StanCollender'sCapitalGainsandGames Washington, Wall Street and Everything in Between

The Irresponsibility Of John Boehner

22 May 2012
Posted by Stan Collender

There's not much I need to say to introduce my column from today's Roll Call other than that I really felt I had no choice but to write this as directly as I did. A special shout out to Roll Call for not blinking even once when I told them what I wanted to write this week

The Irresponsibility of Speaker John Boehner

May 22, 2012, Midnight

Like most federal budget watchers, I assumed that the extremely negative political reaction to the federal government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996 meant that tactic wasn’t likely to be threatened again, let alone actually used. That changed last year when a shutdown became the favored approach for many on Capitol Hill.

Although the timetable obviously was much more compressed, I thought much the same thing last summer after the extreme negative reaction to the fight over raising the federal debt ceiling also made that look less likely to happen again in the future. Despite the statements made by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and other Republicans that using the increase in the federal government’s borrowing limit as leverage to win policy changes was now the new standard operating procedure, the downside was so great that the threat seemed to be mere words.

I was sure that was the case because, unlike the situation in 1995 and 1996, the negative response to the 2011 debt ceiling increase debacle was more than political.

Yes, it was a political nightmare: The approval rating for Congress and the White House fell during and immediately after the battle. But the negative reaction was also material because it resulted in the downgrading of U.S. debt by one of the three major rating agencies.

The downgrade occurred not just because of a concern about the government’s capacity to pay the debt, which wasn’t really questioned but because of what Standard & Poor’s said was the growing inability of the U.S. political system to deal with its fiscal problems. The result was a significant hit to the government’s financial reputation. Most analysts I’ve spoken with are convinced that, were it not for the economic woes in Europe, U.S. interest rates would be much higher as a result.

It seemed so clear that not using the debt ceiling as a weapon had become the minimum price elected officials would have to pay to prevent another possible downgrade that I thought there was no way it would happen again.

That’s why the first major activity by a senior elected official on this topic since then — Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) choreographed events last week in which he repeatedly said he would prevent the debt ceiling increase that will be needed at the end of 2012 or the start of 2013 from happening unless he got what he wanted — was so exceptionally irresponsible.

I’m using the word “irresponsible” very deliberately.

Boehner is more than just a Member of Congress. As Speaker, he is next in line to the presidency after the vice president and the most powerful person in the House. That magnifies the importance of everything he says. Every Boehner pronouncement about an international issue, for example, is closely monitored around the world. Although the executive branch takes the lead in foreign policy, what the Speaker says typically generates an immediate response and, therefore, he usually treads carefully in this area.

I wish the same were true about what the Speaker does in connection with the federal budget. The Constitution gives Congress specific fiscal policy responsibilities — that makes what this or any Speaker says something that makes headlines and is taken very seriously.

Coming on the heels of last year’s downgrade, the very public way Boehner repeatedly issued his debt ceiling threat made it the equivalent of alerting S&P and the other rating agencies that little had changed since last summer. It also was an invitation to again downgrade U.S. debt.

To make matters worse, Boehner’s statements about the debt ceiling might encourage the agencies not to wait until the debate actually occurs to reconsider their ratings. His statements could provide them with all the evidence they need to justify a new review of the situation now. There’s no word for that other than irresponsible.

Boehner’s threat also was irresponsible because the immediate spending cuts he said were the only way he would allow a debt ceiling increase to be considered is the wrong fiscal policy for the current economic situation. At a time when businesses and consumers are still not spending and most state and local governments are continuing to cut back, the federal government is the only major gross domestic product component enhancing growth and creating jobs. Given the current slow recovery, the large spending cuts Boehner is demanding could push the economy back into recession.

It’s not hard to understand the political motivations behind Boehner taking the position he took on the debt ceiling. He needs the support of the House GOP caucus to remain Speaker. All indications are that, as has been the case since the 2010 election, House Republicans are not in a compromising mood on anything having to do with the federal budget.

Threatening another cliffhanger battle as he did last week doesn’t provide the leadership Boehner said was needed to deal with this. Instead of simply complaining that the president had “lost his” courage when it came to the budget, Boehner should have displayed some of his own.

Instead of following his caucus and doing the political equivalent of tying the debt ceiling increase to the track with a train barreling down, the Speaker should have been developing a way to avoid the downgrade and further erosion of confidence in the U.S. political system that, because of his action, is now more likely to happen.

The Republicans are--of

The Republicans are--of course--always the first to attack their political opponents with accusations of being "anti-American" and of "putting politics first" and of being "divisive". The incontrovertible fact is that it is the *Republicans* who are anti-American, who put their craven polticial gain before the well-being of the nation, and who are grossly divisive.

They are liars, hypocrites, and would sooner destroy this country than compromise with their political oppponents.

It is good to see that Stan is finally wrapping his mind around this fact, and letting go of his delusion that the Republicans have good-faith policy differences with the Democrats, but that both side really want what is best for the country as a whole.

The Republicans are the exact political equivalent of a wife-beater whose wife finally builds up the courage to leave him, and who murders her, shrieking "If I can't have you, nobody can". It is sick despicable behavior, and the verdict of history is not going to be kind to these anti-American vicious scum who currently control the Republican Party.

R or D? Neither is the problem

The issue before the US people is NOT R and D. The issue is the Constitution of the US v the Catholic "religion".
There are more Catholic Ds, than Rs.
There is no fiscally successful Catholic nation on earth. The gridlock is caused by the 30 percent of Catholics that vote as a bloc across the aisle to promote only items which promote the Catholic dogma. Fiscal responsibility escapes all Cathlics. For example, look at the PIIGS. All failures. .
The Catholics are playing "good cop bad cop" and staying on the sidelines in the Bad Rs, Good Ds.
We are being whipsawed as a secular (non religion base) by the pope. They are now winning from both sidesof the R and D parties. Then we will be just another third world catholic nation. Broke, and no education, lost in dogma forever.
In a hundred years there has not been a successful socialist nation.
In a thousand years there has not been a successful single religion majority nation. (especially Catholic ).
The Constitution is secular (no religion). Keep it that way.
The bible does not trump the Constitution. The vatican does not rule the white house. (yet).

Women in any Catholic nation are but second class almost citizens. Ladies, do not vote for any Catholic, regardless of party.
And is this politically incorrect YES. Is it wrong NO.

Ignorance lays behind bigotry

Survey data belies the notion that Catholics vote as a bloc or that they vote as the Pope would wish them to.

Here, for example, are many years of polling on the Catholic vote in US presidential elections:

On average, there has been a moderate preference for Democrats in most post-WWII races, but Catholics occasionally favor the Republican candidate. The vote split is not suggestive of voting as a bloc.

Likewise, countless surveys show that U.S. Catholics don't share the Pope's position on most of the social issues that tend to come up in the political races.

We must cut the spending

The CBO has reported that if laws remain unchanged the federal budget deficit for this year will be $1.1 trillion ( That number is in addition to total debt over $15 Trillion and projections that by 2021 federal debt will be over $20 trillion (

We cannot tax ourselves out of this problem. We must cut spending.

CBO says Scott is wrong

Scott cites CBO numbers and then says that "we cannot tax ourselves out of this [debt] problem".

But, if you follow the link Scott provided to the CBO report, it is clear that we can in fact tax ourselves out of the debt problem. CBO makes that clear just a few sentences after noting the $1.1 trillion deficit:
CBO projects a $1.1 trillion federal budget deficit for fiscal year 2012 if current laws remain unchanged. Measured as a share of the nation’s output (gross domestic product, or GDP), that shortfall of 7.0 percent is nearly 2 percentage points below the deficit recorded in 2011, but still higher than any deficit between 1947 and 2008. Over the next few years, projected deficits in CBO's baseline decline markedly, dropping to under $200 billion and averaging 1.5 percent of GDP over the 2013–2022 period.


Much of the projected decline in the deficit occurs because, under current law, revenues are projected to shoot up by almost $800 billion, or more than 30 percent, between 2012 and 2014—from 16.3 percent of GDP in 2012 to 20.0 percent in 2014. That increase is mostly the result of of the recent or scheduled expirations of tax provisions, such as those initially enacted in 2001, 2003, and 2009 that lower income tax rates and those that limit the number of people subject to the alternative minimum tax (AMT).

It is not credible to claim that one saw the $1.1 trillion deficit figure, but didn't see the projection of a rapid decline in the next couple years or the explanation that the rapid decline was due primarily to reversal of tax cuts implemented in the post-Clinton years.

"We cannot tax ourselves out

"We cannot tax ourselves out of this problem. We must cut spending."

We can't do both? Reagan raised taxes several times while in office. I will not suport someone who takes half of the solution off the table.

We must cut spending now?

Scott - Stan has been a consistent advocate of long term fiscal sanity. We likely should have been doing more fiscal restraint back in say 2006 when we were reasonably close to full employment but the House Republicans weren't having any of this back then. In the long-term President Obama wants long term fiscal sanity - and yes we can raise taxes - but for now, austerity will make the recession even worse as Stan notes. The call for spending reductions now is a call for a Herbert Hoover fiscal stance.

@ Scott, everyone wrote a

@ Scott, everyone wrote a nice kind comment. I wont!!! Stop drinking the Kool Aide, your getting your clock cleaned and you cant't figure it out.... Stop be an idiot. Plain and Simple


In other instances Boehner has demonstrated that he does not understand his position. Alan West's ignorant statements come to mind. As Speaker of the entire House, Boehner cannot stay silent while a member accuses the D's of being riddled with communists, etc.

I sometimes think that Harry Reid is the weakest congressional leader in modern history and then Boehner or Mitch prove me wrong.


If blowing up budget and the economy with a debt ceiling fight means destroying the military capability of America to terrorize the world... If it means the bankers and wealthy find angry mobs looting their estates... If it means we break the stranglehold of the plutocrats...

Well, revenge fantasies are fun, no?

Two questions: 1. Will S&P

Two questions: 1. Will S&P take the rating down another notch? 2. Will the other rating agencies wake up and understand that the US no longer deserves a triple A rating?

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