Debt ceiling sophistry and rebuttal
Barack H. Obama’s speech about the debt ceiling is a prize example of sophistry. But few have rebutted it properly. Herewith one attempt.
Rival speeches on the debt ceiling
Barack H. Obama
The man now holding office as President of the United States is responsible for paying the country’s bills, as long as he holds it. He knows, or should know, what bills take priority over others, and what the law says he must do. But two weeks ago, he held several groups of people, who get regular government checks, up for ransom. He said that he “couldn’t guarantee” that he could cover Social Security checks. Earlier, he said that Social Security had nothing to do with the deficit. In fact, the law says that the Social Security Trust Fund must cover any shortfall. That fund holds US Treasury bills. If the government sells those, then the public will hold a little more of the national debt, and the government that much less. The debt ceiling covers all debt, no matter who holds it.
At least Obama did not renew that threat last night. He did threaten default—which need not happen. Default means not paying back a lender what you owe him. Not buying the latest gewgaw (or, as in this case, a high-speed rail system) is not default. Cutting back on your hobbies (or, as in this case, government make-work programs) is not default. Deciding not to pay some foreign government that always throws your largesse in your face is not default. Those things are responsible budgeting, not default. With measures like these, the debt ceiling could stay exactly where it is—or fall. (More on that below.)
Beyond that, Obama divides the blame among:
- The last President, George W. Bush,
- A class of citizen, whom he calls “the rich,” whom he wants to “touch” for money, and
- Another class of citizen, who rallies behind a yellow flag with a rattlesnake on it, whom Obama wishes would just sit down and shut up—and let him “tread on” them.
And then he asks the rest of the country to call their Representatives (he conveniently left out their Senators) to tell them to give Obama everything he asks for, because he asks for it.
Representative John Boehner (R-OH), Speaker of the House, made an effort at rebuttal. He used a fine slogan:
I’ve got news for Washington – those days are over.
He listed three things that Obama’s policies have brought to the American people:
- A massive health care bill that most Americans never asked for.
- A “stimulus” bill that [produced more] material for late-night comedians than…jobs. And:
- A national debt that has gotten so out of hand it has sparked a crisis without precedent in my lifetime or yours.
He then accused Obama of demanding a blank check, and said that he, Boehner, would not give him one.
Now Boehner did show, indirectly, that he has set out a plan (and now, even the Senate has), but Obama has not. But even Boehner’s plan does not go far enough. It does not name certain things that the government can do now—today—to spend less money. Nor did he express nearly enough outrage at the effrontery that Obama showed. And critically, he still would raise the debt ceiling after all.
A Tea Party activist speaks
Nicholas E. Purpura, of Wall, NJ, knows what to do. He should. He was once a managing director at Bear Stearns, so he knows how Wall Street works. He also knows government corruption when he sees it. He knows when a government agency literally does not care that someone is scamming its program. The stories he has told your editor strongly suggest that some government bureaucrats want people to scam them. That way, they can justify their programs, their paychecks, and their grip on other people’s throats.
Yesterday evening, before Obama got near his microphone, Purpura spoke up again. Why, he asks, do you raise the debt ceiling when two-thirds of the American people do not want that? What credit counselor ever recommends asking the banks for a higher credit limit when his client is already “maxed out”? Lower the debt ceiling, Purpura says. That would show investors that they will, eventually, get their money back with interest. To make that possible, Purpura suggested several immediate cuts: in foreign aid, in unspent stimulus, in Congressional benefits, and in any other program that someone obviously designed to let someone scam it.
Obviously Purpura did not hear Boehner’s speech, either. But, uncannily, he predicted what Boehner would say—or at least its effect.
Obama is brilliant. He is not stupid. He now has the Republicans negotiating with themselves. And when the economy goes sour after they give in and raise the debt ceiling, all Obama has to do is blame the Republicans!
He [Obama] talks about how he’s agreed to cut this, and cut that. He hasn’t offered anything!
Purpura sees something else. He mentioned this key essay by Richard A. Cloward and Frances Fox Piven. The essence of Cloward and Piven’s “strategy to end poverty” is: overwhelm the system and force society to guarantee a basic income to every citizen and lawful resident. And as Ayn Rand once said:
Who pays for it? Blank-out.
A rise in the debt ceiling would still allow a future Cloward and Piven team to use “the weight of the poor” to crush the rest of society. Lowering the debt ceiling would check this.
Your editor has a few words. Obama lied and dissembled to the American public last night. He lied about who was holding people up for ransom—he accused Congress of doing it! (That’s what he meant by “collateral damage.”) He lied when he said,
Raising the debt ceiling does not allow Congress to spend more money.
Or if that was not a lie, then it was the biggest piece of arrant nonsense that any Presidential speechwriter put into a speech.
But Obama also dissembled about his true motive, and about a class of “extremist” citizen that he and some of his friends created.
Political power is force. Mao said it best:
Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.
Obama is holding it. He is pointing it at the productive class of society. Only he dares not say anything as crass as,
Put up your hands; this is a stickup.
Few people would sympathize with him if he said that. So, as Ayn Rand brilliantly showed in Atlas Shrugged, he must win the sanction of the victim. So he, and his allies, try to make people feel guilty for their success. They suggest that “the rich” have gotten some “benefits of United States citizenship.” They never say what those benefits are, or what benefit “the rich” have gotten that “the poor” have not. Obama knows by now that he must be even more subtle than his allies want to be. So he couches his demand in a harmless-sounding phrase: “balanced approach.”
The victim of a robbery knows that he cannot strike a “balance” between himself and the robber. He doesn’t want “balance”; he wants rescue. In the Election of 2010, he voted for that rescue. So now the robber says that the rescuers are acting like criminals. And the rescuers don’t know what to say.
Maybe the rescuers never imagined that the robber could make them feel guilty for serving the cause of justice. They don’t realize that Obama seeks a different kind of justice: social justice. And that is just another fancy phrase for highway robbery.
This, then, is what is missing from the debt ceiling debate. Obama’s opponents will not win until they make forcefully clear that they seek the only real justice that the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution, guarantee. And that kind of justice isn’t social—it’s personal.
Featured image: the Constitution of the United States. Photo: National Archives.
- Wheeling and dealing
- Postures and pretense
- Breakdown and bluster
- Scares and spending
- Sound and fury
- Gang of six
- Cut cap balance vote set
- Questions for Mr. Obama
- Warnings and postures
- Misconception and mush
- Cowardice and confusion
- Theater and outrage
- Deal falling through
- Day of reckoning
- Talks break down
- The media battle
- Battle lines
- Debt ceiling reached; sky does not fall
- Contradictory warnings
- Weimar redux?
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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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Purpura was a managing director of Bear Stearns, which collapsed in 2008 as part of the economic meltdown caused by Wall Street. He ruined himself financially with the longest running divorce case in New York’s history; four of the judges that heard it died. He’s now on his third wife. A quote by Purpura from the March 13, 2005 New York Post: “This divorce has destroyed me financially. I lost my job because of this, and my second marriage, too,” Purpura said. “But I won’t stop fighting, even if I have to live in a pup tent.”
Terry, why are we supposed to listen to this man’s judgment again?
First, his problems began when he discovered some serious and pervasive land fraud in New York State, that not a single official wanted to curtail. Second, a good deal of his troubles came from crooked judges.
I’ll leave it to him to broach any more of this in public, here on this site, if he wishes. (He’s watching.)
But I would never advise anyone to brush off him or anyone else on some trumped-up excuse. Which is what you have.
I know the facts. You don’t. I’ve talked to the man. You haven’t.
Actually Terry, Bill simply asked a question. One that you didn’t bother to answer.
1. CNAV answers only to its own administrators as to editorial policy and the appropriateness of statements made in its name.
2. Nicholas E. Purpura provided a reference to corroborate his statements. I suggest you read Cloward P and Piven FF, The Weight of the Poor: Toward a Guaranteed National Income, The Nation, May 1, 1966.
3. I suspect that you don’t have to read Cloward and Piven. I imagine that you are well-schooled in Cloward and Piven. Not to mention Mao.
“CNAV answers only to its own administrators as to editorial policy and the appropriateness of statements made in its name.”
You have just excused yourself from any journalistic integrity or accountability, but this is to be expected, I suppose, considering that a clear majority of comments on this blog (which is what this is) are usually attempts to correct glaring factual errors. All of these attempts at fact checking are ignored or met with hostility, and plainly erroneous statements continue to dominate this blog.
Selling treasury bills at fire-sale is a great way to undermine the global financial system and ensure lots more wall street MD’s fail just as hard as Pupura and Bear Stearns.
Also, is an essay from 1966 truly the most ‘key’ resource you could have cited about the motivations of Barack Obama? (Way to hide that tidbit in the comments rather than the body of the article). Obama was 5 years old that year. One gets the impression that is also the last year you bothered to read an opinion that was different from your own.
If you had bothered to follow the links, you’d get right through to the Cloward-Piven essay. And does it matter that Obama was five years old when Cloward and Piven wrote it? Don’t you credit him for being a quick study of those who came before him? (Frances Fox Piven is still alive, by the way.)
I think you’re protesting entirely too much. I think that you want to crush the productive under “The Weight of the Poor.”
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