Friday, May 6, 2011

Yank the Trigger

Even though it's lots of fun to make up stories about what might have happened in Abbotabad earlier this week, and how Pakistan may or may not have been involved, this post involves a very different kind of trigger — one a lot more dangerous than the one that helped blow a hole in Osama bin Laden's head. This trigger comes in the form of the Corker-McCaskill CAP Act, a bipartisan (if you count McCaskill) bill that would tie combined discretionary and non-discretionary spending to a specific (and sharply reduced) percentage of GDP, and "trigger" automatic across-the-board cuts should that limit be exceeded.

(I still can't find a reference to one of my favorite quotations, "Bipartisan means everybody gets screwed," so I can't attribute it properly. Maybe I made it up myself, but I don't think so.)

Bills that "trigger" automatic spending cuts or tax increases are favorites of cowardly, self-serving "Congress critters" (RIP Molly Ivins), because nobody has to take personal responsibility for whatever shit happens as a result. Bob Corker calls his bill "a legislative straitjacket, a way of forcing Congress to dramatically cut spending over 10 years."
A straight jacket is a comfortable fit for a legislator who wants to serve the corporate agenda without attracting too much public disdain. Corker-McCaskill, which could have been written by Grover Norquist himself, naturally makes no provision for automatically raising taxes. It is designed to "starve the beast," more efficiently and effectively than would be possible were Congress required to vote for specific cuts. Even more distressing, it would outlaw Keynesian economics, making it impossible for government to respond to recession with economic stimulus.

Another "advantage" (from Corker's perspective) is that the bill would "eliminate the deceptive 'off-budget' distinction for Social Security." What this means is that Social Security payments could be cut automatically, well before the Social Security trust fund is exhausted. Social Security, because of the trust fund, is not a government expenditure — it is government debt, because the money collected for the trust fund over many years is invested in Treasury securities. What the Corker-McCaskill bill requires is that the United States default on the debt it owes current and future retirees. To default on that debt is no different than to default on the debt owed to banks, foreign governments, or private investors — and nobody is suggesting that we default on that debt.

Corker-McCaskill is the kind of bill one expects of Republican toadies to the plutocrats. If Claire McCaskill really is a Democrat, however, she is a particularly stupid and/or cowardly Democrat — and so is any other Democrat, in either house of Congress, who signs on to this particularly repellent proposal.

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