The first rule of No Fight Club is that there is no fight. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) went to the well of the U.S. House of Representatives to indignantly declare, “There is absolutely no fight.”
Mr. Boehner is correct. That’s not the good news, it’s the bad.
As with so much of our overgrown federal government, there isn’t much of a battle about it, at least, not between Republicans and Democrats ensconced in Washington. Oh, sure, we hear a ton of bluster and bickering and name-calling, but when it comes to policy, there’s not much disagreement on the basics. Both parties favor a government that solves every problem imaginable for everyone every moment of the day or night, 24/7. Globally.
In case of asteroid, make that universally.
Don’t worry; be happy: All things are possible. When we hit a bump in the road, we get back into high gear by either raising or lowering taxes, fiddling a tad with regulations, consulting the right experts and preferred scientists, and investing in our future . . . just the right amount, of course.
On the question of where that precise point rests, well, there remains some disagreement.
Much of it phony.
That disingenuousness was the Speaker’s point: “Why do people insist that we have to have a political fight on something where there is no fight? . . . People want to politicize this because it’s a political year. But, my God, do we have to fight about everything? And now we’re going to have a fight over women’s health. Give me a break.”
The political fight of the day was over the bill that did indeed pass. It was about spending money on — er, to be precise, continuing to make American taxpayers subsidize — student loan interest rates to keep them sort of “affordable.” As Mr. Boehner noted, there is no disagreement between Rs and Ds on John Q’s responsibility to pick up the check. Any check. Every check.
All agreed, then, on spending the money. Why not? After you borrow a trillion for your supper and ale, why sweat the cost of a chaser?
The fight is over where to get the dough.
We’ll probably borrow it, but some Democrats say tax it now! Get it from “s-corporations” with three or less stockholders (read: small businesses). Mitt Romney — and Ron Paul (along with Libertarian Party presidential candidate and former Republican New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson) — might think real people earn a living working for s-corporations, but Obama and Democratic congressional leaders know better. S-corporations serve as an infinite supply of funds for . . . others.
Republicans say cut $6 billion from the Preventative Healthcare Fund — hence the howls of fear from Democrats accusing the maleficent GOP of another civilian strafing, slashing healthcare for women in their brutal and ruthless “war on women.”
Accordingly, one might think this particular fund focuses on healthcare for women. No. Questioned by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, after being informed that only about one-fourth of one percent of the spending was targeted specifically to the medical care needs of women, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) fumbled that “women are concerned about their husbands,” before saying “the Preventive Healthcare program is important for men, women, children, Americans . . .”
Certainly, Democrats would never cut something as life-and-death important as the Preventative Healthcare Fund.
But they did. Earlier this year, congressional Democrats voted to enact — and the White House signed into law — an extension of the payroll tax cut that specifically took money from this same Preventative Healthcare Fund.
Apparently, Democrats hate women, too.
At the risk of stating the obvious: the Democrats are playing games. They are trumping up transparently ridiculous and hypocritical charges against Republicans to win votes.
So . . . what else is new?
But behind the obvious shadowboxing lurks the real game being played, the game of evasion: If government spending can be cut to afford new spending, it can be cut to stop federal borrowing and reduce the dangerous debt-load we’re accumulating.
Career politicians of both parties refuse to take the risk of offending any interest group. No one wishes to stand alone, the proverbial cheese, not offering the financial goodies to students, who might vote this fall, and to their parents, who are even more likely to show up at the polls.
It was no coincidence President Barack Obama barnstormed college campuses last week, making the case, “College education is one of the best investments America can make for our future. This is important for all of us. We can’t price most Americans out of a college education. We can’t make higher education a luxury. It’s an economic imperative. Every American should be able to afford it. So that’s why I’m here.”
To play Santa Claus.
Funny, though, with all the federal government “help” with rising college costs, the price keeps rising. The cost of tuition and room and board at the colleges my wife and I attended is today, some 30 years later, about ten times as expensive. Debt owed by students and parents on these educational loans is now more than a trillion dollars — more than U.S. citizens’ total credit card debt.
As I informed my Common Sense e-letter subscribers this week, even Harvard University, the wealthiest educational institution in the world, can no longer afford to subscribe to specialized academic journals due to the outrageous costs. The folks who run Harvard are clearly more cost-conscious and less encumbered by ivory-tower thinking than the folks in Washington “running” the country.
Boehner could have reminded Democrats (along with fellow Republicans) that the United States of America is in a fiscal crisis. Politicians cannot spend over a trillion dollars more each year than they get in revenue. Some difficult issues must be confronted and tough choices made.
It will require a fight.
April 29, 2012
This column first appeared at Townhall.com.