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America: A Near-Debt Experience

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America’s debt problems are enough to keep people up at night — and yesterday, they did! While the rest of the country was counting sheep, Congress was counting votes on a controversial budget deal that finally passed in the wee hours of Friday morning. At 3:12 a.m., with the government’s credit completely maxed out, the Senate gave its approval to a deal that John Boehner hatched as one of his last acts as Speaker.

The “truce,” as some are calling it, kicks the country’s debt problems into the post-Obama era with few meaningful cuts to the deficit in the meantime. Overall, the bill — which less than a third of House Republicans supported — balloons federal spending by another $80 billion over the next two years.

And while conservatives cheered the bump in Defense dollars, the agreement pushed any savings into later years when a future Congress could scrap them. That was the poison pill for most Republicans, who were pushing for equal cuts now to offset the spike in America’s borrowing limit. Apart from some modest reforms, conservatives didn’t get substantial help in reining in an out-of-control budget from the deal.

And it wasn’t just the substance the GOP didn’t like — but the process. “[It] stinks,” said new House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), who was intentionally kept out of the negotiations to spare him any blame. In a rare criticism of Boehner, Speaker Ryan vowed to scrap this last-minute, closed-door budget scheming. “This is not the way to do the people’s business. And under new management, we are not going to the people’s business this way. We are up against a deadline — that’s unfortunate. But… as a conference we should’ve been meeting months ago to discuss these things to have a unified strategy going forward.”

Regardless of the hour, several Republicans took time to blast the deal on the Senate floor in the dead of night. Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) was outraged for people in his state, who take issue with the Democrats’ glowing review of the bill. “It was announced by the White House today that this is a great job-creating achievement,” he said, “but all they see is more spending and no change in the status quo… It’s actually zero savings. It’s not real.”

Not surprisingly, the deal’s 64 votes didn’t include any of the GOP presidential candidates, who left little to the imagination in their critique. “The Right’s going to get more military money, the Left’s going to get more welfare money. The secret handshake goes on, and the American public gets stuck with the bill,” Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) argued. “This deal will do nothing but explode the debt. If you are conservative, you will say, ‘There’s no way I’m going to vote to give an unlimited power to the president to borrow money.”

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was just as perturbed, pointing out that the agreement gives the president a “diamond-encrusted, glow-in-the-dark AmEx card.” “And it has a special feature,” he went on. “The president gets to spend it now, and they don’t even send him the bill. They send the bill to your kids and my kids. It’s a pretty nifty card. You don’t have to pay for it. You get to spend it, and it’s somebody else’s problem.”

Under this administration, America owes 75% more than it did under George W. Bush. And by the time this minute is over, we’ll owe two million dollars more. If Congress wants to know why voters are frustrated with Washington — we can think of at least 18 trillion reasons why!



 

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