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The Democrats Cut Up The Credit Cards

beggarThirdStPromenade.jpg

It's a pay-as-you-go Congress now. (Better way-too-late than never.) Lori Montgomery writes for The Washington Post:

On its second day under Democratic management, the House yesterday overwhelmingly approved new rules aimed at reining in deficit spending and shedding more light on the murky world of special-interest projects known as earmarks.

Under the new provisions, the House will for the first time in years be required to pay for any proposal to cut taxes or increase spending on the most expensive federal programs by raising taxes or cutting spending elsewhere. And lawmakers will be required to disclose the sponsors of earmarks, which are attached in virtual secrecy to legislation to direct money to favored interests or home-district projects.

In recent months, with revelations that lawmakers had earmarked funds for projects with little public benefit, earmarks had became a political embarrassment and a symbol of fiscal profligacy.

Frank Pasquale wonders (with the barn door wide open), if Pay-Go would've stopped the Iraq War, estimated by some experts to cost between one and two trillion dollars...and still no Osama. Pasquale runs a comparison:

If we accept the figure that the cost of the war is about $200 billion annually, it's rather striking in comparison with the cost of some other goals, including
Universal health insurance ($100 billion)
Universal pre-school ($35 billion)
Worldwide immunizations ($0.6 billion)

So an interesting hypothetical would be: what would have happened if the Iraq war had to have been proposed in conjunction with, say, at least $100 billion in annual tax increases? Would Congress have approved it so quickly? And if, say, an average tax increase of about $330 per person per year would have been an insurmountable obstacle to war, what does that say about the nation's collective commitment to the endeavor?

All these points are raised in a more interesting way by Michael Ignatieff's Virtual War, where he worries (inter alia) that advanced technology (such as unmanned drones) could so lower the cost of war for its owners that they turn to military action far more quickly than they ought to. Pay-go brings up a more quotidian, but just as pressing, dilemma: does the concentration of the costs of the war on certain groups, and effective mortgaging of those costs far into the future, make us too prone to conflict? While obscure budgetary rules barely make the headlines, they may well be at the foundation of political support (or lack thereof) for war.

Unfortunately, Americans have been about as interested in spending limits in government as they've been in their personal, debt-soaked lives. I'm always amazed to overhear people bragging about getting a great rate on a credit card. I mean, sure, maybe sometimes you have a dire emergency, but why do you need a "great rate"?

It's really simple: Don't spend money you don't have. You're a chump if you do...especially if you do silly things like line up in the cold outside some store on "Black Friday." Think of all the money you saved! Yes, think of it as you're paying 16-plus percent interest. So, that sweater you got for 15 percent off...was actually 30 percent added, after you got done paying off Visa?

Of course, percentages like that are rather nebulous. So...just imagine if there were signs in stores with the actual cost of some "bargain" item after you get done paying for it:

"Relatively crappy pants, $39.99. Your price: $259.77!"

Posted by aalkon at January 31, 2007 10:21 AM

Comments

If you believe that the Democrats are serious about cutting spending, I have some prime beachfront property in Vegas to sell you.

And if you think that "universal healthcare" will only cost $100 billion, I commend to you the off-by-an-order-of-magnitude estimates for Medicare costs. Think "Trillion" and you might be closer.

All the Dems are going to do is make it harder for us to see the spending. They'll cut spending about the same time Jesus comes back.

Which is to say, never.

Posted by: brian at January 31, 2007 5:31 AM

Never give money to a beggar who's smoking, drinking or otherwise having more fun than you're going to have that weekend.

Posted by: Crid at January 31, 2007 7:05 AM

Also, why are you still so focused on Osama? We've killed scores of his associates... How with things be different if we actually get the man himself?

Posted by: Crid at January 31, 2007 7:06 AM

Going after Osama means going after the heart of Al Qaeda instead of fucking around in Iraq (and fucking ourselves in the process) due to the three-plus-stooges running this country who apparently had little knowledge of the fact that there aren't just Muslims, but factions within Islam who hate each other and want each other dead. Civil war...oops!

I have little faith in either party, by the way. I just appreciate any attempt to reel in the $luts in government.

And right on, Crid, on the money-to-beggars thing.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 31, 2007 9:28 AM

Brian,
Well, it's impossible for the Democrats to be less fiscally responsible than the Republicans were during the first six years of the Bush administration. Budgets are better when Congress and the President have to fight it out. Spending may very well be cut on the Democrats' watch as a result. It certainly won't grow as it has since 2000.

Crid - Killing Osama is important for symbolic purposes. Reminds people that if you orchestrate attacks against the U.S. you end up dead.

Posted by: justin case at January 31, 2007 10:08 AM

Groovy, but we shouldn't talk like this was about just one one guy.

Posted by: Crid at January 31, 2007 10:29 AM

Of course it was never about just one guy. There's a whole bunch of other people who need to end up dead too. It's a trickier thing to figure out who they are, though.

Posted by: justin case at January 31, 2007 10:39 AM

Perhaps I should be more specific. I was using Osama to mean Al Qaeda in general. See Justin's comment above.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 31, 2007 10:45 AM

Commenting distractedly from work means you sometimes double double up on certain certain words.

It is scandalous that we've not got him yet. And this isn't going to be a mystery, like Deep Throat, where you wait a lifetime to find out the truth. We may never know what happened to the fucker, or who got paid off to keep him hidden.

Posted by: Crid at January 31, 2007 11:26 AM

I'm with you, Crid, on the scandal of this. This is one of the things I like about you, you're a partisan for common sense -- something that's entirely too uncommon.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 31, 2007 11:28 AM

in fairness to the military and intellegence community, this was really about two men. And they did catch and hang one of them.

I try to never put consumable goods on a credit card, sucks to be paying off beer you drank long ago. I wish we could at least get some highways and levees out of the deficit spending.

Posted by: smurfy at January 31, 2007 12:40 PM

Amy, you flatterer...

(Looks left, looks right, no LYT, coast clear:) I still think OBL died under a daisy cutter in 11/01.

Posted by: Crid at January 31, 2007 12:50 PM

Crid - I think you're right about Osama (but maybe not the timing). I've long argued that he achieved cave temperature not long after we started this whole thing. The video tapes stopped. That man was a total camera whore. There's no way in hell he wouldn't be on video every damn week poking "the great satan" if he was still drawing breath.

Amy - you forget one little thing about the Muslims. They can put aside their petty differences if there's enough infidels to kill. That latest attack in Israel? Intended by Fatah to say "hey, why are we killing each other, there's still Jews to murder".

If we could find a way to keep them fighting each other they wouldn't be out killing Jews. Which is why the Israeli fence was a brilliant idea. Box them in on one side, at least. Then they have to get back to their millenia-old tribal pissing matches.

Posted by: brian at January 31, 2007 3:03 PM

Looks left, looks right, no LYT

Why would you look right?

Posted by: LYT at January 31, 2007 3:25 PM

Bush waited a month to attack Afghanistan and let OBL escape to his brother's house in Saudi Arabia; where he watches bellydancers and CNN and drinks Turkish coffee and takes his dialysis treatments in style.

Posted by: Chicknlady at January 31, 2007 11:18 PM

chicknlady -

Do you think for one picosecond that an attention whore like Bin Laden would go two years without being in front of a video camera?

It's all about him. Being alive holds no thrill for him unless he's sticking a thumb in someone's eye. The lack of that thumb is a good indicator that he's worm food.

Posted by: brian at February 1, 2007 5:39 PM

Nah, he's in a secret prison run by the former staff of a gulag. I hear he has one helluva time wiping his ass with no fingers.

Posted by: Casca at February 3, 2007 9:43 AM

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