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Tom Pattantyus: U.S. debt debate shows leadership problems

Right Here, Right Now!

Posted: August 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.

I am a naturalized U.S. citizen and a registered Republican. In the past, I have voted mostly for Republicans in the general and midterm elections. Occasionally, I have split my vote, but more often I did not vote for any candidate I disliked.

In the past few months, we have witnessed a lot of posturing, the sorry spectacles for lack of leadership, petty bickering and partisan interests placed over national interests and dereliction of duty.

In the antagonism between the parties, I have witnessed nothing new since the days of the Vietnam War.

President Barack Obama promised to unite us and bring a new beginning. But soon after Jan. 20, 2009, the Republican leaders were shut out from drafting the bailout bill mandating an expenditure of $870 billion. 

We heard Nancy Pelosi’s terse but famous remark: “We won!” and Obama’s advice to the Republican representatives: “Get out of the way when we try to clean up your mess.”

The several thousand pages of bailout bill was speed-read to the House in a day, members did not have copies to read and there was practically no debate. Similar legislative “procedures” preceded the Obamacare bill.

Only a few Republican House members voted for the bail-out bill and none for the health-care bill. So much for bipartisan cooperation.

Obama’s characterization of the Republican lawmakers as the “Party of No” has failed to make the brotherly love between our congressional representatives any deeper.

In response, ordinary voters, myself included, began to push back, spontaneously organizing into tea parties. We have become a favorite target of insults (tea-baggers, AstroTurfers, etc.) repeated even by Democrat congressional leaders and the president.

During the recent debates, I have learned that I am a “wild beast” thrown red meat to by the Republican representatives (Sen. Chuck Schumer’s remark). I am not only a threat to mankind but to the planet, too (according to Nancy Pelosi), and a Hezbollah terrorist (Tom Friedman, New York Times).

The president’s obligation to submit a budget-request to Congress before the end of any fiscal year and the congressional procedures prior to voting on the new budget are well-known and generally followed year after year. Yet, this president and the Democrats have failed to submit formal, written plans for more than 800 days, and the work of the government has been financed by occasional credit restorations.

The only detailed budget proposals were submitted by the Republicans this year (Paul Ryan) and the recent debt reduction budget (both passed the House). The Democrat-controlled Senate shelved them as soon as they arrived.

The debt limit of $14.3 trillion was reached at the end of April. One of the requests of the voters after the 2010 congressional elections has been to reduce the yearly budget deficit in order to manage the exponentially increasing federal debt. The original request of the president was an increase, until March 2013, of $4 trillion before Aug. 2.

The Republican counter proposal was $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion and another debate about debt limit in the middle of the 2012 election campaign. Both parties know full well how bruising those debates have become and how advantageous they will be for the Republicans and damaging for the president and the Democrats.

The arguing continued while the clock kept on ticking. As the political jostling approached the drop-dead date, the frequency of competing debt-reduction plans has increased.

There have been times when not even a day has separated a proposal and its counter proposal allocating trillions of dollars.
Most of the time, the negotiations addressed only the debt limit and ignored the underlying root cause: the perennial deficit spending.

Rather than debating reduced spending, only the debt-limit increase is argued. Our legislators are failing to do what is best for our country. They act like they missed the day in school when compound interest and exponential functions were taught.

After my negative observations, I propose these positive measures:
* Every congressional representative must take a crash course and pass an exam in the theory of compound interest and exponential functions.
* Take a history course to learn how the strongest empires collapsed as a result of wars and inflation. (They normally go hand-in-hand.)
* Forgo their salaries unless the budget is legislated on time and balanced.

Tom Pattantyus is a retired electronic engineer and he can be reached at:


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