A Battle Worth Fighting

October 7, 2013 - 3:08 AM
Hey, here's a scoop! I was wrong about when the shut down would end. I thought it would be last Thursday.

My new prediction is: Never.

As I think I've made pretty clear in MULLINGS and on TV, I thought -- and still think -- that tying the shutdown to repealing or delaying ObamaCare was a bad idea.

That doesn't mean I think ObamaCare is a good idea; I do not. But, the GOP's mantra, if you will remember, was "Repeal and Replace."

Republicans in the House and Senate cannot repeal, and they have not offered a replacement.

But, that was last week's news. This week's news is we are about 10 days from the financial world coming to an end - again - this time because we are about to bump our national fiscal head on the debt ceiling.

The current debt limit is, according to the Congressional Budget Office, $16.699 trillion.

The federal debt limit is no different than the limit on your VISA card. When you hit it, you can't use it at Target (or anyplace else) anymore.

According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, we will hit our national credit card limit on Thursday, October 17, 2013. The last time we hit the debt limit was, according to the Concord Coalition, "May 19th, 2013. On that date, the debt limit reset to the total federal debt at the time, which at that point was $16.699 trillion."

If you're keeping score, the new debt limit was $305 billion more than the previous debt limit which had been set on January 28, 2012. That limit was $1.2 trillion higher than its predecessor that had been set on September 22, 2011.

So, raising the debt limit has become a regular event here in Our Nation's Capital.

There are many reasons - too technical and complicated for you or me to understand - as to why we have to raise the debt ceiling.

I think they all come down to this: We. Are. Spending. Too. Much. Money.

As a recipient of both Social Security and Medicare, I understand that cutting back on those benefits is frightening to many who, unlike me, have no other source of income or health care.

SIDEBAR

I got a flu shot over the weekend. My Blue Cross insurance did not cover it. Medicare Part B did, so for all of you who wrote to me to say that I don't need Medicare Part B if I have private insurance--hah!

As I mentioned the other day, I pay $335.70 per month for Medicare Part B.

I don't know how much the flu shot would have cost sans insurance, but as this is the first thing Medicare Part B has ever paid for it cost me $4,028.40.

END SIDEBAR

You might well be asking yourself, "If $16.7 trillion isn't enough - how much IS enough?

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. According to the NY Times, he wrote to Jack Lew, who is the Secretary of the Treasury, and asked the same thing.

Here, according to the Times is how Lew responded: "Only Congress can authorize an increase in the nation's borrowing authority, and therefore Congress must choose how long to extend the debt limit."

That's like going in to buy a car and the sales person asking, "How much are you willing to pay?" If you say, "Three dollars and forty seven cents," you will not have a deal.

If the Congress raises the debt limit from $16.699 Trillion to $16.701 Trillion, we will not have a deal.

The reason Lew responded like a fool to Sen. Hatch is explained later in the article: "The Treasury secretary underscored the president's position that he...will not negotiate over whether the United States should pay its bills."

The money that goes to running the federal government comes from taxes you and I pay, from bonds the Treasury sells, and from fees, levies, and tolls it charges to maintain specific services.

That's the income side. On the outgo side money is spent on programs and projects each of which has a strong enough champion to demand it.

At some point we have to slow the growth of those programs on projects -- whether they be crop subsidies, food stamps, or -- dare I say it? Medicare and Social Security.

If Speaker John Boehner wants to have a fight over that, I'm in.

That is a worthy battle -- a winnable battle. ObamaCare is not.

On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to both the Treasury Department's and the Congressional Budget Office's explanation of the debt limit, and the NY Times piece about Secretary Lew's dodging the central question of how much more money he needs. Also a Mullfoto showing one of the essential services shut down during the shutdown.