConnell voted in favor of basically every single bill that has increased the deficit in recent years, it’s irresponsible to then not raise the debt ceiling sufficiently to accommodate the debt created by those bills, especially when (a) the consequences of defaulting on the debt are pretty dire, and (b) it’s not like he has some proposal out there that would reduce the deficit that he himself caused and make it unnecessary to rain the debt ceiling.

                This seems pretty obvious.

              2. Pushing back? You mean when there’s a Democrat in the White House.

                Anyway, there’s a difference between the two. Refusing to raise the ceiling means defaulting on obligations already incurred. It’s not “cutting spending.” Defaulting would have immediate serious negative consequences.

                Don’t think it’s so bad? Ask noted Democrats Henry Paulson or Steven Mnuchin or Mark Zandi.

                1. “Refusing to raise the ceiling means defaulting on obligations already incurred. ”

                  The only reason it means that is because the federal budget has been so far out of whack for so long that they have been paying off old debt by incurring new debt for decades.

                  It can’t keep going on like this indefinitely.

                  If spending isn’t reined in default is inevitable.

                  Raising the debt ceiling just kicks the can down the road letting the total debt grow bigger which will only make the inevitable default that much more painful.

                  1. If spending isn’t reined in default is inevitable.

                    No, it isn’t. Debt accumulates when spending exceeds revenue. Increasing revenue is an option. It is an option you don’t like, but it is an option. Thus, default is not inevitable. It is a myth that taxes in the U.S. are high by international standards (among developed, wealthy countries). They are, in fact, quite low. (31.6%) Ireland (22.7%) is the only OECD country with a tax revenue to GDP ratio lower than the U.S. that we might want to use as a model, but then again, they don’t have the kind of military needs and commitments that we do. Switch to spending and the U.S. is still at the low end of that chart. We could increase taxes to match spending and still be near the OECD average by that measure, I think.

                    1. Shut down every govt agency and entitlement program created since 1960…cut DOD 30% (actually just cut the army in half as we honestly don’t need a large land force). no more deficits. And as the debt principal comes up just have the Treasury print money to pay off..honestly it wouldn’t have any worse impact on inflation than the Fed’s method of buying debt to fund the govt.

                      Its just time to shut it all down…or most of it

                    2. Shut down every govt agency and entitlement program created since 1960…

                      Good luck convincing a GOP base that includes a lot of retirees to get rid of Medicare.

                      …cut DOD 30% (actually just cut the army in half as we honestly don’t need a large land force).

                      It isn’t just about the number of combat soldiers. It is the logistics of being able to deploy virtually anywhere in the world quickly, to maintain supply lines while deployed, and provide other forms of support. No other country has the level of capability there that we do. If you think that we can maintain our position in the world against our current and likely future adversaries without that, you’d be pretty lonely with that view.

                      Of course, there is all kinds of ways that the DoD could tighten its belt without losing capabilities, I don’t doubt. But all of it requires the political will to force those kinds of changes and work against the MIC that Ike prophetically warned us about.

                  2. “The only reason it means that is because the federal budget has been so far out of whack for so long that they have been paying off old debt by incurring new debt for decades.”

                    The federal government operated at a surplus in 1999, 2000, and 2001. W “won” the election in 2000, and used his sweeping mandate to run a couple of wars off the books and to cut taxes for wealthy people and the government hasn’t been able to climb out of deficit since.

              3. Republicans voted for much of the spending that precipitated the debt, you bigoted, half-educated, obsolete wingnut.

                1. You make a good point..which is why the GOP is losing so many folks. I was a young fellow (17) when Reagan got elected and I honestly thought the era of big govt was over and he would shut most of it down…hell he didn’t even get rid of the fing department of education or the peace corps. Who is worse..someone who tells you he is going to rob you or someone who says they are here to protect you from thugs and then robs you? We only have one political party…lets be honest

                  1. We only have one political party…lets be honest

                    The “A plague on both your houses!” argument about our two party system implies that a choice of one over the other is meaningless. This is not the case. That neither party is really serving the interests of the people of this country does not mean that both parties are really the same or that they are equally self-serving.

                    Besides, the real election for Congress in most house districts and states is the party primary. Only a small percent of seats is ever in play. If people don’t see themselves ever voting for one of the two parties, they can still improve the one that they would be willing to vote for by insisting on candidates that would actually serve them when it comes time to vote in a primary. But nah. So much easier to leave the primary to the hard core base that is easily manipulated by demagogues or radicals.

                    1. You could fix this by changing just one rule. At present, whoever controls the legislature gets to draw the districts for the next elections, and coincidentally they tend to draw the districts in ways that benefit their own party.
                      Fix it by letting the minority party draw the districts. you’ll still get partisan districts, but the process won’t be self-sustaining. Do a good job of drawing the districts in your favor, and you lose the power to draw the districts in your favor.

            2. “So that excuses the gross irresponsibility of McConnell?”

              IDK, what excuses the gross irresponsibility of Schumer and Pelosi?

              They have the majority, the want to spend 3.5 trillion without any GOP input at all. Yet they want political cover on the debt ceiling.

              You have the majority, act like it.

              1. “You have the majority, act like it.”

                Remember that sentiment when your betters enlarge the Supreme Court (and admit a few states, and eliminate or diminish the filibuster), you obsolete, bigoted, backwater clinger.

                1. For someone whose Party literally fought a war to preserve slavery, and then literally re-instituted slavery of blacks in all but name afterwards, you are a little too eager to call people “obsolete, bigoted backwater clingers”.

                  1. Not a fan of the ‘clinger’ rants but it’s pretty dumb to ascribe current Democrats with Democrats from hundreds of years ago.

                    1. Is it?

                      There’s a Party that insists that minorities cannot be expected to be punctual, to do well in school, or to compete against white people in general without extra help (and by “extra help”, that means dumbing down standards), among other things.

                      That same Party endorsed upwards of $2 billion in property damage via riots and looting, disproportionately affecting minority neighborhoods and businesses, and further demanded a decrease in police funding, which resulted in an increase in minorities getting murdered.

                      That same Party has had political control over the most populated cities in America, and have had that control on city, State, and even Federal-office level for decades, yet are nonetheless filled with ghettos where minorities continually can’t get ahead — and where schools are notorious for their lousy education, but these locations nonetheless put every obstacle they can in the way of minority parents wanting to pull their kids from these failed schools.

                      And finally, members of that same Party will say the most vile racist things about minorities who they disagree with politically.

                      Is it really an exaggeration to suggest that the Party continues to do this is a racist Party? Particularly when we’re not even talking about 100 years ago — That some of the more explicit racist policies (eg, in housing in particular) date back from the 1960s?

                  2. My party transferred the racists, superstitious gay-bashers, stale misogynists, and selfish, can’t-keep-up xenophobes to the Republican Party — which eagerly embraced the bigots, not only from desperation to avoid irrelevance but also because it was a welcoming home for superstitious, stale-thinking, disaffected, modernity-hating bigots — decades ago.

                    1. Ha! If you want to see who the real bigots are, ask Democrats what they think of Clarence Thomas, Milo, Candace Owens, Larry Elder, or pretty much any minority who isn’t a Democrat — and you will see full racism on display.

                      Democrats are just as racist, sexist, xenophobic, etc as ever, so they appreciate “legitimate” targets that allow them to vent their bigotry.

              2. Bob from Ohio….To me, it is: Turnabout is fair play. Team D is the majority. Very well then. Have at it.

                1. Good idea.

                  Open wider, clingrers.

                  And try not to whine so much.

              3. “They have the majority, the want to spend 3.5 trillion without any GOP input at all. Yet they want political cover on the debt ceiling.

                You have the majority, act like it.”

                They want to spend 3.5 trillion without any GOP input at all. Meanwhile, the GOP wants to spend 0 without any D input at all. Why are we choosing between the two, instead of negotiating?

            3. What gross irresponsibility? The Democrats have a tie in the Senate that they can break with the VP’s vote, and a razor thin majority in the House. Normally a party in this position would pursue a moderate agenda that would have the support of all of their members and some of the opposition.

              Not today’s Democratic party: They’re pursuing an agenda you might expect of a party with a massive majority, one that even loses some of their own caucus. They’re not willing to compromise with the opposing party at all.

              Fine, they want to rule without giving the minority party any input, they can do it without any help from the minority party. Why should Republicans agree to be complicit in things they disagree with?

              1. Brett,

                Do you not understand that raising the ceiling and passing the budget are two different things?

                Refusing to raise the debt ceiling puts the country into default on existing obligations. That’s potentially catastrophic.

                Raising the ceiling does not imply approval of Democratic spending proposals.

                To make an analogy, if you decide you’ve been running up the Visa bill excessively the solution is not to refuse to pay the charges already incurred. That’s what refusing to raise the ceiling is equivalent to..

                Look, I know it’s confusing because McConnell and the GOP are continuing to lie about it, but come on.

                1. “Refusing to raise the debt ceiling puts the country into default on existing obligations.”

                  No. It. Does. Not.

                  Refusing to raise the debt ceiling permits existing debt to continue, it just doesn’t permit the amount of debt to be increased. Once you hit the debt ceiling, you have to balance the budget to avoid default. The catch is that it has to be a REAL balanced budget, one that takes interest on the debt as part of spending. Not one of these nonsensical “primary” balances such as Clinton bragged of, a REAL balanced budget.

                  It’s like you’ve maxed out your Visa card, you don’t default unless you refuse to pay the interest. You could just stop borrowing more, pay the interest, and let the balance stay where it was. Yeah, you’d have to skip the vacation, eat canned tuna and pasta, maybe sell the Ford Excursion to buy a used Honda, but default wouldn’t be automatic, it would be the consequence of refusing to reduce your spending.

                  It’s rather telling that you consider simply not spending more than revenue to be such an inadmissible possibility that you’re not even willing to contemplate it.

                  1. You are wrong, Brett.

                    Dead wrong.

                    1. Choose the tombstone for Brett Bellmore:

                      Dead; wrong.

                      Dead, wrong.

                      Dead. Wrong.

                      Dead wrong.

                      It’s at least one of the them.

                    2. I’m trying hard to avoid calling you a moron. Give me some help, explain exactly how I’m wrong.

                      The debt ceiling is a rolling limit, all it is is an authorization to borrow up to so many billion dollars at any one time. If you pay off this bond, you can then issue that bond.

                      If you hit the debt ceiling, the only reason that you would go into default is literally, that you weren’t willing to limit spending, including interest payments, to available revenues.

                    3. You’re wrong Bernard,

                      As many people have pointed out, not raising the debt ceiling doesn’t automatically result in a default on the debt.

                      The United States has more than enough tax revenue coming in to cover interest on the debt, if that’s what it chose to spend that revenue on.

                    4. The words bernard used were “default on existing obligations”, not default on the debt.
                      The federal budget plans for liabilities that become payable throughout the fiscal year. They include interest on debt, but also government salaries, entitlements, payments to suppliers, and payments under projects for infrastructure, defense, etc. When those bills, incurred as the result of an earlier budget process, come due the government either has to pay them out of cash on hand, or borrow money to pay them, or default. Hitting the debt limit takes that second option off the table, and if the plan all along was to run a deficit then cash on hand won’t be sufficient.
                      It is like deciding a year ago you would buy a house with a big mortgage, and a new Lamborghini, and a yacht. The time to decide to live within your means was a year ago, not now when the bills come due.
                      Democrats have at least taken a small step toward eliminating this brinkmanship theater with the “Gephardt Rule”, which requires the House to approve a joint resolution increasing the debt limit whenever they pass a deficit budget. They reinstate the rule every time they control the House, because Republicans keep repealing it, and it isn’t binding on the Senate or the President, but at least it is something.

                    5. The debt ceiling is a rolling limit, all it is is an authorization to borrow up to so many billion dollars at any one time. If you pay off this bond, you can then issue that bond.

                      Yes.

                      If you hit the debt ceiling, the only reason that you would go into default is literally, that you weren’t willing to limit spending, including interest payments, to available revenues.

                      Which means you couldn’t pay other commitments – salaries, contractors, Social Security, etc.

                      Are you suggesting that Biden should simply decide, arbitrarily, what payments to stop? You think that might lead to some lawsuits and other problems? You think it might lead to major problems in the financial markets? You bet it will.

                      Remember, much of these other payments are in fact commitments by the US government – and all of them are money already appropriated by Congress. (before Biden even took office, btw) Is it even legal for him not to spend it? Gee, let’s have a big fight in the courts about all that. Fiddle, Rome.

                      And don’t pretend that if you just pay the interest, but don’t meet other obligations, that things will be just fine on the credit rating and interest front. Say you go in to renew your credit line. “I’ve been paying promptly,” you say. Should be no problem. But then the bank looks and you’ve missed a rent payment or two, had your car repossessed, etc. Do you think Treasury buyers will just ignore the fiscal issues when they look at a situation where one party feels free to force the Treasury to renege on obligations? They won’t. Rates will rise, across the board. Then other rates will follow.

                      Go read what Mark Zandi said.

                      Ask yourself why Paulson and Mnuchin met with Yellen and McConnell, why six former Treasury Secretaries have weighed in.

                      Do you really think you are so much fucking smarter than these people when it comes to this matter.

                      You’re not.

                    6. “It is like deciding a year ago you would buy a house with a big mortgage, and a new Lamborghini, and a yacht. The time to decide to live within your means was a year ago, not now when the bills come due.”

                      It’s more like deciding a year ago that you were going to buy a big house, and a yacht, and a new Lamborghini every year. And now that you’ve made that decision, it’s just as much an obligation as your mortgage and credit cards, right? You can’t just sell the Lamborghini and yacht, and rent out most of the rooms of the mansion, and cut your expenses. Your decision to live high off the hog is just as much an obligation as those, right?

                      No, it isn’t.

                    7. “Are you suggesting that Biden should simply decide, arbitrarily, what payments to stop? ”

                      No, I’m suggesting that Congress could decide to stop buying some things.

                    8. Bernard,

                      In addition to the debt limit issues, Congress hasn’t pass a FY 2022 budget, nor a FY2022 continuing resolution.

                      Because of that, it has not actually appropriated money for “salaries, contractors, etc”. (Social security doesn’t need annual appropriations).

                      There have been shutdowns in the past. See what happens then.

                    9. No, I’m suggesting that Congress could decide to stop buying some things.

                      What “things?” You mean today, since that’s when they’d have to stop? Let’s hear what you think they can stop, or should.

                      Please bear in mind that McConnell&Co., while opposing Democrats’ plans, have not proposed actual cuts in ongoing spending.

                    10. “What things?”

                      Classically during government shutdowns, certain administrations decided to start by shutting down the national parks to start….

                    11. “No, I’m suggesting that Congress could decide to stop buying some things.”

                      Well, the Republicans are effectively deciding to stop funding the Customs and Immigration Service.

                    12. “It’s more like deciding a year ago that you were going to buy a big house, and a yacht, and a new Lamborghini every year. And now that you’ve made that decision”

                      What it’s like is deciding this year that you won’t be meeting your commitments, whenever they were incurred.

                2. Please, taxes coming in are sufficient to pay down the debt already incurred. It would just require cuts in spending sufficient to not run a deficit.

                  You’re acting like interest on the debt exceeds tax revenues. It does not.

                  1. Give it a few years, at current borrowing rates it will soon.

                    1. Sold those futures yet?

                  2. Tax revenues when the debt was incurred were higher. Don’t forget the Trump administration passed a $2T tax cut while not cutting expenditures.

                    1. No, I’ve literally looked at the tax revenues, and they went up, not down.

                    2. So did population.

                  3. “Please, taxes coming in are sufficient to pay down the debt already incurred. It would just require cuts in spending sufficient to not run a deficit.”

                    We gave that a try a couple of decades ago. Then Republicans got control of the government that that was the end of that.

                3. You didn’t take finance or accounting did you?

                  We don’t need to raise the debt ceiling but just slash govt to in line with outlays monthly which include interest on the debt. As debt principal comes up just have the treasury pay off the bond holders with printed money (it honestly won’t impact inflation anymore than how the Fed does it and cost less). Again just cut spending…you will have enough to pay the interest payment and not have to take on any more new debt..it isn’t hard.

                  1. “We don’t need to raise the debt ceiling but just slash govt to in line with outlays monthly which include interest on the debt.”

                    So, your proposal is that we just decline to make a few payments on the interest on the debt. What harm could possibly come from that?

                    Obviously, we’ll need to stop paying for immigration hearings, and fighting fires in the national forests. Those problems will just go away by themselves, just like the coronavirus did.

              2. “They’re not willing to compromise with the opposing party at all.”

                With whom should they be compromising with? The GOP members who say a quiet, polite “no” or those other ones who say “NO!” at the top of their voice while also muttering about the second amendment and how elections that don’t go their way are by definition fraudulent?

            4. Well that’s up to the voters in Kentucky though isn’t it?

              If our constitutional system considered the debt ceiling so critical why does it require a vote? Any vote requires the discretion of the voter by definition.

              It seems like your problem is with a republican democracy, not McConnell himself.

              1. My problem is that the leader chosen by the Republicans is a jackass.

                And I do have a problem, as a matter of fact, with the system. Kentucky voters can pick who they want, obviously, but McConnell, is not acting as their representative. He is wielding enormous power over national affairs despite having never gotten a single vote from anyone who doesn’t live in KY. And yes, similar things are true of Schumer and Pelosi.

                It seems bizarre to me.

                1. Wait till you hear about Canadian elections, and how the Prime Minister is picked…

                  1. Turns out I don’t have to care about how Canadians are governed, due to the technicality of being born on THIS side of the border.

                2. Well Bernard you don’t like Republicans much, so it’s not surprising that you wouldn’t like their chosen Senate leader.

                  But look at it this way, it’s helping unite the country, both you and Trump have the same opinion of Mitch McConnell.

                  But if it seems bizarre to you that a Senator, or a representative has that much power then you misunderstand how our system works, first congress’ is supreme to the presidency’s, second McConnell’s power is only there if his caucus unites behind him, he isn’t speaking for himself he is speaking for 50 senators which should carry a lot of power. If they aren’t behind him his power would melt away like a mirage.

                  1. “if his caucus unites behind him”

                    Yeah, because it’s so unusual for Republicans to all dance to the same tune. They get their marching orders piped directly to them via AM radio signals.

                3. “I do have a problem, as a matter of fact, with the system.”

                  The system is working as designed. Your problem is that there are enough voters who don’t want a working government to make working against the government a reliable path to re-election in those districts.

                  Quick, any Republicans, speak up, what are your proposals for running the government, beyond “whatever the Democrats want, we’re opposed to.” The D’s passed the Affordable Care Act, but you don’t want affordable care, because reasons. President Trump was prepared to sign your alternative plan, but one was never placed on his desk.

          2. McConnel could also not be an ass. Republicans have agency too.

            1. Yeah, McConnell is an ass, no argument from me. But in this case he’s an ass with a point: If the Democrats want to be in total control, they can do it without any help. If they want help, they have to cede some control over the agenda.

              It’s like the Sinatra song: You want to do it your own way, you have to be willing to take the fall yourself, too.

              1. “If the Democrats want to be in total control, they can do it without any help. If they want help, they have to cede some control over the agenda.”

                “Do what we want or we’ll burn everything down, combined with “don’t blame us if anything burns”. is logic only a Republican partisan could love.

            2. “Republicans have agency too.”

              Yes, they are exercising it.

              You want it both ways, GOP cut out of any input on the bloated spending bill but taking responsibility for the debt ceiling.

              1. What is good about letting America default? It’s just McConnell playing with fire and thinking he’s just playing politics.

                Not evil, just stupid.

                1. You’re not even responding to the point, you’re just accusing Republicans of being stupid for not assisting Democrats in getting everything they want without any compromises.

                  You want to be in total control, you have to do it all yourself. If you want help from the opposition party, you have to let them have some say in what gets done, too. Is that too complicated for you?

                  1. Bullshit, Brett. You have no fucking point.

                    Again, raising the ceiling does not pass the Democrats’ budget. Not close. Why do you keep insisting that it does? It keeps the country from going into default on existing obligations.

                    1. And, again, if the Democrats want to govern as though Republicans weren’t around, they can damned well govern as though Republicans weren’t around. If they want help with anything, they’d better resign themselves to sharing at least a little of the decision making.

                    2. “It keeps the country from going into default on existing obligations.”

                      That’s not actually true Bernard.

                      Again, the US Government has the choice what to spend its tax revenue on. It can, if it so chooses, spend that revenue on servicing the existing debt. Or, it could choose not to.

                      Congress COULD also pass a 3.5 trillion dollar spending bill, even if it doesn’t increase the debt limit. That leads to an interesting situation, where despite passing such a bill, it doesn’t have the revenue or borrowing authority to cover actually paying for such a bill in addition to its other obligations.

                    3. The “starve the beast” fantasy dies hard.

                    4. the US Government has the choice what to spend its tax revenue on. It can, if it so chooses, spend that revenue on servicing the existing debt. Or, it could choose not to.

                      And it chose, late last year, to spend in the way the current budget calls for. Do you want Biden to just take charge and cut wherever he feels like it?

                      And it won’t matter if he does cut elsewhere. It will still be a disaster. Do you think bond buyers will ignore those cuts?

                      You and your allies continue to act as though this has a lot to do with the Democratic bills that haven’t even passed yet. Is that just willful blindness, or do you truly think that?

                    5. if the Democrats want to govern as though Republicans weren’t around, they can damned well govern as though Republicans weren’t around. If they want help with anything, they’d better resign themselves to sharing at least a little of the decision making.

                      You know what, Brett, you keep saying that, but I haven’t heard a peep from McConnell or any other Republican as to what bills Biden should stop paying in October. Let’s hear from them.

                      Because right now they are just full of shit, trying to cloud the issue with talk of the proposed spending. Why? Because they’re cowards. They don’t want the slightest accountability. Let McConnell come out and say, “Just reduce SS payments by X% and we’ll be covered.” Or spending on defense. Or whatever. Until he does that he’s full of crap and a liar.

                    6. “You know what, Brett, you keep saying that, but I haven’t heard a peep from McConnell or any other Republican as to what bills Biden should stop paying in October. Let’s hear from them.”

                      You know that Biden, as President, is forbidden by law from not spending that money.

                      But Congress could damned well make that decision. You’re like somebody who’s running up their credit card, saying, “But I can’t start eating tuna salad! I’ve already got steaks in the fridge, and my menu plan written out for the next several years!”

                      Yes, they could stop spending so much.

                    7. “And it chose, late last year, to spend in the way the current budget calls for. Do you want Biden to just take charge and cut wherever he feels like it?”

                      No. The truth is, the current budget expires on September 30th. There is not a continuing resolution or new budget to replace it.

                    8. But Congress could damned well make that decision. You’re like somebody who’s running up their credit card, saying, “But I can’t start eating tuna salad! I’ve already got steaks in the fridge, and my menu plan written out for the next several years!”

                      Of course they could, but the debt ceiling has not a thing to do with it. And if you think your guys are going to vote for any actual cuts you’re crazy.

                      It’s all posturing, and it’s fucking dangerous.

                    9. It’s just Congress, of both parties, not living up to their responsibilities.

                      Just like the eviction moratorium extension, everyone knew Biden didn’t have the authority to extend it, and rather than schedule a vote Pelosi said get better lawyers.

                    10. “You and your allies continue to act as though this has a lot to do with the Democratic bills that haven’t even passed yet. Is that just willful blindness, or do you truly think that?”

                      In Georgia, they’re running TV ads complaining about the $3.5T spending that hasn’t been passed yet, as though it is a fait accompli. There’s another one whining about how the D’s are trying to cut Medicare.

                  2. I think what you’re saying can be boiled down to:

                    The GOP is holding the country’s fiscal stability for ransom. If the Democrats won’t abandon their promises to their constituents, the GOP will break the country.

                    Although, in this case, I think this is more McConnel chess-playing. He’s forcing the Dems to go to reconciliation in order to force them to take longer to get something done and as a result reduce their opportunities to pass their agenda.

                    I say, reverse the Trump tax cuts and use the revenue to pay down the debt.

                    1. More like, if the Democrats won’t abandon their promises, THEY’LL break the country. They’re spending us into a hole so fast it’s breathtaking.

                    2. Suddenly Brett is really concerned about debt.

                      After Trump, no one believes that’s a good faith concern.

                    3. Trump was totally going to get rid of the debt Sarcastro, but those mean RINO’s stopped him.

                  3. “You want to be in total control, you have to do it all yourself. If you want help from the opposition party, you have to let them have some say in what gets done, too. Is that too complicated for you?”

                    Perhaps he’s confused by the lack of negotiation from the R’s. The way it works is you start by making a proposal that contains what you want, and the other guy makes a proposal that contains what he wants, and then you prioritize what you want and let go of the things that seem less important, and the other guy lets go of the things that seem less important to him, and eventually you settle on a position that has some of what you wanted, and some of what the other guy wanted.
                    “give us everything we want or we’ll break things” is not negotiation.

                2. Mitch is the MINORITY leader.

                  Pelosi and Schumer and Biden can pass a debt increase without a single GOP vote. Why won’t they?

                  1. Because they’re not even trying to do things that have the support of a majority of Congress. They’re trying to push things through that have the support of a majority of Democrats in Congress. So they’re losing some of their own members, and want Republicans to help make up the difference.

                    1. “they’re not even trying to do things that have the support of a majority of Congress. They’re trying to push things through that have the support of a majority of Democrats in Congress.”

                      So you’re conceding that keeping the United States from defaulting on its commitments isn’t something that has the support of Republicans.

                  2. It’s almost like this thing called the filibuster doesn’t exist…

                    1. For raising the debt limit, there is no filibuster, if it’s done through reconciliation. 50 dems senators + the veep = debt limit increase.

                      No need for Rs to get it passed. So why won’t they?

                    2. “So why won’t they?”

                      None of the libs here will answer that, they just deflect.

                      GOP! Reagan! Mitch! Tax Cuts!
                      GOP! Reagan! Mitch! Tax Cuts!
                      GOP! Reagan! Mitch! Tax Cuts!

                      Like parrots.

                    3. “For raising the debt limit, there is no filibuster, if it’s done through reconciliation. 50 dems senators + the veep = debt limit increase.”

                      Count again. There aren’t 50 Dem Senators.

                    4. “‘So why won’t they?’

                      None of the libs here will answer that, they just deflect.”

                      there’s this thing that has to be done if the economy of the United States is to be protected from a specific harm. For that premise, I think, there is broad concensus.
                      The Republican position appears to be “hey, don’t blame us, if this thing we’re all saying we won’t vote for doesn’t pass.”

                      Funny thing, if you all don’t vote for it, and it doesn’t pass, yes you will absolutely get blamed for it. But, and this is important, at most I can vote against one of your Representatitives and 2 of your Senators, and it’s not like they could count on my vote even without this specific matter, so if you think it’s better to wreck the economy than to choose NOT to wreck the economy, then y’all do you.

                3. Not raising the debt limit doesn’t cause an automatic default.

                  1. It “does” if balancing the budget is literally unthinkable. The default is automatic in their minds because the only alternative is unpossible, like a round square.

                    They’re so hostile to balancing the budget at this point that they will not even treat it as an option to be discussed.

                    1. If the GOP cared about balancing the budget, they could have done it under Bush II or Trump. Instead, Clinton and Obama actually performed better wrt the budget than any Republican administration has in living memory.

                      Rather, when the GOP had control of the economy, they cut taxes on the rich and corporations–their benefactors–and kept on spending the same as usual.

                    2. Obama had the highest deficits in recent memory…until a global pandemic.

                    3. Bush came in with a balanced budget, which he immediately pissed away with tax cuts.

                    4. Your comments are from outer space, Brett. They are not remotely rational.

                    5. As Bernard demonstrates, for the left, balancing the budget has become utterly unthinkable. Whereas the right at least think about it before saying, “Nah.”

                      Which is not functionally different from regarding it as unthinkable, except that conservatives can actually reason about the possibility instead of just reflexively arguing that not increasing the debt automatically means default because the thought of balancing the budget makes their brains go tilt, and they regard their political promises as being as binding as sovereign debt.

                    6. ” Obama had the highest deficits in recent memory…until a global pandemic. ”

                      That appears to be a lie, you half-ducated, racist, gay-bashing hayseed.

                      If you have information to support your assertion, now would be a handy time to provide it.

                    7. No, Brett. Balancing the budget by holding the country hostage is unthinkable.

                      It’s not the ends, it’s the means.

                    8. And RAK has a self-goal.

                      This is why he sticks to calling people clingers. If RAK actually tries to argue, he ends up helping the people he argues against.

                    9. “It “does” if balancing the budget is literally unthinkable.”

                      Who was running the federal government the last time the budget went from surplus to deficit?

                  2. “Not raising the debt limit doesn’t cause an automatic default.”

                    Not having enough cash on hand to pay what you owe sure does, though.

          3. Here’s the problem : My memory isn’t perfect on the details of Reagan’s cataclysmic 1981 budget, Bernstein’s sophistry is no help, and Bob is clueless. So let’s settle for some general guidelines:

            (1) Even if a budget is unresolved due to the disagreement of political parties, or within a single party, or between branches of government, everyone involved should still keep the government functioning until resolution. Government shutdowns almost always accomplish nothing except unnecessary waste and needless hardship.

            (2) If any side adopts a government shutdown as negotiating tactic, or blocks raising the debt ceiling to keep the government open, they own the useless childish STUPID of that decision.

            (3) Did the Reagan-era Democrats block raising the debt ceiling or refuse to keep the government open while the budget was resolved? Was that a tactic they pursued? Perhaps so, but you can’t tell from Bernstein’s post. Repeatedly casting the issue as Democrats refusing to agree to Republican budget demands suggests he’s talking about something different, but that isn’t conclusive.

            Regardless : Resolving the budget and keeping the government open are two separate things. Do you understand that now, Bob?

            1. “Resolving the budget and keeping the government open are two separate things. ”

              Not really.

              Once again for the dense [that’s you grb], the entire responsibility rests with the party that control Congress and the Presidency.

              If they fail to take it, its their fault.

              1. Bob from Ohio : “Not really”

                That’s a factually wrong statement that can’t be defended in any honest or rational way.

                1. “factually wrong statement”

                  Its an opinion, just like your opinion..

                  Dense: informal
                  (of a person) stupid.
                  “Am I being dense? I don’t quite understand”
                  synonyms:
                  stupid · unintelligent · ignorant · brainless · mindless · foolish · slow · slow-witted

                  1. Bob from Ohio : Its an opinion, just like your opinion..

                    No Bob, it’s not just an opinion. Just the simple fact there isn’t a government shutdown with every unresolved budget proves the 1:1 relationship you claim doesn’t exist. Can you see that?

                    Sigh. Probably not, so we’ll try an analogy: Let’s say you owe me $1000 for tutoring you in basic logic and elemental civics. You refuse to pay and I put a gun to your head. Yes, your refusal to fulfill your obligation is the cause of my action, just like a unresolved budget is the cause of someone shutting down the government. But in either case we are talking about one tactic of many. I have other options besides threatening your life such as (say) appealing to your better nature.

                    There are other options to an unresolved budget than shutting the government down. One does not automatically result from the other. Even you have to understand that now….

                    1. If govt was an investment we would not be running deficits..shut it all down..every govt agency and program created after 1960. Cut DOD 50%..when debt principal comes up have the treasury pay with printed money (no interest)…it won’t impact inflation any more than when the Fed does the same thing and charges interest. Just shut it all down….slash slash slash…all of it

                  2. Bob, when your argument rests on the claim that when one party controls both the Presidency and the Congress, and you’re talking about a situation that arises when these are split between different parties, you shouldn’t be callin anyone else “dense”. That’s just bunch of Bob.

                    Bob, noun
                    material that can be found on the south side of a north-going horse.

              2. “Once again for the dense [that’s you grb], the entire responsibility rests with the party that control Congress and the Presidency.”

                Alternatively, if anyone ranks loyalty to party over loyalty to country, that person is a jackass. For Bob, the short version is yes, I just called you a jackass.

            2. This entire thread of back and forth blame gaming is both stupid and tiresome.

              It is not likely that any person posting here (or even their kids) will ever see a balanced budget. The Clinton surplus was extremely likely the last of its species.
              In that case the deficit is going to grow every year and the question of debt-ceiling is going to arise as a meaningless political football for the indefinite future. So take the issue of debt-ceiling off the table. That ceiling is not the limit to the debt of the US.
              We have hit the ceiling when others will not long lend money to the US Government.

              1. So take the issue of debt-ceiling off the table.

                Exactly. It’s just a time bomb. It accomplishes nothing. And it’s dysfunctional another way. It lets politicians posture about deficits without having to actually do anything about them.

                If the Republicans want to lower the deficit let them propose spending cuts/tax increases – no supply-side tooth fairies please – and see how that works. Right now all they are doing is saying “it’s all the Dems’ fault” without making any sort of commitment as to what they would like to do.

                If you want to fight deficits do it when spending levels and budgets are being set.

              2. How do you take the debt ceiling off the table? The Constitution literally requires that Congress authorize borrowing, the debt ceiling is just Congress authorizing borrowing in advance.

                I suppose you’re going to just raise the debt ceiling to a quadrillion dollars, to kick the can down the road a decade or two?

                1. Brett,
                  That is exactly what makes sense as no one has a clue of how a balance budget can be achieved. Not unless one radically cuts entitlements and military spending and raises taxes on the working class. Neither of those has a snowball’s chance in hell of happening.

                  1. The problem with taking the debt ceiling off the table that way, is that so long as we have a fight about the debt ceiling, our creditors can plausibly believe we still have some lingering restraint. Once we make it no longer a factor, they’d rationally conclude we had finally decided to abandon restraint, and stop loaning us more.

                    It’s not in our interest that they wise up before we stiff them…

                2. How do you take the debt ceiling off the table?

                  Very simple. You simply include in any appropriation bill that the bill authorizes the Treasury to borrow to spend the money appropriated.

                  You could also just repeal the debt ceiling statute.

                  1. You could do that first, but, no, not the second, because the Constitution actually does say that borrowing has to be authorized by Congress. It’s like thinking that if the bank just repealed your line of credit, you’d be able to borrow as much as you want.

                    1. Right. The spending bill authorizes the borrowing.

                      Just add a sentence.

              3. Wow, Brett. You continue to be very sure and very wrong on the facts.

                The United States debt ceiling or debt limit is a legislative limit on the amount of national debt that can be incurred by the U.S. Treasury.

                In 1979, noting the potential problems of hitting a default, Dick Gephardt imposed the “Gephardt Rule,” a parliamentary rule that deemed the debt ceiling raised when a budget was passed. This resolved the contradiction in voting for appropriations but not voting to fund them. The rule stood until it was repealed by Congress in 1995

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_debt_ceiling#Legislative_history

                1. “You continue to be very sure and very wrong on the facts.”

                  This is Brett’s motto, isn’t it?

                2. The Gephardt rule would work also.
                  Everything that takes an impediment off deficits has a moral hazard, but we’re going to hell anyways.

              4. “It is not likely that any person posting here (or even their kids) will ever see a balanced budget. ”

                I don’t concede this point. It was done for three years in my lifetime, it can be done again.
                The trick will be that if it DOES ever happen again, the D’s will see a big pile of money that they can spend, and the R’s will see it as an opportunity to hand a tax cut to wealthy people. Both of these outcomes must be resisted.

                For the R’s, here’s what justifies a massive tax break for people who have already amassed a great deal of wealth: A steep, dare I say confiscatory, estate tax that takes whatever weath a person has amassed in their lifetime and cedes it to government coffers when the amassor has shuffled off this mortal coil. the “can’t take it with you” tax has been set at 100% for approximately all of recorded history, might as well write it into the tax code. When the government spends that wealth, it will show up as income for somebody. If you want to distribute your wealth in a way besides giving it all to the government, spend it while you are alive.
                For the D’s, here’s what justifies a huge gov’t spending spree: Getting the wealthy people to sign off on the “can’t take it with you tax”, and collect some of that wealth before you try to spend it.

          4. “Democrats don’t need a single GOP vote to raise the debt ceiling. They can do thru reconciliation.”

            Unless reality is, you know, real.

            1. “The limitation on debate that prevents a budget reconciliation bill from being filibustered in the Senate”

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congressional_Budget_and_Impoundment_Control_Act_of_1974

              Educate yourself for once.

              1. The problem you are working under, Bob, and the reason that you are still wrong, is that there are more Republicans in the Senate than there are Democrats.

      2. “Prof. Bernstein is simply too polite to explicitly point out that the NYT and their media comrades have a simple rule: Republicans are responsible for any government shutdown.”

        Just because they’re the only ones who talk publicly about a desire to shut down the government.

    3. James, What David said. The article never claims that it is Congress’ responsibility, only that the logic of the media claims is inconsistent. I have watched this since the Reagan Administration. Republican Presidents and Republican Congresses are 100% responsible for every shutdown that has occurred in my lifetime. Which is either an amazing coincidence, a horrible reflection on Republicans, or media dishonesty. We know which one leftists choose.

      1. It takes two to tango in this dance, and both sides are responsible for being an ass.

        Indeed, the donkey is one party’s symbol for exactly this reason.

        1. “It takes two to tango in this dance, and both sides are responsible for being an ass.”

          Duh.

          “the donkey is one party’s symbol for exactly this reason.”

          Because they represent YOU?

      2. “James, What David said. The article never claims that it is Congress’ responsibility”

        I quoted him making that claim that you say he never made.

  2. If this account is accurate, it is a worthwhile contribution to understanding and debate.

  3. I’d like to see some NYT quotations to back up this argument.

    1. “(footnotes in the original, but not reprinted below)”

      1. I read your original article and the NYT articles you footnoted. I may be missing something but I didn’t find anything there which supports your conclusion that “the media often portrayed these incidents as Reagan shutting down the government.” I read those articles as neutral on blame.

        1. “The Reagan move led to the closing of some national parks, brought minting of commemorative coins to an end, and, because of a ban on nonessential travel, Vice President Bush’s trip to New York City was canceled.”

          1. That sounds like a description of the final act that triggered the shutdown rather than casting blame, similar to when Fox News described it as “President Ronald Reagan vetoed a spending bill because it didn’t make enough cuts.”

          2. OK, I passed over that. My bad. But, as Voice says in his comment, it sounds more like a statement of the last prior act than an exclusive cause. Also I rifled through other NYT articles in the days involved (both for the Reagan and the Clinton articles cited) and don’t see any other such finger pointing (other than reporting what was being said by both parties). So I’m gonna continue with the article that his footnotes don’t prove his thesis of widespread media favoritism to Democratic presidents. (As an aside, failed negotiations are the fault of both sides in my opinion.)

            1. Whether or not the media has taken sides, if they are accurately reporting on one side’s position, and if that position is “give us what we want or we’ll break something you care about” then it’s Ok to take sides against the terrorists.

  4. Prof. Bernstein,

    You know, you don’t have to read the NYT.

    Or if you find something you disagree with, why not write rebuttal and see if they’ll publish it.

    Whining about it here at the VC is just. . . whining.

    1. apedad,

      You know, you don’t have to read the Volokh Conspiracy.

      Or if you find something you disagree with, why not write rebuttal and see if they’ll publish it.

      Whining about it here at the VC is just. . . whining.

      1. YAAAY! You’re so awesome.

    2. “write rebuttal”

      That is what this is, a rebuttal.

      Why should he have to rely on the good graces of the Times to publish it?

      1. “That is what this is, a rebuttal.”

        well, it’s supposed to be, anyway.

    3. You know, you don’t have to read the VC.
      Or if you find something you disagree with, why not write a rebuttal as a comment.

      Whining about it here at the VC is just. . . whining.

    4. The New York Times may not be criticized anywhere else but the New York Times.

      It is known.

      1. If you want your criticism of the NYT to be seem by people who read the NYT, then you want it in the NYT.

        1. All this is assuming that the author wants the readers of the New York Times to read this. The author may merely want to make a point about the New York Times to his own readers, and decide it’s not worth the hassle to try to overcome the whims of the editors of the New York Times (who may very well have no desire to make this particular issue known to the general public), and publish it in a forum where they have control over — and that’s not even taking into account that (1) the New York Times would even bother to publish this is a place where the readers are prone to look, and (2) that the readers would read it, even if they saw the link to it.

          I don’t even see where everyone gets this idea that the author wanted the readers of the New York Times in particular to read his criticsm of it.

          Nor do I see how refusing to read the New York Times automatically makes valid objections to what they publish automatically go away. The idea that the only response to something you disagree with is to either ignore it altogether, or demand and/or beg that they publish your disagreements, has to be one of the stupidest ideas I’ve seen all day.

          1. “All this is assuming that the author wants the readers of the New York Times to read this”

            That’s what I said, except I said in fewer words.

            “The idea that the only response to something you disagree with is to either ignore it altogether, or demand and/or beg that they publish your disagreements, has to be one of the stupidest ideas I’ve seen all day.”

            It’s your idea, so it may well be the stupidest ideas you’ve seen all day. I bet you give it some tough competition, though.

  5. It did not become a regular strategy until Gingrich. And the regular strategy was based on bullshit.

    Reagan’s 1981 budget was the most fiscally irresponsible in history and a 180 degree departure from what had been done before. Democrats were correct in using extraordinary means to modify it (and they succeeded, to a point).

    1. “most fiscally irresponsible in history”

      Amazing hyperbole when Biden wants to spend 4 trillion over the 6 trillion we are already spending.

      1. Have you looked at the budget numbers from July?

        $261B in revenues.
        $562B in spending.
        $302B in borrowing.

        You want to know why they’re desperate to raise the debt ceiling? They’re borrowing more than half the budget! They borrowed more in the month of July than they were normally borrowing in a YEAR prior to 2008!

        Federal Budget Deficit by Year

        And it’s all due to wildly increased spending. If they’d just cut spending per capita back to where it was even a few years ago, we’d be OK. They’ve about doubled per capita spending since the 1990’s. Revenues, obviously, have NOT doubled.

        1. It’s been that way for decades: You could have made the federal deficit go away at any time by just holding spending per capita constant for a few years, adjusted for inflation. It’s just that the huge step increases in per capita spending have opened the gap up to more like a decade and a half at this point, instead of a few years.

          They really did represent changes so large as to be changes of kind, not degree.

          1. There will never be a balanced budget, outside once every 50 years incidents like the Internet boom, and we saw how Congress didn’t take that surplus sitting down, and quickly increased spending until they were borrowing again.

            This chronic borrowing in good times revolves around what they think they can get away with to lavish money to get reelected. This in turn relies on theories of borrowing and interest payments proportional to GDP.

            And nothing in that calculation whatsoever demands a balanced budget.

            Ergo it will never happen.

            Ever.

            Any confusion, see the line above.

            1. The Republicans only care, in general, if the dems are in power. Otherwise they subscribe to “borrowing and deficits don’t matter” like Bernie and Robert Reich waking at 11 am in a luxury suite for elites in Venezuela.

              1. This is a predictable consequence of permitting unbalanced budgets in a democracy. Once you can buy votes with borrowed money, any politician who is unwilling to do that gets outbid, and stays out of power.

                Therefore every politician actually occupying office is unwilling to balance the budget. Even those who think it a good idea understand it to be an unattainable good idea, and so concentrate their efforts on other things.

            2. It is called corruption.

            3. “There will never be a balanced budget, outside once every 50 years incidents like the Internet boom, and we saw how Congress didn’t take that surplus sitting down, and quickly increased spending until they were borrowing again.”

              Exactly correct. And that is why the argument about the debt ceiling and whose fault it is nonsense. Get rid of “debt ceiling” as having any operational limitation on government activities. Get a lot more vigilant about what creditors want to charge the US for borrowing.

              1. “Get a lot more vigilant about what creditors want to charge the US for borrowing.”

                The federal government’s interest rate for borrowing is largely determined by the policies and actions of the federal reserve.

                1. The Fed sets rates for its member banks.
                  If you want to sell bonds to KSA, Japan, or China, they set the rate at which they will lend.

              2. We’ll never balance the budget again, and a fiscal crash is inevitable at some point. But the fact that you’re going to crash eventually doesn’t mean you should shove the accelerator through the floor, aim straight at a wall, and crash as fast and as hard as possible.

                Even if balance isn’t in reach, you can at least moderate the excess, rather than embracing it.

                1. Same as when Obama was President. Silence about this when Trump was.

                  No one believes your sudden concern, Brett.

                  1. While I wish there was more complaining about spending when President Trump was President, I do not see why failure to complain about annoying overspending then means we should accept a significantly higher recklessness in spending now.

                  2. What it shows is this yelling about crisis, and threats to create a crisis to wake the country up are not genuine, but instrumental.

                    1. What it really shows is that people concerned about the crisis aren’t in power, while the people in power don’t care, beyond the possibility that talking about it might earn them a vote or two more than if they had just given those people free stuff.

                      I suppose we should rejoice that there are still people in this country who would rather have a balanced budget than be bribed by their own money stolen via taxes and laundered via government spending — enough so that occasionally a politician or two from one out of two Parties will actually bring it up as an excuse for not going all-out on the spending altogether — but it’s a pity that there aren’t enough people in this country who care enough about the issue to actually make it politically feasable to avert the crisis that will be caused by overspending.

                2. If you’re going off the cliff, do it fast and end the agony

              3. Not correct–Bush II and Congress quickly decreased taxes to give the taxpayers their money back — commonly known as the Bush Tax Cuts. The was based upon assumptions the surpluses would continue.

                1. It was based on the almost cult-like status of supply side economics among the GOP faithful. It had nothing to do with whether there would be surpluses. Just like Trump’s tax cuts had nothing to do with surpluses. In both cases, it had to do with GOP-aligned special interests wanting a bigger pile of gold to roll around in, Scrooge McDuck style.

                2. That was 2001 and 2003. We saw revenue drops of $140B and $100B those years.

                  In 2001 the deficit was $133B, yeah, about the same size as the tax reduction, so you could argue it would have been balanced otherwise.

                  In 2003, the deficit was $555B, enormously bigger, and they kept getting bigger. Why did that happen?

                  Because Congress kept on spending more than incoming revenue.

                  1. In 2003 we were at war in Afghanistan AND Iraq. That explains the deficit

            4. I can’t help but think that the Tea Party was the last concerted effort, before it got co-opted and dissoveld and otherwise diffused, of the voters to bring spending under control. And even then, there were Tea Partiers who were yelling “no more spending, no more taxing, and don’t you dare touch Medicare!” with no sense that spending is so out-of-control, everything has to be cut.

              At this point, I think the only thing that’s going to stop the deficit spending is a complete collapse of the financial system. And I sure as heck am not looking forward to that.

          2. “It’s been that way for decades: You could have made the federal deficit go away at any time by just holding spending per capita constant for a few years”

            20 years ago, the budget was in surplus. Where did that surplus go, Brett? Which party was running things when it disappeared?

        2. “They”?

          The deficit ballooned under Trump, with tons of support from Republicans. The current state of the federal deficit is a bipartisan creation, but Republicans have not even been attempting to pay for their tax cuts OR spending in recent years whereas outside of one-time stimulus efforts Democrats generally have been.

          1. Yeah, I’ll agree with that, the Republicans are guilty, absolutely. It’s a bipartisan mess. “They” is the establishment of both parties.

            His first year in office, Trump proposed a budget with some spending cuts. That’s real history. Congress came back with a spending bill that rejected the cuts, passed by a bipartisan, veto proof majority. After that he gave up on even trying, but he did try that once.

            Sure, I’d have preferred that he proposed budget cuts every year, and forced Congress to do the whole thing over again every year, just to demonstrate who was responsible for the deficit. I’m into grand, futile, clarifying gestures. He had other things to spend his limited political capital on.

            1. No mention of tax cuts, of course.

              1. Did they pass Congress? I think they did.

                You can’t balance the budget as President if a bipartisan, veto proof majority of Congress don’t want the budget balanced. It’s literally illegal to try, Presidents are legally mandated to spend every cent Congress appropriates, because Congress got tired of Presidents trying to spend less.

                1. Brett Bellmore : Did they pass Congress? I think they did.

                  That’s just an evasion. The real question is whose policies are followed and what results. Reagan had a Democratic Congress but it was RR’s policies that brought a nuclear explosion of debt. Trump called for a massive tax cut and massive increases in spending, regardless of the tiny cosmetic spending cuts you recall. The deficits that resulted are his. If Biden’s policies are passed the ensuing debt is Biden’s. (Of course he’ll be the first Democratic president in forty years who hasn’t tried to ameliorate the fiscal irresponsibility of his republican predecessors)

                  1. The tax cuts passed Congress. So did the spending.

                    Did every Republican attend a backwater religious school, or get homeschooled by drooling, drawling hayseeds?

          2. “The deficit ballooned under Trump”

            So, revenues are up under Trump. And admittedly, 2020 was an unusual year where the deficit did ballon.

            Before that? Trump’s deficits were under Obama’s deficits for what was Obama’s entire first term.

            1. Deficits decreased under Obama after 2010

              1. That’s because Obama jacked them super high to start his term. Then very slowly decreased them.

                Under your logic, Biden could “just” have 2 Trillion dollar deficits for the rest of his term, and you’d view it as “improvement”.

                1. “That’s because Obama jacked them super high to start his term.”

                  Gee, what was happening at the start of Obama’s term that might have caused some deficit spending? Oh, yeah, the economy was in free-fall. The cause of the Great Recession was prior to Obama being elected.

          3. They balloon under Trump until they skyrocketed under Biden.
            C’mon. You say ballooned when the huge increase was in 2020 thanks to the COVID crash. Cut the partisan BS.

            1. “the huge increase was in 2020 thanks to the COVID crash”

              The COVID crash that Republicans are dead-set on prolonging.

              #Make America Sick Again!

        3. And it’s all due to wildly increased spending.

          Nothing to do with tax cuts? Really?

            1. Brett Bellmore : “Are revenues up?”

              I know they must exist, but I’ve never known a Right-type yet with the slightest degree of economic literacy. Brett’s shtick here is a prime example. Sure, revenue is up; it’s almost always is. The last time I checked, federal revenue increased 46 times out of the last 50 years. It rises if taxes are increased or decreased. It rises if the scope of government expands or stays the same. The only time it doesn’t increase is after a major economic shock, then it just resets lower and begins to automatically climb again. The economy expands, the population grows, federal revenue increases. Saying revenue is up is like saying water is wet. The statement doesn’t add much meaning.

              Because, guess what? The other side of the ledger increases with the same inevitability. The economy expands, the population grows, federal spending increases. It increases if the scope of government grows or remains the same. It increases if the scope of government is cut, just at a lower rate.

              You see, growth rate is everything. A massive tax cut still results in increased federal revenue, but at a significantly lower rate. If there aren’t corresponding spending cuts, the corresponding growth rate there will increase the deficit.

              I’d like to think Brett will never again peddle such simplistic lackbrain tripe as, “are revenues up?” But post-Reagan economic policy from the Right is a complete lie, top to bottom. People don’t have many options to defend it honestly.

              1. GRB,

                The problem is, you don’t put these numbers in context.

                Since 2010, population is up ~8%
                GDP is up ~40%
                Federal Revenue is up ~50%
                And Federal spending is up ~80%.

                By any measure, it’s the spending that’s the problem.

                1. Armchair,

                  If the deficit increases it can be caused by three factors:

                  (A) A decrease in the growth rate of federal revenues
                  (B) An increase in the growth rate of federal spending
                  (C) A combination of both factors, often acerbated by economic shock

                  That settled, two things:

                  (1) Brett’s statement was economically-illiterate nonsense. Massive tax cuts always add to the deficit and did so with Trump. To say “revenue is up” just shows you’re clueless.

                  (2) We’re obviously looking at Condition C here, with the trifecta of factors : Economic shock, repressed revenue, increased spending. Trump’s deficit increase involved all three elements, as witnessed by the fact the deficit exploded pre-pandemic while the economy was still expanding. It’s worth noting that there was a marked-increase in yearly deficits from Obama to Trump, even though they shared almost exactly the same economic numbers, the three years before & after Trump’s inauguration.

                  1. GRB,

                    Your math is wrong. Let me correct it for you.

                    1) If the deficit increases it can be caused by three factors:
                    (A) A decrease in federal revenues
                    (B) An increase in federal spending
                    (C) A combination of both factors.

                    Federal revenues INCREASED. But federal spending INCREASED more.
                    That’s what caused the increase in the deficit. Choice B.

                    The growth rate is second order. But the deficit is primary order.

                  2. To demonstrate why your math is wrong, imagine the following situation.

                    1) The growth rate in Federal Revenue from 2019 to 2020 to 2021 doesn’t change.
                    2) The growth rate in Federal spending 2019 to 2020 to 2021 doesn’t change.

                    Under that situation, the federal deficit would go up.

                2. “By any measure, it’s the spending that’s the problem.”

                  Unless, say, you used the measure of deficit/surplus = revenue – spending, inwhich case the problem could be either not having enough income OR having too much outgo.

                  A few possible relationships.
                  1) If you spend on investments, and they pay off, then spending more creates more revenue, and you come out ahead.

                  2) if you defer spending on maintenance, eventually that maintenance has to be performed or you risk losing the asset, in which case cutting spending eventually reduces revenue.

                  3) If you want to spend right now some revenue that hasn’t come in yet, you have to borrow to do it and thus you incur interest expense, lowering the spending you can do in the future.

              2. GRB, adjusted for inflation, per capita federal spending. No blaming it on the nation’s population going up, no blaming it on currency changes, this is pure “We’re spending more!”

                1965? $3,782.
                2018? $12,619
                2020? $19,962.

                Again, adjusted for inflation, per capita, perfectly head to head. Spending has exploded.

                1. “Again, adjusted for inflation, per capita, perfectly head to head. Spending has exploded.”

                  If you invest well, increasing spending brings you benefits. For example, a previous generation built the dams on the Columbia River and established the Bonneville Power Administration, which provides low-cost electricity in the Pacific Northwest. That’s low-cost electricity for everybody who buys electricity, a side benefit to the fact that the federal government operates the dams at a profit. Also on the Columbia River, the federal government operates the Multnomah Falls recreational site, the most popular tourist destination in the United States by number of visitors. Until it was closed because of wildfire, you could just show up and walk on the trails for free, or you could stop off at the Multnomah Falls Lodge and have a lovely meal, before stopping by the gift shop to buy a poster or a belt buckle or a t-shirt (they don’t even check to see if you actually walked all the way to the top before they’ll sell you a “view from the top” t-shirt.)

          1. As Brett points out, US direct Federal revenues have gone up substantially since 2010. From 2.2 Trillion in 2010 to 3.4 trillion in 2020. About a 50% increase.

            Spending on the other hand has gone from 3.5 to 6.5 Trillion (2010 to 2020). An 80% increase. If you want to use the 2019 numbers instead (precovid), it’s 3.5 and 4.4 trillion for revenue and spending, respectively.

            Revenue is going up. Problem is, spending is also going up. Sometimes dramatically.

          2. Of course it has something to do with tax cuts and a lot more, especially this year, to do with wildly growing spending plans.

            1. But, despite tax cuts, revenues ARE up. For all the disdain Laffer gets, he wasn’t wrong about that: Lower tax rates DO boost the economy, and even if you’re on the wrong side of his curve for that to actually increase revenue immediately, it tends to reduce the revenue losses to less than proportional in the short term, and in the long term they go up.

              As long as revenues have in fact increased, you can’t blame the increased deficit on the tax side. It’s all spending.

              1. Its not a zero sum game. The spending is an investment in the future and the resulting increases in GDP will increase revenues.

                1. Bah. Spending can be an investment in the future, but generally is only an investment in the outcome of the next election.

                  1. I get it–only tax cuts can unleash the engine of growth

                    1. And tax cuts are never an investment in the next election.

                2. “increases in GDP will increase revenues.”
                  and even more thirst for faster spending.
                  And ever smaller cojones to raised the tax rates on the working class.

              2. Revenues are up but spending is increasing faster than revenues.
                There is lots of blame to go around and around. And every year the service on the debt gets larger and larger. For FY 22 it will be well over $0.5T

              3. As long as revenues have in fact increased, you can’t blame the increased deficit on the tax side.

                This is just absurd.

              4. “But, despite tax cuts, revenues ARE up.”

                If Biden gets to spend his 3.5T dollars, then revenues will go up again, because approximately 100% of the 3.5T dollars will show up as income to somebody, and the United States taxes income.

      2. Poor Bob doesn’t realize that 2021 comes AFTER 1981.

  6. resulting in a four-day shutdown when Reagan vetoed a compromise bill that passed the House and Senate.

    So it was Reagan’s shutdown.

    Bernstein is trying to be cute..in his mind it doesn’t matter how anyone acts or how we got to this point..it’s always congresses fault?

    If a compromise was passed by both chambers and the Pres veto’s that the President’s shutdown.

    If the one party blocks budgets and legislation from passing — that’s that parties shutdown.

    If both parties refuse to pass a budget reolution or whatnot, then it’s congress’s shutdown.

    It’s not that complicated if you aren’t trying to push some BS agenda — but then you would have to actually care about facts and context….

    1. So you agree. The potential shutdown that’s looming now is the fault of the Democratics.

      1. Put it up to a vote and see which party’s Congresscritters made the most “no” votes… that’s who to blame for it not passing (assuming it didn’t pass.)

        1. That’s a sad case of the politician’s syllogism: “We must pass something. This is something. We must pass this!”

          Not all bills deserve to pass.

          1. I didn’t propose an algorithm to determine if the bill deserve(s/d) to pass. I proposed an algorithm to determine who should be blamed for it not passing, in the event is doesn’t pass.

  7. Oh the media is certainly consistent – it’s the Republicans’ fault regardless.

    1. Weird how they always get blamed for shutting down the federal government, just because they constantly talk about how evil and oppressive the federal government is and how they want to starve it of funding. Very unfair!

      1. Blame is a BS partisan game no matter who plays it.

        1. Blame is a BS partisan game whenever it is a BS partisan game.

          In those rare occasions when it is NOT a BS partisan game, it is not a BS partisan game.

          I reject your premise that everything is partisan.

  8. I think I can guess the course of this thread:

    [Titanic rushes toward inceburg]

    “We need to get to our destination on time, increase speed!”

    “Increase it even more!”

    “Increase it to eleventy!”

    “Hey, you’re endangering the ship!”

    “*I* am – you urged higher speech.”

    “But you were more irresponsible about it.”

    “Liar!”

    “Kiss my ass!”

    CRUNCH

    1. Higher speed not higher speech

      1. If only the Titanic had had access to radio, because reports of iceberg sightings had gone out over the radio that April. The Captain of the Titanic didn’t get those reports because although the Titanic had a radio, it had only one radio operator who was off-shift when the reports were broadcast.

  9. Seriously?

    The Times didn’t “botch” anything. They altered history to please their Progressive constituency.

    1. The Times has a love for Keynes and a serious “Old world grudge” against well pretty much all Americans of European background (peasants specifically) including Catholics, Irish, Italian, Poles and so forth. Look how they covered the largest lynching in American history in New Orleans or how they covered up Troytsky’s genecide on peasants in the Ukraine…its a bolshevik paper..

      1. Can you relate how lynchings in New Orleans or peasant massacres in Ukraine are of interest to news consumers in New York City? They may claim to print “all the news” but they do not, nor does anybody really want them too.

  10. I guess the gist of this is similar to my experience as a parent: “Why did you hit your sister?” “But she hit me first!”

    1. The secret solution to this to have only one child, and no political parties.

  11. I don’t say this much, but there’s also rarely a post here about purely fiscal policy, but 1. DB makes a mostly good point here, 2. while many of the usual suspects make the usual simplistic points, the Dems really are spendaholics. That doesn’t mean the GOPers are responsible, they’re not but Biden’s budget request is extreme and it’s the Dems who seem to insist on tying this to the debt ceiling. The Dems should be able to just take the half or part of the loaf that Manchin will go in for, that they’re not comes off as extreme.

    1. The Democrats aren’t being irrational here, IMO. The Biden administration is turning into enough of a disaster that they’ve probably doomed themselves in the midterms. So they want to do something big that losing control of Congress next year can’t erase. With the secondary thought that if they go big enough, maybe they can buy enough votes to hold onto that majority.

      But, you know, they already set a time bomb for early next year. They arranged for early disbursal of child tax credits over the next six months, with a very laborious process for opting out.

      The result of that is that unless you jump through a lot of hoops, you get a series of checks this fall and winter, and unless you had the sense to adjust your withholding to negate them, you’re looking at a big tax bill next year.

      So they’ve arranged for a bunch of people to be desperate for another Covid check next summer.

      1. My method for opting out was neither complicated nor time-consuming. 100% of my offspring are self-sufficient adults having their own taxes withheld, and thus not affecting my taxes in the slightest way.

  12. This goes on until the dollar loses reserve currency..then we either have a one time debt holiday with serious austerity for a long time or try to inflate the debt away (the likely course) which means high prices and lower living standards and yes even Chinese stuff won’t be cheap anymore. Watch out for your 401K’s as well..the govt needs to “borrow” them

  13. The article never claims that it is Congress’ responsibility, only that the logic of the media claims is inconsistent. still good conversation.

    1. It did say
      “In 1981, the Democrat-controlled House refused to agree to President Reagan’s budget demands, resulting in a four-day shutdown when Reagan vetoed a compromise bill that passed the House and Senate.”

  14. Not sure of the blame for the 1980s shutdowns. Looking at the Wikipedia list of federal government shutdowns, they were all one day in length (and the first under Carter occurred a week after the decision that funding gaps required a shutdown), and appeared to result from specific disagreements over spending preferences.

    The 1990 shutdown appears to have been fomented by Newt Gingrich and conservative Republicans, as President Bush and the Congressional Democrats had a deal that violated Bush’s campaign promise of no new taxes. Still only 3 days, and over a weekend.

    The modern shutdowns extending over many days were in 1995-1996, 2013 and 2018-2019 (the last at a time when Republicans controlled both Congress and the Presidency, and Trump demanded wall). Bernstein insisted that cost was the yardstick for judging BLM protests compared to the Rodney King riots. In millions of 2021 dollars, the 1980s shutdowns totaled 595; the 1990 shutdown a little more than 5; the latter three shutdowns totaled 8,445. In each case for the latter three, public opinion decidedly blamed the Republicans.

    I’d believe that any shutdown represents hardball on both sides. And the NY Times paywall pretty much precludes my studying how their stories covered them. The earlier shutdowns appear to have followed disputes on what spending or cuts to pass.

    But Bernstein further misrepresents the NYT article; the raising of the debt ceiling was pretty routine prior to 1995, and the earlier shutdowns were over failures to appropriate rather than the debt ceiling. Wikipedia says the debt ceiling was raised 18 times under Reagan, but lists the first “debt ceiling crisis” as 1995 – and that’s what Leonhardt and Philbrick are writing about, blocking debt ceiling increases as a bludgeon against spending that was already passed by Congress and signed by the President.

    I guess I can commend Bernstein for not dragging COMMUNISTS into this post, though.

    1. “I guess I can commend Bernstein for not dragging COMMUNISTS into this post, though.”

      He also didn’t find a way to blame illegal immigrants for anything.

Please to post comments