The Democrats have refused to Raise the Debt Ceiling for Republican Presidents

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 8th, 2013

History 101

The Democrats opposed Raising the Debt Ceiling for Republican President Dwight Eisenhower

President Obama and the House Republicans are at a standoff.  At the center of the debate is Obamacare.  The House Republicans want to defund Obamacare.  They didn’t like it when it cost $1 trillion over ten years.  And they like it even less now that the CBO has revised its cost to $3 trillion.  It has frozen hiring.  And pushed people from full-time to part-time.  President Obama has also revised the law.  Taking on legislative powers that the Constitution gives only to Congress.  With the one year delay for the business mandate being especially galling to Republicans.  As well as the 75% subsidy members of Congress and their staff get.

The House Republicans have reduced their demands to basically giving the president a continuing resolution to fund all of government if he would only give the American people what he gave to his friends in Big Business.  A one year waiver of the individual mandate.  Infuriating the president.  Saying he will not negotiate with terrorists taking the American people hostage.  However, he said he will negotiate with the Republicans.  After they give him everything he wants.  Including raising the debt limit.  For shutting down the government is one thing.  But messing with the full faith and credit of the United States is another.  With the Republicans having the gall to demand spending cuts before raising the debt ceiling.  This was just unprecedented.  Never before did anyone use the debt ceiling to bully a president before.  In the past Congresses always raised the debt ceiling whenever a president requested.  Whistling a happy tune in the process.  Except, of course, in 1953 (see Can Debt Ceiling Debates Be Useful? History Says Maybe. by Joseph J. Thorndike posted 8/28/2013 on the Huffington Post).

The idea of using the debt ceiling for leverage is not new. Indeed, the nation’s first debt limit crisis hinged on it. In the summer of 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower asked Congress for a modest boost in the debt ceiling. When austerity-minded lawmakers refused, it prompted a crisis that brought the nation to the brink of default – or to its fiscal senses, depending on your point of view…

Eisenhower didn’t believe that spending cuts would be sufficient to keep federal debt under the cap. “Despite our joint vigorous efforts to reduce expenditures,” he told Congress, “it is inevitable that the public debt will undergo some further increase.” On July 30, Eisenhower asked Congress for an increase in the debt ceiling from $275 billion to $290 billion…

Sen. Harry F. Byrd, D-Va., took the lead in fighting the increase. Raising the limit would be “an invitation to extravagance,” he declared. Keeping the present cap, moreover, would encourage much-needed economy. “It may be that the administration would be forced to operate on a very prudent and conservative budget in order to avoid an increase in the debt limit,” he predicted.

A host of senators joined Byrd’s campaign to reject the increase. The New York Times reported that Democratic opposition was “almost solid,” and many Republicans were also prepared to break with the president…

As a leverage goes, it was pretty effective. Almost immediately, Eisenhower told his department heads to cut their spending. “It is absolutely essential that you begin immediately to take every possible step progressively to reduce the expenditures of your department during the fiscal year 1954,” he told them.

So it started early.  And it started with the Democrats.  Holding the debt limit hostage to get what they want.  And in 1953, the Democrats got what they wanted.  They forced President Eisenhower to make spending cuts.  Just like the Republicans asked for in 2011.  And will ask again now.  But President Obama was not as reasonable in 2011 as President Eisenhower was.  And he is saying he will be even less reasonably now.

The Democrats opposed Raising the Debt Ceiling for Republican President Ronald Reagan

So was 1953 an isolated incident?  Were the Democrats more accommodating at other times when a president asked them to raise the debt ceiling?  As President Obama would have us believe?  Well, they weren’t very accommodating in 1984.  When President Ronald Reagan asked Congress to raise the debt ceiling (see In 1984, debt debate looked different to Biden, GOP by Stephen Dinan posted 7/19/2011 on The Washington Times).

With time running out on a looming debt crisis, the president and his allies in the Senate are fighting to win a raise in the government’s borrowing limit, only to be stymied by a minority insisting that a spending freeze be part of the deal.

Sounds like present day, but it was October 1984 — when the partisan roles were reversed. Republicans controlled the White House and the Senate, while Democrats controlled the House. Democrats also could sustain filibusters in the Senate and were balking at raising the debt ceiling unless it was attached to big spending cuts…

One of the leaders of that 1984 Democratic revolt — a man who tried to impose a spending freeze and fought for a smaller debt increase than President Reagan wanted — was none other than current Vice President Joseph R. Biden, then a senator from Delaware and now President Obama’s right-hand man in negotiations with Congress.

“I must express my protest against continually increasing the debt without taking positive steps to slow its growth. Therefore, I am voting against any further increase in the national debt,” Mr. Biden said in a floor speech just before helping fellow Democrats defeat an increase of $251 billion on a 46-14 vote.

Once again the Democrat-controlled House refused to raise the debt ceiling.  So 1953 was not an isolated incident.  But the beginning of a pattern of Democrat willingness to risk the full faith and credit of the United States for political reasons.  To get their way despite losing the election to President Reagan.  Apparently back then elections didn’t have consequences.

How embarrassing it must be for the vice president.  Being part of an administration trying to do what the Reagan administration did when he stood in opposition.  Imagine trying to argue for something you argued against previously?  Thankfully, it was only the vice president that had such a hypocritical past.  Imagine how embarrassing it would be if the president had such hypocrisy in his past.

The Democrats opposed Raising the Debt Ceiling for Republican President George W. Bush

Well, as it turns out, another young Democrat senator went toe-to-toe with another Republican president over the debt ceiling.  And he just didn’t vote against it.  He made a speech.  On the record.  For posterity.  To prove he was no spendthrift.  At least, not when a Republican was in the White House.  That president was George W. Bush.  And that senator was, of course, Barack Obama (see Obama Really Wishes He Never Gave This Speech About The Debt Ceiling by Walter Hickey posted 1/14/2013 on the Business Insider).

In 2006, then-Sen. Barack Obama gave a floor speech defending his decision to vote against an increase in the debt ceiling under President George W. Bush…

Here are some of the key parts of Obama’s speech:

Mr. President, I rise today to talk about America’s debt problem. The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies.

[…]

Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘‘the buck stops here.’’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.

In the midst of the first debt-ceiling standoff in 2011, Obama was asked about his flip by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. He chalked it up as a “political vote” and said his mindset changed as President.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Barack Obama.

Interesting.  It was okay for him to do what the House Republicans are doing now when he was in Congress.  When there was less debt.  And less of a debt crisis.  But it’s not okay for the House Republicans to do so now.  When there is more debt.  And a greater debt crisis.

So what is the right thing to do?  Well, if you’re President Obama the right thing to do is what he wants to do.  Not what is best for the country.  For if you argue both sides of the same issue at different times it means you’re more interested in what’s best for yourself.  Not the country.  Unless he evolved on this issue, too.  If so, perhaps we should ask for President Obama’s resignation.  For if he keeps evolving on issues he must be too ill-informed or naïve to be president.

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FT185: “When it comes to foreign policy the Republicans do what is best for the country while Democrats do what is best for their party.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 30th, 2013

Fundamental Truth

Wherever the Soviets pushed the Americans pushed back to Contain the Expansion of Communism

Once upon a time Democrats were practically warmongers.  Woodrow Wilson got us into World War I.  FDR got us into World War II.  Harry Truman got us into the Korean War.  And LBJ got us into the Vietnam War.  While Republicans were nearly pacifists.  Dwight Eisenhower got us out of the Korean War.  And Richard Nixon got us out of the Vietnam War.

Eisenhower was the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during World War II.  Saw the carnage of war up close.  And was glad when it was over.  Unlike General Patton.  Who wanted to invade the Soviet Union.  Because he knew we would have to fight them sooner or later.  And rather do it then when they had the most awesome military force in the world still in Europe.  General Patton lost command of Third Army because of talk like that.  And later would die from injuries he got in a freak car accident.

It didn’t take long following the end of World War II for the Soviets to become the new big bad in town.  Just like General Patton foresaw.  Truman stood up to them in Berlin.  Greece.  Turkey.  Iran.  And Korea.  Wherever they pushed the Americans tried to hold the line.  To contain the expansion of communism.  It was the Cold War.  And it first got hot in Korea.  But the UN forces held the line in Korea.  After three years of war.  About as long as America spent fighting in Europe during World War II.

JFK’s refusal to commit American Military Power during the Bay of Pigs Invasion led to the Cuban Missile Crisis

Communism was a thorn in the side of democracy.  The democratic West believed in peace through strength.  With the occasional war breaking the peace.  While the communist East believed in a perpetual state of war with the occasional peace breaking that war.  The communists sought to expand through violent revolution.  If you contained it early (like in the Berlin Airlift) you could avoid a shooting war.  And keep it cold.  But if they got a foothold you could find yourself mired in a hot and prolonged war.  Like in Korea.

When Fidel Castro turned Cuba communist it was not a good thing for the United States.  For all their efforts to contain communism throughout the world here they were.  On Cuba.  Within missile range of the United States.  And Castro was cozying up to the Soviets.  Which is why President Eisenhower gave the green light for the CIA to remove Castro from power.  To remove a threat so close to the United States.  The plan was the Bay of Pigs Invasion.  Which proceeded under the following administration.  JFK’s.

The invasion, though, did not go well.  And unlike in the Guatemalan coup d’état, JFK did not commit American military power to help the invaders (unlike Eisenhower did in the Guatemalan coup).  Who were soon pushed back.  And defeated.  Which breathed new life in Cuba’s communist revolution.  Brought them more into the Soviet sphere.  And encouraged the Soviets to test this young president.  Which they did.  By sending nuclear missiles to Cuba.  Leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis.  And near nuclear war (Castro’s right hand man, Che Guevara, was angry with the Soviets because they refused to nuke the United States during the crisis).  While the Cuban people suffered under their communist oppressors.  And still do.

Today Iran—and Radical Islam—is the Thorn in the Side of Democracy that Communism once Was

Truman was the last Democrat warrior president.  LBJ got us into Vietnam.  But he also gave us the Great Society.  Turning the nation towards a welfare state.  A very costly welfare state.  Which the great costs of the Vietnam War threatened.  The government, much like they did during the Revolutionary War, began printing money to pay for all of this spending.  Devaluing a dollar pegged to gold.  With nations concerned with this devaluation they traded their dollars for gold.  Which is what is supposed to happen under a gold standard.  So nations don’t devalue their currencies.  But printing money is easier than cutting spending.  So President Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold.  So they could really print it.  Giving us the inflationary Seventies.

Since then Democrat presidents have done two things.  Expanded the welfare state.  And demonized their political opponents.  Which extended to their foreign policy.  President Carter cut back on defense spending.  And tried to make friends with our archenemy.  The Soviet Union.  A president the Soviets had little respect for.  Even considering a nuclear first-strike policy as they didn’t think Carter would ever launch his nuclear weapons.  And then President Carter criticized American ally, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, for his human rights violation.  There was revolutionary fervor in the air.  The Shah implored for help from their long-time friend and ally.  The United States.  Who assured the Shah that the Americans would intervene militarily on his behalf.  But didn’t.  The Iranian Revolution followed.  And Iran became America’s new archenemy.

Iranian oil won World War II.  It fed the Red Army.  Iran served as a portal into the Soviet Union.  War material as well as oil flowed through Iran and into the Soviet Union.  After the war the Soviets didn’t want to leave Iran.  Give up that oil.  Or a warm-weather port on the Indian Ocean.  But the British and the Americans helped the Iranians keep the Soviets at bay.  Their actions included a coup.  And some human rights violations.  To keep what happened in Eastern Europe following World War II from happening in Iran.  Iran prospered.  And Westernized.  It was becoming everything the American left loved.  Secular.  It was becoming more like America.  Where men and women enjoyed doing things they could enjoy in New York City.  Which angered the Islamists.

Today Iran—and radical Islam—is the thorn in the side of democracy that communism once was.  And unlike their Cold War warrior forefathers, today’s Democrats choose party over country.  Basing their foreign policy on expanding the welfare state.  Or demonizing their political opponents.  President Clinton treated al Qaeda’s increasing acts of hostility against Western/American interests as a legal issue.  Which grew bolder until they culminated in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  Clinton did this so he wouldn’t waste money on defense by risking war to protect America.  Or anger his liberal base.  After 9/11, George W. Bush fought back.

The Democrats have demonized George W. Bush as a rich oil man who traded blood for oil.  While at the same time they said he was purposely causing oil shortages to raise the price of oil.  When an opportunity came to overthrow America’s new archenemy, Iran, President Obama did nothing to support the Green Revolution in Iran following questionable election results that kept Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power.  An intervention that would have been in the best interests of both America and the Iranian people.  But when the Arab Spring blew through Egypt he was quick to tell our friend and ally, Hosni Mubarak, that he had to go.  Turning Egypt over to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.  But when civil war came to Syria he chose to do nothing.  Until now (to save face from his ‘red line’ comment about chemical weapons?).  When the opposition has most probably been infiltrated by al Qaeda.

What is the constant in these Democrat foreign policy decisions?  They are the opposite of what the Republicans would have done.  So they couldn’t have done them.  For it would have vindicated George W. Bush.  Angered their liberal base.  And made the world a safer place.

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LESSONS LEARNED #64: “National security can be a messy business. Especially when your enemies don’t play by the same rules.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 5th, 2011

Stalin Contained in Europe and Asia

Following the defeat of Nazi Germany, Soviet communism filled the Nazi world conquest void.  The Soviets paid the highest price in blood in the war against Hitler.  And the way they looked at it, that gave them the deed to any land the Red Army found itself on after hostilities came to an end.  Those countries who once welcomed their Soviet liberators from Nazi oppression soon found themselves under Soviet oppression.  The Soviets weren’t going anywhere.  They stayed in Eastern Europe.  They tried to stay in Iran but the British and the Americans got them to pull out, thanks in large part to America’s nuclear status.  Communist guerillas in Greece that once harassed the Nazis were trying to ascend to power with the help of the Soviets.  The Truman Doctrine checked the Soviet influence and kept Greece independent and out of the Soviet camp.  Russia was once again trying to take Turkish lands to give them that elusive warm water port via the Bosporus and Dardanelles into the Mediterranean.  Again, the Truman Doctrine helped keep the Turks independent and out of the Soviet sphere.

The German capital, Berlin, was completely inside East Germany.  But it was partitioned between East and West.  This was a problem for the Soviets as the people in East Germany didn’t like them, the KGB or the East German Stasi (which formed in 1950).  East Berlin was a gateway to freedom via West Berlin.  The first attempt to shut this down was the Berlin Blockade.  Truman overcame the blockade with the Berlin Airlift.  Thwarted, the Soviets lifted their blockade.  But then built the Berlin Wall to keep the unhappy East Germans from fleeing Soviet oppression.  West Berlin remained free within un-free East Germany.  And was still the gateway to freedom.  Only attaining freedom was a lot more difficult, with many East Germans dying in the attempt.

Being rebuffed in Eastern Europe, Berlin, Greece, Turkey and Iran, Stalin looked next to the Korean peninsula.  President Truman had hastened the end of World War II with the atomic bombings in the Pacific for a couple of reasons.  One was to spare American lives resulting from an invasion of the Japanese homeland.  The body count had only increased as MacArthur island-hopped his way to Japan.  Another reason was to get the Japanese to surrender before the Soviet Union could get the Red Army on more territory in the Pacific.  Because Truman saw the writing on the wall.  The Soviets never willingly left land the Red Army occupied.  With the end of hostilities in the Pacific, and the Japanese out of the Korean peninsula, the Allies partitioned Korea into North and South.  The Soviets occupied the North.  The Americans the South.  The Soviet sponsored North Korea eventually invaded the American sponsored South Korea, inaugurating the first open conflict by proxy in the Cold War.  After three years of a seesaw war, North and South signed an armistice setting the border between the two where it was in the beginning.  At the 38th Parallel.  Though the Korean War was a draw, it was still another Soviet defeat.  Who began to realize this world domination was trickier than it looked.  Especially when there were do-gooders out their like the United States always mucking up the works.

Eisenhower to Kennedy, Regime Changes and near Nuclear Annihilation

So the Soviets changed gears.  No more wars of invasion and conquest.  They had a new idea.  Wars of liberation.  They would help foment dissent in countries under the boot of American Imperialism.  Or at least in countries closer to America than the Soviet Union.  With America being in the Western Hemisphere that, of course, led the Soviets to Central and South America.  With the close of hostilities on the Korean peninsula in 1953, the Americans were now suspect of any communist-like behavior, eager to avoid another bloody and costly proxy war with the Soviet Union.  And they saw some in 1954 Guatemala.  Where the newly elected Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán started seizing private property and instituted agrarian reforms.  Along communist lines.  With more public property.  And less private property.  The developments in Guatemala may not have been Soviet in origin.  But it looked enough like it for President Eisenhower to approve a CIA coup in Guatemala.

After going through World War II and the Korean War, Eisenhower wanted to fight future wars before they became wars.  Like in Guatemala.  And elsewhere.  As in Cuba.  Where Eisenhower approved planning for Regime change in this Caribbean nation following the Cuban Revolution that ousted Fulgencio Batista who had seized power in a coup.  Putting the revolutionaries Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in power.  Once in power, the new revolutionary government did some very ‘communist’ things.  Seized private property.  Nationalized public utilities.  Created a bit of a police state.  The usual things.  But it was worse than in Guatemala.  And closer.  So President Kennedy approved the Eisenhower plan of regime change.  And we call that CIA plan the Bay of Pigs Invasion.  Which, of course, failed.  Unlike Eisenhower, Kennedy did not support this black ops mission with the U.S. military to stave off defeat.  So Castro, his brother, Guevara, and others, defeated the CIA backed Cuban exiles.  Which empowered Castro.  And pushed him closer to the Soviet Union. 

You know what Nikita Khrushchev saw when he looked across the Black Sea?  American nuclear missiles in Turkey.  Figuratively, of course.  Not literally.  He couldn’t even see the Turkish coast let alone missile installations.  But he knew they were there.  And that really got in his craw.  And the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion with the young and apparently reluctant American president provided just the opportunity he needed.  He would install Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.  And try this young and inexperienced president.  Castro was all for it, fearing another U.S. invasion (he apparently thought far more of Kennedy than the Soviets).  Guevara, too.  Because he was just reckless.  And crazy, as it turned out.  Well, the secret deployment was discovered by a U-2 spy plane.  Caught the Soviets with their pants down.  We threw up a naval blockade.  Came to the brink of nuclear war.  But Kennedy stood his ground.  The Soviets backed down and removed their missiles.  And then the Americans removed the missiles that had so bothered Khrushchev.  This last was part of a secret agreement to keep the young American president from looking bad.  But the Soviets were a little glad to remove their missiles from Cuba.  Because Guevara wanted to nuke the United States.  And probably would have if he had control of those missiles.

From Iranian Coup to Iranian Revolution

Oil underground is useless.  It only has value when someone brings it up where it can be refined into something useful.  And that’s what the British did in Iran.  The Iranians did not like the split of profits (they were only getting 16% of the net profits which was greater than the 0% they were receiving before the British pumped the oil out of the ground).  Anytime there is huge money involved, there’s going to be trouble.  And after the oil infrastructure was set up the Iranians nationalized the oil industry.  Which didn’t make the British happy.  So they pulled their expertise from the Iranian oil industry and blockaded their oil exports.  The Iranians were not as good as the British and their production fell.  And what little they did produce they could not sell.  This led to unemployment, hunger, etc.  All the right conditions for a coup.

Truman was not interested.  He had his hands full with the Korean War.  But Eisenhower saw things differently.  Especially when the British told him Iran may fall into the Soviet sphere.  And with her would go all of that oil.  Eisenhower believed this.  For there was nothing more the Soviets would have wanted.  They’d still be in Iran if the British and the U.S. (backed by the United States’ nuclear monopoly) didn’t persuade them to leave following World War II.  So Eisenhower joined the British in the coup that placed Mohammad Reza Shah (aka, the Shah of Iran) on the throne in 1953.  And placed Iran into the American sphere.  And everyone lived happily ever after.  The West got Iranian oil on more favorable terms.  And the Middle East got a burning white hatred for the United States and the West in general.  Who apparently would do anything to steal their oil.  So that ‘happily ever after’ was more tongue in cheek.  It ended well in terms of the Cold War.  But not in terms of the nationalism or geopolitics of the Middle East.  For it turns some people can hold a grudge for a real long time.

Shah-rule proved at times to be rather oppressive.  And highly Western.  Democratic, anti-Shah protests began in 1977.  First by Islamists.  Who didn’t really like Western influence.   Then eventually well-educated and unemployed college students (men and women).  Who wanted more freedoms.  And jobs.  Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile in 1979.  As the democratic revolution grew in fervor, Khomeini consolidated his power behind the scenes.  There were no public statements about creating a theocracy.  Because the people didn’t want a theocracy.  Especially the women who had graduated from college with great hopes and dreams.  Because in a theocracy, women become second-class citizens with fewer rights.  And fewer hopes and dreams.

There was then a referendum asking if Iran should be an Islamic Republic.  It passed with near unanimity.  A draft constitution was put up to vote on.  It passed, too.  Some complained about voting irregularities.  Which became moot when Khomeini stated Iran would be based on Shari Law.  With no republic parts.  Then the Shah (now in exile) went to the United States for medical treatment.  Complications extended his stay, infuriating the Iranian protesters (who wanted him back to try and execute) and ratcheting up the American hate (who recalled the 1953 coup).  Young Islamists stormed the U.S. Embassy taking 52 hostages, holding them for 444 days.  Sunni Iraq then invaded Iran, fueling the Islamist furor.  The Islamists suppressed political opposition.  Shut down the free press.  Made women second-class citizens.  And, well, the rest is hardcore Islamist theocratic history.

Conquerors Lie and Exploit Political Instability

The world is a big place.  Sometimes events are interrelated.  Sometimes they’re not.  Sometimes we pay a price for acting too late.  And sometimes we pay a price for acting too soon.  Sometimes our actions prevent a bad situation from getting worse.  Sometimes our actions make a bad situation worse.  Or even makes a not necessarily bad situation a complete and utter disaster.  You never can be certain.  For one thing, everyone has some ulterior motive.  Sometimes those motives align with your national security interests.  Sometimes they don’t.  Unfortunately, we can never know for certain at the time we need to make a decision.  We can only base it on our current intelligence.  And history.

One thing we do know, though, is that there are people who want to conquer other people.  Hitler wanted to conquer the world and spread Nazi rule.  Stalin wanted to conquer the world and spread communist rule.  And now Islamist fundamentalists want to conquer the world and spread Islamist rule.  How do we know this?  They told us.  And demonstrated this by their actions.

Two other key points we can learn from history.  Those who want to conquer lie.  And they exploit political instability.  Hitler lied about his intentions in Czechoslovakia and took advantage of a war-weary Europe still recovering from the Great Depression.  Khrushchev lied about placing missiles in Cuba.  Which he placed in Cuba by taking advantage of the political instability following the failed Bay of Pig Invasion.  And Khomeini lied about his intentions in Iran knowing the people didn’t want a theocracy.  And he took advantage of the chaos of the democracy uprisings and other events to steer the nation where he wanted it to go.  Islamic theocracy.

The Nazi threat gave way to the Communist threat.  Which gave way to the Islamist threat.  So we should pay close attention to any country with political instability/democracy movements.  That has any Islamist elements.  Especially one that feels they’ve been wronged by the United States.  For that would be the perfect storm in the Islamic world.

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