On Financial Matters, Panic Is Democrats’ Preferred Currency

Democrats haven’t passed a budget in years, yet somehow it’s Republicans’ fault that the country is about to go over a fiscal cliff.

Harry Reid’s Democratic-controlled Senate has, for three consecutive years, refused to pass a federal budget or even bring a proposal to the floor as required by law. In 2011 Reid announced that passing a budget would be “foolish” because of ongoing negotiations over other fiscal matters. Senator Chuck Schumer declared that proposing budgets was “not the point” of the Senate.

Later in 2011, Nancy Pelosi claimed that when Democrats controlled the House in 2010, they didn’t pass a budget because Republicans would have filibustered it. White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew made the same claim. In fact, both were wrong: filibustering a budget is impossible, because budgets require only a simple majority to pass.

Earlier this year, Reid announced, “We do not need to bring a budget to the floor this year – it’s done, we don’t need to do it.” He was referring to the Budget Control Act of 2011-which is not a federal budget-that raised the debt ceiling, established the supercommittee that failed to agree on debt reduction, and set the country up for the fiscal cliff we face today.

Reid’s other excuse for not passing a budget in 2012 was that there was an election in November.

(Type “Democrats haven’t” into any browser’s search engine and see what auto-complete suggests.)

Now Senator Patty Murray, who seeks to chair the Senate Budget Committee next year, hints that the Democratic Senate won’t pass a budget in 2013, either.

Thanks to Democratic intransigence, Congress isn’t even required to pass a balanced budget, just a budget. Is that so hard?

Meanwhile, Democrats’ inaction is forcing the country to white-knuckle it via an endless series of herky-jerky, over-before-the-ink-is-dry continuing resolutions and stopgap measures every couple of months.

Last year’s fiscal crisis resulted when the government was about to run out of money and needed its debt ceiling increased. This year’s crisis has two parts: (1) Congress’s failure to address deficit reduction during last year’s debt ceiling showdown will trigger unpalatable, automatic, across-the-board spending cuts of $1.2 trillion over the next ten years; and (2) the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of the year, Congress is divided on whether to extend them for high-income earners, and taxes will increase for everyone if an agreement isn’t reached.

The debt ceiling debacle was demonstrably, entirely the result of Democrats’ failure to pass a budget anytime in recent history. The Bush tax cuts are also Democrats’ fault, because a 2013 budget would have specified whether the cuts were to continue, and we would have had this discussion long before the end of November. (It was also Democrats’ fault that the cuts weren’t made permanent or extended for more than two years in 2010.)

Since Democrats will control the Senate for at least two more years, yet show no inclination toward passing a budget anytime soon, they’ll probably set us up for another fiscal cliff after we avert the current one. The U.S. is already set to hit its debt ceiling limit again in spring 2013.

Why do Democrats leave financial matters unresolved until the last minute?

Answer: So they can spread fear and leverage Americans’ anxiety to threaten Republicans into giving in.

Democrats’ M.O. for prevailing on fiduciary matters these days seems to be: irresponsibly and historically refuse to pass a budget for several consecutive years; dismiss the very requirement as an antiquated relic; continually lead us to a series of unnecessary, economy-rattling, bond-rating-threatening fiscal crisis; then claim that Republicans are kamikaze pilots who want to take the nation down to score political points.

The site About.com describes the current standoff thus: “[L]awmakers have had three years to address this issue, but Congress – mired in political gridlock – has largely put off the search for a solution… ” No. Republicans have been dealing with this issue all along, including proposing and passing budgets and debt reduction plans once they took control of the House. Democrats have been obfuscating, stalling, and spinning their wheels, even when they controlled both chambers of Congress and were capable of passing a budget without a filibuster-proof majority. It’s not gridlock when one party has the right of way and refuses to move.

Republicans plan long-term. Democrats thrive in crisis-filled environments-like the 2008 financial collapse-that allow them to charge in and claim we need more government.

Democrats traffic in panic; it’s their preferred currency. Getting everyone all agitated at the eleventh hour gives them cover to toss out ideas at random-like eliminating mortgage interest deductions-before the public can properly debate them. When things move too quickly for people to pay attention, there’s room for mistakes to be made, for liberal Republicans like Lindsey Graham and Saxby Chambliss to slip up and later justify themselves by telling constituents, “I had to do it.” And Democrats know this.

Democrats not only pushed the country to the edge of the fiscal cliff, they invented the fiscal cliff.