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The Next Big Debt-Ceiling Fight

Yet another fight over once again raising America’s debt ceiling is coming up, and we expect it will be even uglier than usual. For one thing the September deadline will come as the presidential and congressional primaries are heating up, which always complicates things, and for another thing the federal government is more dysfunctional than ever.
Treasury Secretary has met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the matter, but Pelosi is for now insisting on a two-year budget deal. Several Republican Senators also want an actual budget instead of yet another continuing resolution that provides at least two years off from these every six months or so squabbles, but that’s easier said than done.
There hasn’t been an actual budget passed by both chambers of Congress and signed into law by a president for more than a decade, and you have to go back to the days of President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich to find one that balanced. Since then both parties have waited until the last minute before the global economic catastrophe that would result from the government defaulting on its very large debt, playing brinksmanship to extract whatever concessions the parties could gain from another, and wound up a with a deficit-spending resolution that kicked the can another six months down the road. This time will probably be the same, but different.
This time the congressional Democrats are more restive than usual, with Pelosi publicly feuding with several recently famous freshman members of her caucus, and all the Democratic presidential contenders pushing the party further to the left. Not long ago Pelosi was the Republican party’s poster girl for San Francisco-style liberalism, but these days she’s the relatively sane center of the Democratic party, and she’s always been a pragmatic enough politician to cut those last minute deals that saved the global economy from catastrophe. For the moment she seems firmly in control of her party, but September’s a long time from now.
For the foreseeable future President Donald Trump is firmly in control of the Republican party, but that’s not reassuring. Trump ran on the argument that he’s history’s greatest master of the art of the deal, based on his business record, but so far he’s proved no more successful in negotiating deals with the congressional Democrats than he was with his six-times bankrupt casinos. While he “tweets” schoolyard taunts against Senate majority leader “Cryin'” Chuck Schumer and t”Nervous Nancy” Pelosi, he’s yet to best them in a political showdown on almost anything. He crashed claimed credit for the last of those occasional partial government showdowns, then blamed the Democrats when the shutdown didn’t poll well, and wound up signing off on another continuing resolution that fully funded lots of bleeding heart social programs beloved by the Democrats.
This time around should be the same. The talk radio talkers will grouse about Trump’s concessions, but they’ll quickly move on to what the damned Democrats did, and Trump’s die-hard fans will forgive him anything. There are also a few on-the-fence voters who will give him credit for his centrist pragmatism, nobody will be able to blame him for the default that brought down the global economy, and that this point nobody cares about those several Republican senators’ old-fashioned idea of getting back to passing budgets with bi-partisan support and a presidential signature. Trump’s position of strength gives him every incentive to cave.
At this point large portions of both parties only care about depriving the other party of any tangible victory, and won’t yield an inch toward any kind of national consensus about how to spend the public’s money. They wouldn’t mind a global economic catastrophe, either, so long as they could blame it on the other side. As the presidential and congressional primary races heat up, those elements will have some influence on the debate.
Still, we expect this time around will be largely the same as the last many times around. We no longer have much faith in the leaders of either party, but we retain a cynical and hopeful faith in human nature. None of our elected leaders want to have been around during a global economic catastrophe, if only because it’s a bad career move, even if they could plausibly blame it on the other side. At some point, according to our observation of recent politics and human nature, both sides will eventually blink, and both will get enough and give enough for their voters to brag and grouse about.
Which is about the best we can hope for these days. That idea Pelosi and those prominent Senate Republicans have about a two-year budget seems pretty far-fetched for the moment. The idea that it might be balanced is preposterous.

— Bud Norman

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Turning Right on Sesame Street

There’s a lot in the news lately other than the latest federal budget proposals, and of course there’s plenty further news within that proposed $3.6 trillion of spending that’s currently up for debate, but somehow the relatively mere pittance of $454 million per annum for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is once again getting column inches and air time. President Donald Trump wants to end the spending altogether, the relatively small but inordinately influential fans of public broadcasting are screaming foul, and it all seems slightly familiar yet somehow different.
Suspicious sorts of conservatives such as ourselves have been leery of government-subsidized media from the get-go back in the Great Society days of the ’60s, we’ve always wondered why the equally paranoid liberals didn’t share our concerns about it, and nothing that has happened since had changed our views on the matter. The arguments against allowing the government to pay for air time are all the more compelling in the age of Trump, as far as our suspicious conservative souls are concerned, and for the life of us we can’t understand why any liberal isn’t at long last seeing the light.
We’re old enough that our first exposure to educational programming for the kiddies was back in the days of the ad-supported Captain Kangaroo, though, and we understand that the subsequent generations that grew up learning the alphabet and other lessons from the Public Broadcasting System’s “Sesame Street” clearly have a different perspective. Our liberal friends of all ages also prefer the classical music and pretentious jazz and those soothing voices and sensitively wrought opinions of National Public Radio to the shrilly shrieked vitriol on the right wing radio talk shows with all the ads for gold sellers and survival food and promised relief from the Internal Revenue Service, and lately we can’t argue much with the preference, even if we’re sticking to old garage rock cassette tapes and the old folks’ AM station with the Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee tunes during our drives around town. There’s also no denying that a mere $454 million is too small a fraction of a $36 trillion budget for us to bother try to calculate, and that somewhere along the line “Sesame Street” might have taught some poor kids the alphabet and that sometimes classical music is the perfect thing for a drive around town, and we don’t doubt that Trump might just be settling a longstanding score with “Sesame Street,” which has apparently been taunting him since he was a minor New York tabloid celebrity, but we’re still comfortable with the draconian budget cut.
All the old arguments still apply, though, especially around here. Public broadcasting was touted as a subsidy to those poor folks who couldn’t afford the high-priced high-brow fare on cable, but our rabbit ears don’t get the local PBS affiliate and nobody we know all over this town can get it, and although the NPR affiliate at the local college station comes through loud and clear it doesn’t seem to be seeking out a low-income audience. Even such low-lifes as ourselves occasionally enjoy the classical music offerings that admittedly can’t be found elsewhere, but we’d happily endure the infrequent ad for contingency fee lawyers to those interminable fund-raising drives and all that Peter, Paul and Mary music. Free market purists assume there will always be a commercial market for sensitively wrought opinions broadcast in soothing voices, especially in the age of Trump, and given that the “Sesame Street” brand and all its toys and bed sheets and coloring books probably out-earns the Trump brand our liberal friends have nothing to free from a true laissez-faire media.
Back in the pre-cable days the local PBS affiliate used to come through to our suburban house with episodes of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” which we are still grateful for, and our friends affluent to still have cable talk of some good high-brow shows on PBS, but we’re not sure it warrants even a mere $454 million dollars. Getting the budget into a sustainable range will require some tinkering with the popular entitlement programs of Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, which the liberals who love public broadcasting all consider sacrosanct and even Trump doesn’t dare to touch, so we’ll not worry much about this particular line item no matter how it turns out.

— Bud Norman

Auditing the IRS

Anyone who has worked for a large company in recent years has endured the time-wasting indignity of a conference. It might have been a conference devoted to diversity, sensitivity, creativity, or some similarly nebulous concept such as teamwork or “thinking outside the box,” but in every case it was countless hours of notebooks and buzzwords and other distractions from work that needed to be done.
There was some satisfaction, then, in learning that employees of the Internal Revenue Service have been subjected to much the same tortures inflicted on their private-sector counterparts. One can also hope that it kept them from hours of harassing conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. Still, the extraordinary cost and unusual stupidity of the activities constitute yet another outrage by the scandal-plagued agency.
The IRS conference held in California in 2010 featured $60,000 worth of videos that parodied “Star Trek” and “Gilligan’s Island” with bureaucratic in-jokes, $135,000 worth of speakers fees that bought a “happiness expert” and a sketch artist who hosted a “Leadership Through Art” session, and a dance lesson of undisclosed cost that forced the middle-aged and slightly overweight workers to bust a few disco moves for reasons that are also undisclosed. Baseball tickets, presidential suites, the sketch artist’s portrait of the rock star Bono, and other perquisites were offered to the participants as compensation for sitting or dancing through such balderdash, and according to an Inspector General’s report it all added up to a total cost of $4 million, with another $46 million or so for another 220 conferences over the past two years.
That’s chump change by federal government standards, and the agency’s few sympathizers will likely insist that the money was well spent on improving employee morale and exposing them to innovative ways of thinking, but it’s irksome nonetheless. To whatever extent these exercises actually improve employee performance they only allowed the workers to target their ideological opponents more ruthlessly, and surely someone out there in the vast free market is willing to spout to gibberish to the country’s bureaucrats at a lower cost to the taxpayer. We’d be quite willing to do the job for a mere half the $4 million cost of the conference, and we wouldn’t make anyone dance.
At the very least, it neatly refutes the argument that the IRS scandals are a result of the stingy Republicans’ crazy insistence on budget-cutting. The notion that IRS agents were forcing groups with “Tea Party” or “Patriot” on the applications to countless hours of extra questioning and paperwork because they were under-staffed never made any sense to begin with, but revelations about the agency’s profligate party budget makes it all the more absurd.
Anyone who has worked for a large company in recent years has probably seen down-sizing and budget-cutting, and he’se likely noticed that one of the few benefits to the process is that he spend less time in conferences. It’s time the folks at the IRS have the same experience.

— Bud Norman

Budget Fuss

President Barack Obama at last presented his budget proposal on Wednesday, two months after the legally mandated deadline and late enough for the press to declare it “long-awaited,” and it proves an interesting document. It’s probably irrelevant, as none of Obama’s previous budget proposals have ever gained so much as single vote in Congress and this one looks likely to fare even worse, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
In its totality the budget proposal is typical of all of Obama’s past political efforts, with big tax hikes imposed mainly on the wealthy and some cuts taken from defense while increasing spending elsewhere, with no end to the massive amounts of the red ink in sight, but buried deep within are a few ideas that are pleasantly surprising, such as asking federal employees to contribute more to their pensions and health care as well as a sort of jargon-laden acknowledgement that some sort of entitlement reform is ultimately necessary. None of it comes close enough to fixing the nation’s soon-to-be-calamitous fiscal condition to win any the vote of any real Republican, but it’s more than enough than to infuriate the more noisome elements of Obama’s Democratic base, and sufficient for the president’s more ardent admirers in the press to deem it part of his “charm offense” and a move toward an admirably more pragmatic and less political approach.
Those pressmen are probably over-doing it a bit, as Obama is still insistent on tax hikes and deficit spending that are calculatedly unacceptable to the Republicans, and his tone when announcing the plan was still full of partisan punchiness. After hilariously arguing that his massive tax hikes are “a fiscally responsible blueprint for middle-class jobs and growth,” Obama went on to blame his opposition for the supposed catastrophes of the “sequester” budgets cuts that were originally suggested by his staff. He even kept a straight face as he claimed that the currently robust recovery will continue “as long as Washington doesn’t get in the way.” Any real Republican believes that Obama’s tax hikes and deficit spending on ever-expanding regulations are precisely what’s getting in the way of a recovery more robust than the current 0.4 percent growth rate, of course, but Obama clearly remains uninterested in such crazy talk.
Such rhetorical red meat won’t satisfy the true believers in Obama’s party, however, given the heresies he has laid out in the budget proposal. Asking government workers to pay toward their pensions and health care at something approaching the rate of a private sector employee made Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie the left’s most vilified figures in public life, and any attempt to prevent the imminent demise of any entitlement program is somehow regarded as a blasphemy against Franklin Roosevelt. Even such “baby steps,” as the venerable right-wing National Review approvingly dubs it, are enough to create a rift within his party and opening for the Republicans.
Obama has merely proposed an accounting change in the way Social Security benefits are dispersed, dryly dubbed “chained CPI,” but as the ads are already saying on local talk radio that translates to Social Security which will inevitably prove unpopular not only with staunch leftists but also with many older and more-prone-to-vote Americans. Opportunistic Republicans can run on their outraged opposition to throwing the old folks out on the street in the next election cycle, neatly flipping a traditional Democratic theme, while more principled Republicans can run on Rep. Paul Ryan’s House-approved plan that maintains the status quo for the over-55 crowd while offering the next generations more free-market options as an appealing replacement to the entitlement systems, and in either case they could do well.
If Obama is being the shrewd politician that the press portrays, it is hard to see how his plan will benefit his party. Perhaps he’s reacting responsibly to the economic and fiscal realities that he confronts, in his own half-hearted and characteristically partisan and ideological way, but c’mon.

— Bud Norman

The Sequester Question

To hear the president tell it, this “sequester” business is darned scary.
According to the president’s account, if those rich-folk-loving Republicans don’t accede to his demand for more taxes there is absolutely nothing he can do to prevent “about a trillion dollars” of “arbitrary budget cuts.” This will be about the worst thing that ever happened, the president explained on Tuesday, as this “meat cleaver approach” will hinder the nation’s military readiness, “eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research,” reduce the hours worked by Border Patrol agents, furlough agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, force prosecutors to let criminals run amok, cause further delays at airports, lay off thousands of teachers, cause tens of thousands of parents to “scramble to find childcare for their kids,” and leave hundreds of thousands of Americans without health care. The president also noted, as a group of uniformed emergency responders sat grimly behind him, that “their ability to help communities respond to and recover from disasters will be degraded.”
None of which, the president seemed quite pleased to report, is in any way his fault. It’s all because Congress passed a law which forced itself to agree on a plan to cut $4 trillion of deficits or face this dire outcome. Alas, the president sadly noted, “They haven’t come together and done their jobs, so as a consequence, we’ve got these automatic, brutal spending cuts that are poised to happen next Friday.” Being a reasonable sort of fellow, the president assured those emergency responders and the rest of the nation that he would have preferred a “balanced approach” of tax hikes and “smart cuts” to “spending that we don’t need” and “programs that aren’t working,” but that he can’t bring himself to sign any bill that doesn’t further soak the rich because it “would hurt the middle class.”
This makes the sequester seem so frightening, and the president so sensible, that one might not notice that it’s all nonsense.
The president was the one who cooked up the sequester plan, as the formerly revered Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward has documented, and anyone with a “Schoolhouse Rocks” level of education knows that the bill Congress passed didn’t become a law until the president signed it. Furthermore, the Republican-controlled House has passed two attempts to undo the sequestration agreement but could not get them through the Democrat-controlled Senate, and a series of more sensible cuts could still be quickly agreed upon if the president were willing to compromise his redistributionist principles.
One should also note that none of the dire consequences that the president describes will come to pass unless he wills it, as the executive branch will decide how the mandatory cuts to each agency are enacted. Competent chief executives of many enterprises have made similar cuts in their organizations without calamity, so the smartest president ever should be able to do the same.
Nor is there any reason to believe that the consequences will be so dire as the president claims. The defense cuts are worrisome, but not nearly so much as a country that will believe Barack Obama’s accusation that it is the Republicans who are eager to undermine the nation’s military readiness. Those job-creating “investments” in energy are creating jobs at a cost of $4.8 million a piece, a rate that will bankrupt the country long before it reaches full employment. Border Patrol administrators rather than agents could have their hours cut, although that might have the unintended consequence of making the border more secure. Teachers and emergency responders will still be generously funded at the state and local level, assuming the economy doesn’t collapse under the weight of the national debt. Better prioritizing could prevent the other horrific outcomes, as well, although we’d still be treated to sob stories about the poor bureaucrats tossed out of their plush offices by the heartless Republicans.
If the president truly believes that there is “money we don’t have to spend” and “government programs that don’t work” he could easily arrange an agreement with the Republican leadership to cut those, but so far he has failed to identify anything in government that he doesn’t want. During the past campaign he made clear that subsidies to the multi-million dollar Sesame Street producers were sacrosanct, so it is hard to imagine anything else the federal government is doing that the president won’t deem essential.
No cuts will be entirely pain-free, of course, but a failure to get the government’s spending within the nation’s ability to pay for them will soon wind up hurting a great deal more. The president should know this, but he seems confident that the Republicans will wind up with the blame and he’ll avoid the scariest consequence of all.

— Bud Norman

In Quite a State

The state of the union, according to the president’s latest annual oration on the topic, is stronger. Presidents always say this sort thing in State of the Union addresses, regardless of the circumstances, so perhaps President Barack Obama can be forgiven for merely following form.
There isabundant evidence that the state of the union is not nearly so strong as it was when Obama gave his first address, however, and his arguments to the contrary were not convincing. He touted an end to a “decade of war” despite the growing dangers of the world, and boasted of a Fed-inflated stock market bubble. He argued that his massive new bureaucracies mean “consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever,” presumably from those nasty corporations, but seemed unconcerned about what will protect them from the bureaucrats. He further claimed that “we have cleared away the rubble of crisis,” but left unmentioned that we have also piled up an additional $6 trillion or so of debt in the process.
Nothing else in the speech offered much hope that thing the country will soon be strengthened in any noticeable way. Obama threw in some boilerplate language about encouraging free enterprise and rewarding individual initiative, but he seemed to rush through it on his way to calls for higher taxes, more government spending in areas of the economy that have traditionally been left to private enterprise, and an unmistakably collectivist ethic. All of this was couched in the language of “revenues,” “investments,” and “helping folks,” of course, but the point was still clear. He also argued that the government should become “smarter,” a worthy goal, but still seemed smitten with the alternative energy “investments” that have thus far been an expensive diversion from the potential traditional energy boom. Obama’s opponent in the past election was provably smart about investing, though, and Obama managed to convince a majority of voters of that the poor overly-rich fellow should be reviled for it.
The speech also stressed the need to “forge reasonable compromise” to make “some basic decisions about our budget” to avoid the so-called “sequestration” cuts, lamenting the government’s tendency to “drift from one manufactured crisis to the next” without mentioning that the sequestration cuts were his idea. Nor did he mention that the government hasn’t had a budget at all during his time office due to his party’s control of the Senate. He was slightly bi-partisan in noting that “both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion, meaning that they agreed to not go yet another $2.5 trillion in debt, but it was still understood as a warning to the Republicans they should cave early in the upcoming budget negotiations.
More talk of reasonable compromises followed, with Obama generously agreeing to “modest reforms” of the entitlement system so long as they are accompanied by yet another round of “revenue increases.” The multi-trillion dollar shortfalls in the entitlement programs require only slight tweaking, apparently, and so long as those darned rich people pay more Obama seems willing to go along.
Obama added some talk of illegal immigrants and guns, threw in a subtle allusion to homosexuality, and finished with the usual tear-jerking shtick about the little people out there. We were to stunned to follow it after the part about Obamacare driving down health care costs, though, and we assume it was much the same as in past speeches. This was the fifth Obama State of the Union address and there only three to go, unless he decides that those pesky term limits are of more consequences than the rest of the Constitution, so we do feel slightly strengthened by that.

— Bud Norman

Budgetary Baloney

Sometimes the muse fails a writer. Some outrages are so outrageous, some absurdities so absurd, some lies so utterly false, that the precise analogy, the proper metaphor, or even the accurate words remain elusive. So it is with President Barack Obama’s boast last week that he’s a fiscal skinflint who has been heroically dealing with massive debts caused entirely by Republicans.

“This other side, I don’t how they’ve been bamboozling folks into thinking that they are the responsible, fiscally-disciplined party,” Obama said Wednesday during yet another fund-raiser, this time in Denver’s Hyatt Regency Hotel. “They run up these wild debts and then when we take over, we’ve got to clean it up.”

What word could one employ to describe such balderdash, such bushwa, such malarkey, such claptrap, such hooey? If not for our strict standards of decorum we could toss in a few choicer synonyms from the barnyard vernacular, but even those would not quite be le mot juste for this sort of mendacious nonsense. What can one possibly liken to such a rant, when even the most far-fetched analogy falls short of its extraordinary dishonesty, and even the most damning metaphor fails to express its utter mendacity, and even the most pointed joke cannot match its knee-slapping hilarity?

Obama’s bizarre claim apparently originated with an article at the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch site, where staff writer Rex Nutting asserted that the “Obama spending binge never happened,” and that government spending has risen during Obama’s administration at the slowest pace since the 1950s. The Obama campaign has been widely disseminating the article, the candidate himself smirkingly cited “real liberal outlets like The Wall Street Journal” as his corroborating evidence, and there is nowhere else on earth that the idea could have possibly been contrived.

Nutting’s article is pure accounting legerdemain, of course, as numerous commentators quickly noted. The smarter bloggers at Pajamas Media noticed it, as did the conservative think tankers at the Heritage Foundation, and even the president’s usually reliable allies at The Washington Post took time out from investigating Mitt Romney’s high school cruelties to give Obama’s Nutting-based claims three “Pinocchios” in a fact-checking column. More detailed explanations are clearly given in the linked articles, but the gist of it is that Nutting took a whole lot of spending that originated with Obama and moved it back to the Bush years, then used that record-setting baseline to measure the supposedly modest increases of Obama’s ensuing big spending years.

The Bush era was regrettably profligate, with an astounding $4 trillion in debt accrued during the eight years, but just three years of Obama have added another $5 trillion, government spending as a share of the national economy has risen to levels not seen since World War II, and in every budget the president has submitted he has asked for so much more spending that none one single member of Congress would vote for the proposal. Although congressional Republicans have too often been guilty of overspending, a situation now being slowly rectified by the party’s fed-up base in primary after primary, it should also be noted the biggest deficits of the Bush era occurred during his last two years, when anti-war sentiment and general Bush fatigue had caused a Democratic takeover of congress, and that Democratic control of both the legislative and executive branches resulted in new records.

Obama’s claim to fiscal probity is so wildly implausible, then, that many people might take it to be true. The ploy is a perfect example of how you can indeed fool some of the people some of the time, but it seems unlikely to fool enough of them for long enough to do Obama much good. Even the most sycophantic newspapers and broadcasters seem unwilling to go along with the ruse, and Obama likely won’t be able to resist getting back to his previous lines about how the stimulus saved the world, his many investments will pay off some in the future, and how he’s cut a sufficient number of government checks to be owed the loyalty of an electoral majority.

For Obama to continue to criticize his predecessor’s spendthrift ways is like, well, once again there seems to be no analogy at hand. At least the next time some politician makes a suitably outrageous claim, we’ll be able to say “That’s like Barack Obama claiming he’s a budget hawk.”

— Bud Norman

Running Up the Score on the Budget

There’s something strangely fascinating about the big blow-out scores that occasionally appear in the sports pages. We don’t mean the 30-point differences that frequently occur in basketball games or the 50-point margins that are a regular feature of the football schedule, but rather those cringe-inducing triple-digit shut-out drubbings that only happen once a season or so. Seeing such humiliating scores always cause us to wonder how they came about, and whether it was the winner’s exceptional skill or the loser’s extraordinary ineptitude that led to such a lopsided result.

No such speculation is necessary after Wednesday’s big blow-out at the Capitol, where President Barack Obama’s budget proposal went down to ignominious defeat by the staggering score of 0-99. That follows a 0-414 defeat in the House of Representatives last month, for a congressional season total of 0-513, and there’s no point wondering why. It can’t be the high quality of the competition, because no other budget plan has found congressional approval for the past three years, so the rather convincing score can only be attributed to the low quality of the president’s plan.

Obama’s most stubborn defenders will no doubt downplay the significance of vote, saying that the president only proposed a budget because of some archaic legal requirement and never really intended that it be enacted. As The New York Times helpfully explained when Obama introduced the budget proposal last February, it “amounts to an election-year bet that a plan for higher taxes on the rich and more spending on popular programs like infrastructure and manufacturing will trump concerns over the deficit,” and the true Obama believers will no doubt see nothing wrong with such political maneuvering. Still, they can’t possibly unembarrassed when even the likes of Al Franken, Barbara Boxer, Maxine Waters, and Bernie Sanders can’t be persuaded to cast a vote for the staggering debt that the Obama budget envisions.

Although the budget proposal and the Republicans’ insistence on a vote were both mere political gimmicks, the outcome is nonetheless worth noting. When Obama takes to the campaign trail to tell voters that some Republican proposal or another cuts funding for some sacrosanct program or another by a certain percentage, he’s talking about how the Republican proposal compares to his own budget plan. The Republican proposals will inevitably seem stingy by comparison, and Obama is apparently calculating that by the time the Republicans explain the budgetary reality voters will too bored and confused to appreciate that the president is actually proposing to bankrupt the country at a rate even the congressional Democrats cannot condone.

The trick might just work, as many American voters are quite easily bored and confused, but being able to point to a scoreboard flashing 0-513 could help the Republican efforts. We’ve seen teams that have lost basketball games by 30 points or so wind up cutting down the nets at the end of a season, but the teams that suffer the triple-digit losses usually don’t fare so well.

— Bud Norman