The Advocate’s Editors Weigh In On The Debt Limit, With Predictable Results

There are things more irritating than the patronizing, ignorant leftism of the editorial staff at the Baton Rouge Advocate, but not all that many.

Case in point: today’s op-ed about the debt ceiling debate.

We’re treated to what is billed as smart, objective commentary by folks who know what they’re talking about – and the judgement of the Illuminati On The Bayou is that it’s all John Boehner’s fault.

Somehow, the Glorious Fourth just doesn’t have the patriotic effect on statesmen that it used to. Nowhere is that more in evidence than in the needless and potentially destructive debate about raising the U.S. government’s debt ceiling.

For some weeks, policymakers have been saying Congress ought to get to a vote on raising the nation’s debt ceiling by July Fourth. Now that informal deadline is unlikely to be met.

This is something that just about every member of Congress knows has to be done.

The economic case for avoiding entwining the debt ceiling with the bitter debates over the budget deficit — another issue entirely — is profound and widely recognized. The International Monetary Fund, in its annual report on the U.S. economy, said Congress should move “expeditiously” to raise the debt ceiling before the last minute.

The fund’s report said politicizing the debate about the debt ceiling could prompt a spike in interest rates that might harm the American economy as well as world financial markets.

These are warnings that GOP leaders appear to be immune to.

Of course, this is neither objective, nor well-informed, nor intelligent.

That’s made even clearer as the piece continues…

The debt ceiling allows the Treasury to borrow to meet payments for everything from the bonds held by the public to Social Security recipients and other obligations of the government. So long as this country runs budget deficits — something we should not do — there is a need to raise the debt limit periodically.

Like Boehner, we long for the days when the debt ceiling does not have to be raised, but the debt ceiling is about the United States government honoring its obligations and avoiding a default on at least some of them.

Would the statesmen of 1776 see today’s debate in a positive light? We doubt it.

Not because they didn’t fight serious battles among themselves over fiscal policy, but because in those innocent times the sanctity of government obligations was felt to be, well, sacred.

This is drivel on virtually every point. Let’s just go through it, shall we?

First of all, the piece opens with an assault on the patriotism of Republican (and some Democrat) members of Congress because they’re serious about putting the federal government on a crash diet in exchange for an increase in the debt limit. We get that sober, wise analysis in the first sentence. And it’s offensive – if I’m Bill Cassidy or David Vitter, the Congressman and Senator to whom the Advocate’s editors are most particularly referring, I’m launching a fireball of indignation in response to the first sentence alone.

And the piece has absolutely no equal admonition of the president, who assailed Republicans on Wednesday with absurdities about corporate jet owners and his availability for negotiations – an availability which was promptly denied Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell when the latter invited Obama to meet with his team to discuss their budgetary concerns yesterday. The president had to travel on Air Force One to Philadelphia to attend his 31st fundraiser in the last two months, you see. Maybe that well-publicized exchange didn’t cross the AP wires in time for the Advocate’s crack editorial staff to see it before they determined the Republicans are doodieheads.

Next, we’re told that there will be no vote on raising the debt ceiling by the Fourth of July despite statements by “policymakers” that such a vote was needed.

Except nobody’s talking about the 4th of July. The date being discussed is August 2, which is the latest date soon-to-be-outgoing Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has offered up as a deadline beyond which the country may be in danger of default if the ceiling isn’t raised. Or July 22, the new date Congress is throwing around.

And furthermore, we’ve already had a debt-ceiling vote in Congress – on precisely the lines the Advocate’s editors seem to be demanding. It was a “clean” debt-ceiling vote, in fact, with no budgetary conditions attached. It took place in the House on May 31, and the vote was 318 to 97 against raising the debt ceiling. I’d say it’s understandable that the Advocate’s editors weren’t aware of that since, hey, nobody else reads the New York Times, either. Except lots of other outlets reported the vote as well. Did the Advocate? If so, it apparently wasn’t anyone from the editorial staff doing the piece; they maybe just ran some wire copy without even looking at it.

Readers who partake of news outlets beyond the Advocate would have to inquire whether the editors weren’t aware of that vote, or whether they don’t think it counts because they didn’t like the result. Bear in mind that 318 votes is almost 70 more than the Republican total in the House; lots of Democrats disagree with the idea that the debt ceiling just ought to be raised with no questions asked as Obama and Geithner (and the Advocate’s editors) demand.

Then we’re treated to a rather dutiful regurgitation of the idea that not raising the debt limit would be bad for the economy – based on what the IMF says. Because the IMF’s record of economic forecasting is beyond reproach and shouldn’t be challenged. Even USA Today’s John Waggoner, no disciple of Hayek and von Mises he, challenged the concept that this is a crisis by noting that 10-year Treasury rates are going at a reasonable 3.17 percent yield at present. That’s not exactly an indication the bond market is terrified about the negotiations.

We’re told Congress is immune to the IMF’s warnings about the debt. Maybe the Congressmen and Senators in question have a difference of opinion. Is it unpatriotic to disagree with the IMF? Apparently, the Advocate’s editors think so.

Then we’re told that failure to raise the debt ceiling puts government obligations at risk. Except that there is more than enough revenue coming into the government to pay interest on the debt, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid obligations and to pay our troops so long as Geithner and Obama are willing to prioritize federal spending in a responsible fashion. This fact – and specifically the fact that legislation authored by Pat Toomey (R-PA) in the Senate and Mitch Mulvaney (R-SC) in the House to that effect has been vitriolically condemned by Democrats as “paying the Chinese instead of Americans” – apparently also escaped the Advocate’s editors.

No attention is paid to the crushing effect federal borrowing has had on the economy, which is an article all to itself. Suffice it to say that when the federal government borrows a trillion dollars a year or more, someone has to lend that money to Geithner. And those funds being lent to the feds aren’t lent somewhere else, which means less capital for the guy with an idea for a better mousetrap. Ergo, crappy economic growth and crappy revenues to the treasury and crappy fiscal forecasts as far as the eye can see. Whether this flew over the heads of the Advocate’s editors or under their feet is impossible to say.

And then the coup de grace – we’re treated to a discussion of what our Founding Fathers would think of the debt ceiling controversy. We’re told that the Founders would have been revulsed by the politicization of the issue.

It’s worth asking which of the Founders the Advocate’s editors are referencing. Was it Thomas Jefferson?

We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debt, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our calling and our creeds…[we will] have no time to think, no means of calling our miss-managers to account but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers… And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for[ another]… till the bulk of society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery… And the fore-horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.

Was it John Adams?

There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by sword, the other is by debt.

Was it James Madison?

I go on the principle that a public debt is a public curse.

Or George Washington?

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as sparingly as possible; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen, which we ourselves ought to bear.

Ben Franklin?

Rather go to bed with out dinner than to rise in debt.

Maybe they were talking about Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton was perhaps the friendliest of the bunch, but even he’s not exactly the most supportive voice on this issue.

A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing.

In other words, the Advocate’s editors haven’t the faintest idea what they’re talking about. And that doesn’t stop them in the least from preaching to us about the most important national issue of the day.

We’re constantly told that the people in Louisiana are uninformed and don’t care about politics, and this is why the state performs so poorly on the various metrics applied to it. If this is so, perhaps one reason is that the people paid to inform and educate the public on matters political are so clearly devoid of understanding. As today’s editorial makes clear, anyone seeking enlightenment from that paper’s editorial page is doomed to blindness.



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