Late yesterday President Obama met with a gaggle of legislators -- most of them clueless pro-war types -- to tell them he has no intention of ending the disastrous and pointless occupation of Afghanistan. No one watching the cable news shows afterwards would ever have guessed that Ike Skelton, for example, is a Democrat. It was a bit of bipartisan bonhomie: the blind leading the lame. Sorry, but it almost could have been Bush up there. And this morning's Hill is reporting that obstructionist Republicans in Congress say they want to back Obama -- or at least McChrystal -- if he wants to escalate the war and continue the occupation. McCain, in fact, demands they do it with "deliberate haste." None of the Republicans mentioned tax increases ... of course.
Sunday I met with Barbara Lee and then blogged about something disturbing she told me -- basically that the House had already passed a bill introduced by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, H.R. 2920, the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2009. It passed on July 22, 265-166 with Lee and 12 other anti-war Democrats casting "nay" votes. There's an awful lot of verbiage there but what the bill does is exempt defense-related activities from pay-as-you-go budgetary constraints and this is a section that concerned me:
(4)(A) The term 'budgetary effects' means the amounts by which PAYGO legislation changes direct spending or revenues relative to the baseline and shall be determined on the basis of estimates included by reference in the PAYGO Act or prepared under section 4(d)(3), as applicable. Budgetary effects that increase direct spending or decrease revenues are termed `costs' and budgetary effects that increase revenues or decrease direct spending are termed `savings'.
As we've discussed before, Bush managed to fund his wars with supplemental budgets, avoiding Pay-Go restrictions. In other words, he just printed up hundreds of billions of dollars for all his misadventures without having to raise taxes or cut programs, in effect driving the country towards virtual bankruptcy and leaving the economy in a complete shambles.
Obama and the Democrats in general campaigned on ending supplemental budgets and going back to responsible and established budgetary procedures that the Bush Regime had disregarded as they showed what they really thought of serious financial conservatism. This, however, leaves Obama in an awkward situation. Most Americans -- as many as 70 percent -- oppose the war. Republicans have already shown they want to use whatever action Obama takes as a blunt-edged political weapon to continue their campaign to delegitimize his presidency. Republicans, with a handful of exceptions -- Ron Paul (TX), Tim Johnson (IL), Walter Jones (NC), perhaps a few others -- want to blindly and cluelessly escalate the war come what may. But they refuse to raise taxes to do it and insist on cutting social programs or borrowing money against future generations. War-oriented Democrats are generally afraid to be seen as less tough than the Republicans but are also afraid of cutting the social programs popular with their constituents.
The way Obama wants to get around this is by exempting military spending, a cheap trick that amounts to keeping the irresponsible Bush budgetary procedures without the name "supplemental." Hoyer's bill has now been sent over to the Senate where it's waiting for passage. The Democrats in the House who refused to be taken in by this ruse were:
William Clay (MO)
Bob Filner (CA)
Raul Grijalva (AZ)
Maurice Hinchey (NY)
Carolyn Kilpatrick (MI)
Dennis Kucinich (OH)
Barbara Lee (CA)
Jim McDermott (WA)
Ed Pastor (AZ)
Pete Stark (CA)
Bart Stupak (MI)
Anthony Weiner (NY)