Monday, August 1, 2011

Resurrecting Bob Taft?

Nobody seems to be talking much about the balanced budget amendment component of the debt ceiling deal. I guess the consensus must be that it's not all that likely to happen. I'm not exactly up on the exact process for passing a constitutional amendment, but I think I heard something about needing a two thirds majority in the Senate. There are probably enough Democrats in safe seats and Democrats not up for reelection in 2012 that it's not all that likely to happen. Hopefully.

So the excitement seems to be instead with the military spending cuts part of the deal...there are some in the immediate cuts I think, and potentially a whole hell of a lot if some other compromise can't be worked by November. Nate Silver (who I'd stopped reading when he moved to the NY Times and got harder to follow using Google Reader, but I recently got reminded what a valuable resource he is for trying to actually understand things) seems to think any compromise will have to be pretty darn appealing to Democrats, as in tax increases instead of spending cuts, before it becomes more appealing than the possibility of just having 50% of the cuts come from defense spending. I'm not sure if that's right...defense spending funnels a whole lot of money into a whole lot of people's districts, and very few Democrats would be willing to be called anti-military...but I guess there is reasonable hope that the next round of brinkmanship will be a little different. The Republican party is at least partially an alliance between the anti-tax rich and a segment of the working class that culturally identifies strongly with the military. Seeing as how military spending is a major source of the demand for tax dollars, I kind of wonder if it's an alliance that still makes sense. I can see how it may have during the Cold War...the international threat of Communism was in direct opposition to the capitalist system, and a threat to overseas markets for U.S. businesses. But now "communist" China is a global epicenter for business opportunity...while I don't think anybody thinks we're going to get back the money we're pouring into Afghanistan just as soon as they regain their footing and become an important trading partner. I see potential that support for military spending might significantly erode in the most anti-tax segments of the Republican party, especially if the two priorities are put in direct opposition to each other like they apparently will be in November. Frankly, I bet a lot more Republican voters benefit directly from Social Security and Medicare than from military spending, and the kind of nationalistic sentiment that motivates a lot of the pro-military feeling on the right only needs a couple of tweaks and a Democratic commander-in-chief to morph into America First isolationism. It should be interesting to watch.


  1. The balanced budget amendment has no chance of being ratified by the states in the next 10 years, so it's really just political posturing to give a chance for Republicans to suck up to the Tea Party. "Hey vote for us because we voted for a balanced budget amendment which would put the nation in danger just in case you know we had to defend our shores from our enemies or something".

    I'm confused with this trigger mechanism. You got a handle on it? I wonder if it's intentional that the media/politicians aren't citing specifics as to how this mechanism would be enforced. I understand it would only take affect if the second round of cuts aren't agreed to and I know about the whole 500-600 billion of cuts to defense spending (that's the only thing I see in all media sources). But who decides where the other discretionary spending cuts come from? The Treasury? A computer in DC randomly choosing programs? Does the President make the decision? And if President Obama does, can he say cut oil subsidies (or is that considered a tax cut, hence off the table)? When do these triggered cuts occur? ARG! Bill text isn't online yet and the media isn't very informative right now, so I'm still not completely sure what to think about the "Satan sandwich". Evil or just spicy?

  2. My best source of information so far is Nate Silver's article here:

    I don't know for sure, but I think automatic cuts are mostly already determined. A big part of Nancy Pelosi's role the last couple of days has apparently been in making sure entitlements and programs for the poor are protected. Matt Yglesias has a good chart of the non-defense cuts here: