A Letter To Congress

Tyler Durden's picture

from reader T. Willerson

Letter to congress

Dear Congressman:

It’s here:  Your moment at the plate.   You’ve whiffed more than a few … and, yes, we’re counting.  But you’ve been gifted another at-bat, and the President’s tired.  Seventh inning stuff is coming out of his teleprompter, and this full-count fastball will be straight, level, and slow.  You won’t see another one like this for five years.

An embattled first term president is faced with an outcome that he must, at all costs, prevent, and he’s done very little ground work ahead of it.  He is about to become the first President in American history to preside over a default on the national debt, unless you vote to let him raise the limit on the financial burden we leave our children.  He would ultimately be crazy to deny any reasonable option, absolutely anything, rather than live with the outcome of his refusal.  Politically speaking, he’s whispered a prayer to the Greek God of Imprudence and Fiscal Insanity, raised a one-finger salute to the nation’s savers through the sunroof of a stolen golden Beemer, and revved it toward the draw-bridge that you were elected to control.

Graphic by John Lohman

America’s debt has been moving straight up since the early 1980s.  In the beginning it was ok.  Debt is not, in itself, a bad thing, and a reasonable amount of leverage on the balance sheet can be positive for any entity, including the United States.  But we’re well past that threshold.  Researchers Reinhart and Rogoff, in their exhaustive recent work, This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, show that, historically, when debt in an economy gets above .9x, or 90% of GDP, the interest burden creates a negative cycle from which nations struggle to recover.  If we include the unfunded liabilities we’ve committed to in order to support programs like Medicare and Social Security, the United States of America’s financial obligations represent 8.7x, or 871% of GDP, almost 10x the amount that Reinhart & Rogoff determined lead to ultimate economic failure.  In terms that are much easier to identify with, this comes to a debt of $1,386,340 for every family in the US!  When you consider the average family’s ability to pay, it all begins to rhyme with those 2007 no - doc mortgages, doesn’t it?    In fact, if the US was a corporation, we’d be in bankruptcy proceedings and you, kind sir, would be holding a pink slip, a legal summons, and a scrap of paper with Dick Fuld’s cell phone number on it for advice on staying out of jail – because the truth is that he is no more guilty than you, and you no less than him, and we can stop kidding ourselves whenever you’re ready.

But, politically, you ask… what can really be done?  After all it’s always the other guy.  You know, that, sniff - sniff…, mean congresswoman from a lunatic district who disagrees.  It’s her fault.  She doesn’t understand math.  And she’s just intractable.  Intractable!  She believes that America’s social contract (I can’t find that in the constitution… ) is more important than the critically important task of shooting Tomahawk missiles at other parents’ kids to support… uhhm… different kids that we don’t really know, in a war that’s only sort of, well... a war.  I mean, the nerve of that… woman.  And there are others like her.  And there’s an election coming up every two years.  A bigger one every four.  Wait… what in God’s name did that lunatic McCain just say?  … Anyway, progress is too much to expect, and after a couple years of trying, you just… roll with the punches… do what you can…  Right?

When it’s time for that morning look in the mirror, you tell yourself it’s harder than you thought.  Too much of it seems bigger than the promises you made to get there.  In the face of disagreement, in the thrall of tight votes and divided leadership, you simply can’t get it done the way you’d hoped.  So you parse the polls, you chase the cameras, you fondle your constituents, and you wonder what the view looks like from the upper chamber.  You ultimately retire to the lobbying job, with one hell of a pension, and live in a way that you despised before you realized what two kids in college, vacations in Europe, and a wife with a strappy Jimmy Choo habit would cost.  You’ve kicked the proverbial can down the road, and maybe you tell yourself that it’s all our political system will allow.  And so it goes.

Or you find your moment - that point of crisis when rare circumstances put the bat in your hand, and you have the leverage to make a change - the kind of change that’s identified by far more than a focus-grouped slogan; the kind that alters the course of history.  You can do it by simply standing firmly for the principles upon which you were elected.

To blame you for catastrophe, legislators first have to explain the rejection of an acceptable alternative.  Barack can load the teleprompter with the righteous indignation of his Father’s Dreams and level each syllable with a stage actor’s grace.  The senate can whine and Harry Reid will triangulate desperately toward that elusive line between patriotism and pandering, sensitivity and simpering, missing every second and third step along the way.    You’ll have to hold through the deluge because the bully pulpit wins the news cycle, but an administration bears the blame.  Deflecting reporters is a privilege of the political class, but a President is beholden to history.

Certainly you could play for a single; just get a runner on base and hope like hell that the relief pitcher isn’t as strong as he’s been for the last ten years.  You could pick and pry and get just enough to say you won; aim for destabilization in the next election, and keep looking for your next shot.  You could bunt something unintelligible and complicated enough to confuse the anchorman and the AARP, pick the flowers from the fertilizer, and beseechingly extend the mess into the camera lens.  You could head for the primrose path with a pension and the lobbying job, and wonder, in weak moments, what your grandparents would say about abdication of duty.

Or you could rise to the challenge and do something meaningful - something that would answer that cynical question, the one that is on the lips of a generation raised to mute sound bites and soapboxes with the bored sweep of a pointer finger, but whose votes elected this President.  Their question: What does any of it really mean?

If not now… when?  Whether you win the next election or not…whether the next news cycle gives you a boost or not….  Will you get this chance again?  The President is in a bind that no speech, no dog-wagging war, no bill, and no mindless populism can change.   His back is against the 2012 wall and this time the outcome is binary.  He knows it.  He absolutely has to have you help him raise the debt limit.

This is legacy stuff, and it doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you claim, so keep it simple.  Leave out the social invasions.  Stay out of bathrooms, bedrooms, churches, and doctor’s offices.  Cancel the earmarks and the garbage.  Skip the things that sound good but won’t work.  Shoot straight and don’t strut.  Do it early.  Do it clearly and forcefully, but respectfully, and explain it with logic that doesn’t require lies.  Deliver it in a way that leaves no doubt about your goals, your intent, or your resolve, and leave the cigars at home.  Let your most aesthetic, most intelligent, most media-savvy person front it, and limit the bill to one page.

Send the President a bill that says Federal debt, in all forms and definitions, must be less than 60% of GDP by 2016, less than 50% by 2020, and less than 40% by 2024, or, in each of those years, a bi-partisan group will cut Federal Funding at the strategic, and line item level, until the goal is met.  Furthermore, debt must stay below the benchmark thereafter, short of a Declaration of War or National Emergency supported by a two thirds vote of both houses of congress.  And in the case of temporary exception, anything over the maximum must receive the same two-thirds vote each year or immediately go back to the limit via the same committee.

Barack will not like this choice, and he will thrash and froth.  He’ll reload the teleprompter again and again in fiery waves of verbal and emotive genius that will make you question everything you believe, and, ultimately, your congressional reason d’être.  But, in the end, a solution he hates will be better than having his name on the first and only default in the history of the United States.

So plant your feet and point your finger at the bleachers.  Tell the President that you don’t intend to change a word because a default now is no different than a default later, and you’d rather see him get the credit.  Give him a clear choice and a good look at the filthy cesspool that lies in wait on the other side of the decision, and let him decide whether to court disaster.  Then take him to the wall.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Logans_Run's picture

Some folks be junkin ya there Aggie!

ISEEIT's picture

Few, if any, are likely to read the link I am about to provide (let alone this comment). I realize that and yet feel compelled to submit it anywho (he-he).

In tribute and support to Marla and Tyler (tylers?).

You are not wasting your time and the future may owe you karma enough to be happy in all.

Seriously, this is good and worth the 5 minutes to digest.


Its all about timelines. What if you actually did elicit meaning of your life via making reality more benificial for the granddaughter or greatgrandson that you have not yet met?

Isn't that really the well distilled meaning and purpose of life?

I understand, maybe not. Maybe it is just all about some 'rush', some competition that we hope to place above the mean in?

Again I urge you to consider timelines.

I also urge you, if you have read this posting from a Zh lover that if you have not already done so, seek out Marla. Have a review of "Farcism" and discover how presient she was.

It's no wonder she doesn't play with us anymore.

MrBinkeyWhat's picture

Sorry gang, Prez Nixon was the first to default in 1971, when he "closed the gold window" proving the $ was worthless.

redpill's picture

The only way we can cut that much is to cull Social Security and Medicare substantially.  It doesn't matter who is President, I don't think Congress has the balls to do it.

duo's picture

How about this:  You get Medicare or Social Security, but not both.

Choose wisely.

SilverBaron's picture

How about choosing even wiser and cutting defense.  Bring all troops home, and close all bases.  Use volunteer militias and our nuclear deterrent for defense. Then consider what else to cut.

duo's picture

That only solves 10% of the problem.

Spastica Rex's picture

Then fire all the teachers, send the foreigners hoome, and put the childrens to work doing the foreigners' jobs -- for free.

The Fonz's picture

I know MY children will be working for free, and they will like it! I have begun whipping them every day for random things so that they will be well adjusted for their place in the world we are creating for them. It's best not to let them experience hope, a mercy really.

theopco's picture

the Dosadi approach

good thinking

The Navigator's picture

According to DebtClock.org, (the known) military expenses are $696Billion - just a guess but I'd wager it's over $1Trillion this year; that's a bit over 10%.

Cutting the Military Industrial Complex should be part of the 'shared' burden.

No need to junk, this will never happen anyway.

Re-Discovery's picture

Bombing shit is our country's main core competency.  Our military its best export.

High Plains Drifter's picture

that is called the department of defense.  they are protecting our rights.

Dr. Impossible's picture

hmmm...gave me a wierd thought....what if Obama IPO's the Army, Navy, Airforce, and Marines...

i-dog's picture

Too late! ... they've already been donated to TPTB.

MisterAmbassador's picture

At least you realize there is no realistic solution.  The only possible outcome here is major, catastrophic, unstoppable economic/political collapse.  At least the world will fall with us - globalization.

I liked this quote from the "Things that make you go hmmm..." on 24 April 2011

"I feel like we are in the Jurassic Park movie, seeing the water glasses on the dashboard shaking, with the heavy footfalls of T-Rex and the sounds of its breathing moving around us in the night.  We just do not know which direction it is coming from, and where it is going..."

I imagine it's going towards WWIII.  Celente's latest Trends Journal is quite intriguing.

Actually, a good World War that killed off at least 80% of the world's population and leveled most major cities would be a great way to restart - like after WWII (population wasn't unsustainable then).  America just hadn't been developed yet, and Europe had to buy from us to rebuild.

(Contrary to Krugman's views - you can't just build aircraft carriers and sink them to jump start the economy, not when there are scarce resources.  Anyone else here who would get a kick out of punching Krugman in the mouth?)

Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it, a world war today would be over and settled within the hour.  If it happens, just go out and watch the flash.  You wouldn't want to survive that.

Celente also discussed how the Chinese had about 50 projects in Libya...  I didn't realize that.  Apparently, Chinese companies have lost several hundred million yuan on deals that they had with Gaddafi.  I guess Russia has deals over there too.  Gaddafi wouldn't play nice with us, though, and has actively denounced us.  Not one of our dictators, so he had to go.

You know, though...  imagine if we held trillions in Soviet debt and could have collapsed them just buy selling it...  I hope no one from China gets any ideas...

Beware the Red Dragon...

The world is fucking insane.  Nothing makes sense anymore (if it ever really did).  If you think about it, the human condition is really absurd.

Perhaps the Universe didn't create life.  Perhaps life created the Universe.  Perhaps you are all just part of my grand illusion...

Friday night.  Time to get retarded.  Time to Pretend - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9GH-yvPHSY

Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we all die.

sleepingbeauty's picture

What I can't understand is why is medicare so expensive in the states. On another of the blogs I read, US per capita spending on medicare and private health insurance is about double what it is in countries where there is free health care. I don't know how they normalized for the different currencies or anything like that but I was shocked.

The other stat that further confounds the situation is that American's life expectancy is lower than countries with universal health care. Maybe the people who are not eligible for medicare and don't have private insurance bring the life expectancy down??

Spastica Rex's picture

Insurance companies and pharma companies gotta eat. Well.

blunderdog's picture

It's not complicated, actually.  Medicine is a big industry here, but only a TINY percentage of the population can afford to pay their own way for it.  So we subsidize our most expensive treatments and technologies for everyone over 65.  Because many Americans don't have much to spend on discretionary treatment while they're younger, the care-providers often have to grab every potential source of revenue from the older patients with government writing the checks to keep afloat.

This gives us a medical infrastructure that permits some pretty incredible stuff, and treats a large number of people with outrageously expensive technology, but doesn't necessarily apportion services so rationally.

Every once in awhile, someone who is going to be dead in a year of emphysema gets a $70,000 artificial hip. 

You know, stuff like that.

SRV - ES339's picture

You are right, it's not complicated... the USA is the only country in the world with for profit health-care, and it ranks far down the list on quality and results. Those in government that demonize single payer are lying, and are bought and paid for by those that profit from the current system... those that fall for it (most) are sheep, being fleeced by the usual suspects.

blunderdog's picture

Might want to rein in the rhetoric just a tad, but I'd be inclined to agree that there's nothing we could do to make the existing system more corrupt.

I lean more in the direction of ditching all government involvement in the industry than government-run single-payer, but that's only because I'm not really interested in keeping government around, anymore.

Either way would be far better than this fascist bloodbath we've got going.  It's just madness.

RockyRacoon's picture

Hell, everybody is getting a healthy junking here so I might as well take my medicine (pun intended).

It's not who is going to pay for the aspirin, it's what the aspirin costs that is the problem.   So long as the gov't is picking up the tab (with no negotiated lower rates and little competition) the aspirins will cost more, and more, and more....

Until the entire thing collapses.   I'm ready for that.

blunderdog's picture

The government pays for industrial malinvestment.  Whether this malinvestment is to aeronautics, electronics, or bio-med really doesn't matter so much.

The downside to the malinvestment is onerous taxation and neglect of infrastructure critical to the benefit of the population.  There is an upside, though, in *most* cases.  Certain technological research which is the beneficiary of the government induced spending bubble can achieve gains which would not have been achieved otherwise.

I'd suggest that the fundamental problem of our malinvestment of about the past 25 years is that it has almost entirely bubbled into non-productive industry.  Financial engineering, whether through banking or insurance or investment services, produces no improvement in human knowledge or ability to manipulate real physical resources.  It is completely zero-sum, and serves only to shift balance of "standard of living" between different groups.

At least when we were malinvesting in the Space-Race, we ended up with aluminum foil.

Oh, well.  Maybe someone will get it right next time around.  Assuming it's not a one-shot deal.

Spastica Rex's picture

Is it maybe not the cost but the bennefit? Not who pays, but who gets, and how much?

I junked you.

Just kidding.

Bill D. Cat's picture

Anyone who uses the term free health care needs a serious punch in the junk .

sleepingbeauty's picture

Okay, publicly funded health care.

Zardinuk's picture

lol free health care, that sounds great how long is the line to get it?

StychoKiller's picture

The US Govt is Subsidizing Health care for the elderly and the poor -- think about what happens when you subsidize something:  "Economics in One Lesson", ISBN:  978-0-517-54823-3, by Henry Hazlitt

DeadFred's picture

Too late.  A couple years ago this might have worked but there is no hope to overcome the inertia.  We're 20 feet from the cliff doing 90 mph and we should put on the brakes?  Just sit back and enjoy the view on the way down, it's going to be quite a ride.

SilverIsKing's picture

You get it.  There's no turning back so you need to be prepared for the coming events.

DeadFred's picture

That is the $64,000 question though what are the coming events?  Some seem clear like the collapse of the dollar but the other events???

Gold 36000's picture

Just watch what happens to Greece over the next ten years if they don't allow a default.  That is what he is talking about with "other events."

Caviar Emptor's picture

Yup again. When things go to the brink there will be more unpredictability, not less. Lots of opportunities for malfeasance 

johnnynaps's picture

It's happening already! Can you afford an operation without healthcare benefits? As good jobs disappear along with the bennies, no one will be able to afford a colonoscopy amongst other procedures.

pops's picture

1. Sell everything and convert it to PM and quit your job.

2. Bury the PM and tell no one about it.

3. Dress from the Goodwill store.

4. Apply for SNAP and every other gov't handout you can think of.

5. Look poor and destitute.

6. Get free healthcare at any ER.

7. On weekends, dig up a few Eagles, cash them on the sly and fly off to Vegas for a bender.

8. On Monday, dress in your rags, spend your SNAPs, and resume looking broke.

If enough do this, the system will collapse even sooner than the crooks counted on, and just think of the taxes you will not have to pay.


KinorSensase's picture

I'm reading Dimitri Orlov's Reinventing Collapse.  Toward the end he brings up the chelnoki.  I've been preparing for a barter economy and slowly accumulating simple things that will be very important when the low inventory of cheap, rapidly degrading consumer goods quickly dries up.  Not the same exact style as the chelnoki, but I'm making a list and checking it twice. 

j.darkness's picture

Yep...i think similarily to you kinorsensase, here is a partial inventory...cheap 750 ml rum, whisky, vodka.  blankets, bicycles /tools / parts, cans of tobacco, soap, lighters, sun oven, knives, axes, shovels, seeds, fertilizer, small sections of threaded metal pipe,  bullets, silver coin, slingshots / shot, water purifiers, flashlights, batteries c-123, paper /pencil, ziplock bags, trash bags, tarps, rope, tents, tent stakes, sleeping bags, backpacks, snow shoes for us northerners, wheelbarrows, shoes, durable clothes, laminated pages of necessary useful info, short wave radio transmitter/ receiver, mirrors, lasers, gas masks, bullet proof shields (like the police crowd control, clear polycarbonate, general medicine, wound treatment, potassium iodide, bow and arrow, knife sharpening stone...  want to start a new line of barter supply stores?  pack all this shit into a trailer and sell the trailer as part of the "ready to barter survival kit!" 

Caviar Emptor's picture

Yup. And it's not just momentum. It's the fact that even those who will profess to "solve the debt crisis" are likely to do so in ways that protect their cut of the pie, but not yours. When things get this ugly, people tend to fight over the crumbs that are left rather than unite. That would take a true leader. 

Long-John-Silver's picture

Yes. Default is inevitable. Those prepared can profit, all others will be dead or slaves.

High Plains Drifter's picture

but, but , but leo said we would never default. no way jose.....

dogismyth's picture

oh screw that...its so old-fashioned.  How about we just line up all those over 60 at the Grand Canyon rim and shoot'em dead.  I'm sure they'll be asking for volunteers to make this program a success if you're interested.  And to justify the US govt continued sales of weapons to the Mexican drug cartel, we can use the cartel folks along with our well equiped military to do the executions.  I hear Israeli IDF soldiers will be first in the "volunteer" line if we maintain our foreign aid to them and continued the trillion dollar wars to make the MidEast a democracy just like Israel.  There might be an extended opportunity to use these 60+ folks for cleanup detail at nuclear plants across the globe.  They are expendable after all, and not too bright...ya know. 



Dugald's picture

Waul kid, this here 77 year old, ex military, old coot, will be shooting right back. Prepare for collateral damage before I do down.

Gold 36000's picture

We don't need to fight.  Just don't get mad when your check doesn't clear.  You do understand that we should not enslave the children with debt don't you?

Caviar Emptor's picture

Just keep in mind that "greed is good" led directly to our current problem. Greed by definition robs the future in favor of the moment. Greed means 'I want it all and I want it now!"

Gold 36000's picture

That is the motto of the AARP

Caviar Emptor's picture

It was the watchword of the 1980s and it's still the motto of supply-siders everywhere.

Argonaught's picture

Rand never espoused "greed" as you are defining the term.  That is what her detractors claim because they struggle with how to combat the idea of people getting to actually keep what they EARN (the opposite side of which is --- people that don't earn don't get).

To illustrate her arguments, Rand used characters that those who oppose her have characterized as robber barons and fat-cat tycoons, but they were nothing of the sort.  

Rand didn't wish for what America has become since the late 80's.  She is spinning in her grave screaming "I warned you!", while others who don't read her actual words try to push further away from the solution by continuing the mistakes of the last 3 decades.  


Spastica Rex's picture

Ayn Rand was a pop philosopher -- like Dr. Phil. She was a much nattier dresser, I'll give her credit for that.

There was this guy who wrote fictionalized, hypothetical "philosophy" books back a few years ago. "Battlefield Earth" was very entertaining, at least as entertaining as  "The Fountainhead." I think he made his real money starting a for-profit cult or something.