“A lie can travel halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on,” as then British Prime Minister Callaghan said in 1976. Callaghan was, of course, a Labour PM and thus knew first-hand how political falsehoods work. I don’t know what kind of boots Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions wears, but he got them on fast enough to enable Senate Republicans to catch up with the Democrats’ budgetary misinformation and carry some important truths past them.
A few of Sessions’ truths are matters of the calendar and arithmetic: it’s been more than 760 days since the Democratic Senate passed a budget. In that time, the Obama gang and its congressional accomplices have spent about $7.1 trillion, our national debt has grown by more than $3.2 trillion, and the legal limit on government borrowing — $14,294,000,000,000 — has been reached.
The borrowed money runs out on about August 2. So if the Senate Dems don’t pass a budget or don’t get enough Republican votes to raise the debt ceiling our government would, the Dems say, default on its obligations and all economic hell would break loose. (That is Dem disinformation, as an April 27 Congressional Research Service report explains.)
Republicans have been consumed in the defense of the House-passed Paul Ryan budget, which would cut government spending by about $4 trillion over the next decade. The Democrats opposed every point in Ryan’s plan. The Dems’ “Mediscare” disinformation campaign was enough to attract five Senate RINOs to help defeat the Ryan plan in the Senate and win a special election in NY-26. They insist, falsely, that Ryan’s plan would convert Medicare into a voucher system.
The Senate Democrats’ strategy is delay. Borrowing President Obama’s (so far) successful strategy of delaying tough choices (on the budget, Iraq, Afghanistan and just about everything else) until 2013, the Senate Dems have refused to propose a budget or make any serious move to negotiate cost cuts to gain Republican votes on increasing the debt ceiling.
Even the New York Times and the Washington Post condemn the Dems’ stalling tactics. In a Sunday editorial, the uber-liberal NYT admitted that the Republicans have a point in demanding that the Dems propose something — anything — to deal with the budget: “… if Democrats are ever going to regain the momentum in the national conversation, they have to stand for something.” And they do: for increased spending and economically toxic tax hikes.
In its lead editorial (also on Sunday), the solipsistic Post managed to quote itself. Reverting to the wisdom of Bill Clinton, the Post quoted him telling Ryan (after the Democratic upset in the NY-26 special election which was achieved by use of Mediscare disinformation on Ryan’s plan) “I told [Democrats] before you got here, I said I’m glad we won this race in New York. But I hope Democrats don’t use this as an excuse to do nothing.” The Post went on to quote its own November 16, 1996 editorial: “If Democrats play the Mediscare card and win…they will have helped lock in place the enormous financial pressure that they themselves are the first to deplore on so many federal programs, not least the programs for the poor.”
Any time the Post criticizes the Democrats’ strategy, the Dems are in real trouble. When the Times joins in, the Dems are left with a strategy that resembles the stance of the owners of the Japanese nuclear power plants: in a meltdown they can’t understand.
How did the Dems manage to reach such a parlous state? It’s the handiwork of Jeff Sessions, actively supported by Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky).
Almost two months ago, Sessions — ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee — anticipated the Democrats’ stonewalling strategy. In an April 5 presser with Paul Ryan, he began by quoting the co-chairmen of Obama’s deficit commission — Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson — as saying we now face the most predictable budget crisis in our nation’s history. “Therefore,” Sessions said, “we have to act.” He added that Obama had presented “the most irresponsible budget in the history of this Republic,” increasing spending, taxes and debt, and that “the Senate has produced nothing.”
Since then Sessions has been patiently building his case. And the Dems have been arrogant enough to feed him ammunition.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), on the eve of the Senate’s Memorial Day vacation, told the L.A. Times on Thursday, “There’s no need to have a Democratic budget in my opinion. It would be foolish for us to do a budget at this stage.”
On that same day Sessions (and rising star Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire) sent Reid a letter signed by 48 Republican senators which said that by failing to produce a budget resolution, the Democratic Senate was defying the clear requirements of the law (the Congressional Budget Act of 1974). It said, in part, “in this time of economic danger, the Senate continues to stonewall any and all action on a FY2012 budget.” Citing Reid’s statement to the L.A. Times, the letter responded by saying, “We find these remarks shocking, especially given the state of our fiscal affairs.”
Sessions won that round, forcing Reid to keep the Senate in pro-forma session during its Memorial Day vacation. That’s a big deal, because Obama can’t make recess appointments unless the Senate has adjourned. So what will happen when the Senate returns?
Sen. McConnell told me, in a radio interview two weeks ago, that he expects the budget debate to be another exercise in brinksmanship. McConnell has been firm: any budget deal has to include some Medicare fix and won’t contain tax hikes.
I asked Sen. Sessions what we should expect when the Senate returns. In a Saturday e-mail, Sessions was also firm and quite clear.
Sessions told me, “Reducing spending is an acknowledgement of limits. But the hubristic, postmodern ideology of the Left does not recognize such limitations. Adherents to this philosophy are committing to defending and, where possible, extending the surge in government that they have engineered.”
He continued, “Consider that in just the last couple years, non-defense discretionary spending has soared twenty-four percent — not counting the more than $800 billion spent on the failed financial stimulus. Yet we continue to hear doomsday predictions from the architects of these policies about what will happen if even modest restraints are put in place.”
Sessions said that he feared Democratic leaders didn’t absorb the lesson of the November 2010 election. That was confirmed on Meet the Press last Sunday when Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that there was no daylight between himself, Obama, Clinton and the House Dems: they refuse to consider any real reform of Medicare. And spending cuts are anathema to them.
McConnell’s prediction of Democratic brinksmanship will prove true. Sessions is digging in to defeat it. The end of his e-mail to me says it all:
The long challenge before us is a defining one for our nation and is almost as great as nearly any we have previously confronted. Our debt problem is not simply the product of a few poor decisions but is systemically embedded in nearly every corner of our governmental apparatus. We face some difficult tasks ahead — but not one of them is impossible.
The first of these tasks is to provide an honest assessment of what happens if we continue down the same course. Our current road leads us to debt and decline. But the right road, the responsible road, leads us not only to solvency but to prosperity. And the choice between these two futures is what this debate is all about.
There will be some last-minute agreement on the debt ceiling which will avoid a default. But this issue won’t go away: the economy is still mired in an oxymoronic “jobless recovery” and next year’s presidential campaign will focus on that more than anything else.
The CRS report on debt default says that under current legislation, the government will have to borrow another $738 billion to keep going through the end of September. At the beginning of Fiscal Year 2012, the national debt could be over $15 trillion unless Sessions, Ryan, and the rest of the conservative budget cutters succeed.
We literally can’t afford for them to fail. Sessions and Ryan need to take their case outside the Beltway to the American voters. Continued joblessness, the rising cost of gasoline, the weak dollar are all due to Obama’s spending spree, his refusal to open U.S. oil reserves to offshore drilling and Democratic intransigence on the cost of government.
No Republican presidential candidate can defeat Obama without forcefully and continuously standing with Sessions and Ryan. According to a new Rasmussen poll, only 35% of Americans think our nation’s best years lie ahead. If Sessions and Ryan lose this fight, the pessimists will be proven right.