Friday, January 18, 2013

More on the GOP Senate Budget Resolution Obsession

Over at PP today, I talked a little about what budget resolutions are, and said that GOP demands for the Democratic Senate to pass a budget are purely symbolic...but as symbolic demands go, it's not particularly unreasonable.

I didn't remember to note, however, that whatever one thinks of the Senate's obligation to pass a budget resolution right now, it's hardly without precedent. Whose precedent? Why, the Bush-era Republican Congresses. As a 2010 CRS report explained: "At least one budget resolution has been adopted every year except 1998 (for FY1999), 2002 (for FY2003), 2004 (for FY2005), and 2006 (for FY2007)."

OK, so the first of those was a Clinton-era Republican Congress. Either way, it's not as if failing to do a budget resolution is a Democratic innovation. 

The other question that's come up on twitter this afternoon is why conservatives are so obsessed with it. I think there are two reasons. One is that in my experience, people really don't understand what budgeting is about; there's a sense that it's like balancing one's checkbook: it's about keeping track of what's coming in and what's going out. Or maybe it's because a lot of people feel guilty and irresponsible for not constructing a household budget (or virtuous when they do), and think that without a budget, the government has no idea what's coming in and what's going out -- because without a budget, they don't know what's coming in and going out in their own lives. Of course, that's not true. Congressional budget resolutions are a tool, and perhaps a useful tool, and certainly a tool that they're supposed to use, but it's not a tool that's really all that comparable to a household budget, and certainly not the way that the government "learns" about total inflow and outflow.

The other reason is...well, we don't need a reason. That's the lesson of (among other things) "czar" craziness; the GOP-aligned media is perfectly capable of stirring up an obsession out of absolutely nothing. 

12 comments:

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head with the first reason. The process is opaque enough to a median swing voter that it's very easy for Republicans and even some unwitting allies in the non-partisan press to demagogue this issue without looking totally foolish (to a median swing voter).




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  2. This is badly off-topic, but who wants to talk about budgets, and its the weekend, and what follows is at least relevant to conversations elsewhere in this forum: I was listening to perhaps the greatest rock-n-roll song in history tonight (Its a Long Way to the Top by AC/DC...what other song has lyrics straight from the Spinal Tap Canon of Cheese and a 1-minute dueling guitar/bagpipe solo, and still totally rocks?)

    I'm not a big AC/DC guy, so I was curious about Bon Scott and looked him up on Wikipedia. The 'Early Years' section of his profile begins with the following observation: "Scott's vocals were inspired by his idol, Little Richard..."

    I've argued against Little Richard's influence elsewhere back here, but if he can claim Bon Scott (arguably the greatest rock frontman) as a direct lineal descendant, along with everyone else - well, its probably true that any lifetime achievement not bestowed on Little Richard is long overdue.

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    1. That certainly is an interesting point about Little Richard. I suppose the larger theme here is that the categories that listeners often ascribe to bands can have little relationship to the actual influence artists have. Most people would categorize The Replacements as just another Punk band, which they were, but they were also heavily influence by sources as diverse as The Beatles, Faces and Lou Reed (as well as a lot of 70's punk bands.) The popular history of Alt-Country has it popping out of nowhere in the early 90's with bands like Whiskeytown and Uncle Tupelo, which is sort of true, but not really because all that stuff came out of stuff like the now obscure (but very good) Flying Burrito Brothers from the 60's who were classified then as just another weird hippy folk band, which they were, but they were also a Alt-Country band. So you can get these weird links from someone like Little Richard to Bon Scott, which I'd agree is a good reason to put him in the hall of fame.

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    2. If you want to know what I mean about the Flying Burrito Brothers, here ya go:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKplna3hWtc

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    3. And before the Burrito Brothers, there was the International Submarine Band. (The name was inspired by a Little Rascals episode.) Perhaps one of the more well known tunes from that time is here: http://youtu.be/bOIx3jfu3fI
      Rest in peace, Ingram Cecil Conner III.

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    4. I think I've said that I always read comments but I sometimes get behind...I'm a week behind on this one, but wanted to respond to longwalk:

      I'm not particularly a Replacements fan (although I saw them twice, oddly enough)...I was just listening to them the other day, and while they started that way they really didn't end up even close to "just another punk band." It struck me, because even more so than, say, the Ramones, trying to explain to my kids why The Replacements were beyond the pale for radio...it's just bizarre. I mean, I totally get why Husker Du wasn't on normal radio, but The Replacements?

      Of course, REM and U2 weren't on normal radio for a long time, either.

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  3. What I've noted reading right-wing trolls who go on about budget resolutions in blog comment sections is that they seem to see the lack of a budget resolution as an argument having to do with the debt ceiling.

    Basically, they deploy it whenever anyone says that refusing to raise the debt limit is congress refusing to pay for things it's already bought. They seem to think that because there hasn't been a budget resolution passed, that means that the appropriations are illegitimate.

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  4. The problem with complaining that there's been no budget resolution is that it's been going on 3 years (not to mention various years before that). However airplanes are still landing, the SS checks don't bounce, and civilization appears to be holding together. On one hand it sounds horribly dangerous, but there aren't any signs that it mattered. The argument kind of goes up in a puff of smoke.

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  5. Failure of Senate to pass a budget isn't a Democrat innovation, but failure to pass (*four*) successive budgets is. Also, when a budget is proposed and voted on, we the people know our Representatives priorities, and many of us vote based those priorities.

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    1. How many people vote based on budget votes? I'd love to know that number.

      Also, if people can't figure out the priorities of the two parties now, I can't even imagine what information might be in a budget that would help untangle that problem.

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    2. How the heck do you even tell the priorities of a legislator based upon the budget resolution?

      A vote for is a vote to pay for everything that has passed already, and a vote against is a vote to bounce our checks. It seems pretty ridiculous when you try to dig into it.

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    3. No, Crissa, a budget resolution is just an outline of how much revenue can be expected and how much ought to be spent, to be used as a guideline for specific appropriations bills. (I think you're confusing it with the vote to raise the debt ceiling so that money can be borrowed to cover the spending already mandated.) But Congress has been so deadlocked that we've had neither budget resolutions nor new appropriations bills, just "continuing resolutions" extending past appropriations for another period of time with some occasional adjustments here and there. (One of the numerous factors feeding into the Benghazi situation, as I understand it, is that the mission didn't even exist the last time there was an actual appropriations bill.)

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