Guest Post: Gridlock In DC

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Casey Research

Gridlock In DC

The first session of this 112th Congress was spent with Democrats and Republicans at loggerheads over the debt ceiling, taxes, spending cuts, the deficit super committee, appropriations bills and finally the extension of unemployment compensation and a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut. Standard and Poor's downgrade of the United States' federal debt was due in part to all the haggling over how, and actually whether, to reduce the debt.

No One Is Willing to Pay the Political Price to Cut Spending

This year Obama asked Congress for, and was given, an additional $1.2 trillion of borrowing authority, which will increase the debt limit to $16.4 trillion, just enough to get him past the 2012 election. It could be close, however. If budget projections prove to be overly optimistic, Obama could face another cliffhanger over a further increase in the debt ceiling in the midst of the presidential election in November. How embarrassing to have to say "re-elect me – and by the way, I need to borrow some more money to pay this month's bills."

President Barack Obama

Sometime early in January, the US crossed the line at which its national debt exceeds its gross domestic product of $15.1 trillion. Each party blames the other, but in truth, almost no one in the federal government is willing to bite the bullet and make necessary cuts. Everyone hopes someone else's ox will be gored.

The federal government's expenditures have been exceeding its revenues by about $107 billion per month so far in fiscal year 2012. At that rate, there will only be about $100 billion of this additional $1.2 trillion of borrowing authority left come November. That's not much breathing room.

After the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to reject the president's request for authorization to borrow another $1.2 trillion, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said the vote "is an indictment of the administration's reckless spending binge that has driven America's economy down a disastrous fiscal path ... the most rapid increase in debt under any US president." Boehner noted that the national debt has increased more than $4.6 trillion since Obama took office.

While the House vote may seem like an encouraging gesture, it is ultimately irrelevant. Under the deal cut last summer, a majority of both houses of Congress would be required to block the debt limit increase, but even then the president could veto it. Simply, if the Democrat Senate joined the House in rejecting the increase, there's no way a 2/3 majority of both houses could have been summoned to override a presidential veto.

At Loggerheads

Both parties accuse the other of obstruction. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) observed that "we've spent months on things that used to happen just matter-of-factly." He added that "the Senate works on consensus, and we haven't been able to get that because the Republicans [are engaged in] obstructionism on steroids." He accused Republicans of using Senate rules friendly to the minority, namely the filibuster, to thwart his agenda. On the other hand, John Boehner's spokesman, Michael Steel, said "the House passed nearly 30 jobs bills with bipartisan support, but Senate Democratic leaders have refused to act." Representative Pat Meehan (R-PA) said that if only the Democrat-controlled Senate and President Obama would work with Republicans, Congress could "end the gridlock and get our economy moving... Our economy faces serious challenges right now – gridlock in Washington doesn't have to be one of them."


A recent Gallup poll gives Congress a bipartisan approval rating of only 13%. This exasperation with Congress is certainly tied to gridlock and obstruction, but we are also faced with so much obfuscation that there is no telling who is at fault.

For example, a bill to extend the two-percent payroll tax cut for a full year was passed by the Republican-led House, but not by the Democrat-controlled Senate. The tax cuts were to expire on December 31, 2011. Both parties had attached other provisions or qualifications to their versions of the legislation that the other party in turn opposed. Yet both parties tried to gain political points by accusing the other of simply opposing extending the payroll tax cut. For example, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) accused: "You're walking out, you're walking away, just as so many Republicans have walked away from middle-class taxpayers."

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer

But in reality, the Republicans were proposing to extend the tax cuts for a full year, and Hoyer's party proposed extending for only two months. Obfuscation at its finest.

Legislative Futility

Since 1947, the Congressional Record has included the Résumé of Congressional Activity at the end of each year. The Washington Times recently analyzed these reports and concluded that "Congress set a record for legislative futility by accomplishing less in 2011 than any other year in history." What was accomplished consisted mostly of things like naming post offices and extending existing laws. The House and Senate often failed to reach agreement in conference, and the Senate often failed to reach agreement within its own chamber. Hoyer said 2011 was "as unproductive a session as I have served in since I came to Congress 30 years ago."

The Senate continues to abdicate its responsibilities by failing to unveil a budget rather than risk putting forward a plan that results in political backlash in an election year. Sarah Binder, both of Brookings Institute and a professor at George Washington University, observed that it's hard to get things done "when revenues aren't growing and the decisions are how to cut, and how to cut long term." She said that it is harder for Congress to compromise on spending quarrels "because the two parties are drastically opposed on fundamental principles."

There's little hope in the near future; this second session of the 112th Congress will suffer from election-year paralysis. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said of gridlock in the coming year: "You think this is bad? You ain't seen nothing yet." As a candidate in 2008, Obama promised to transcend partisanship. Instead, Congress and the nation seem more polarized than ever.

Embracing Gridlock

Gridlock may be the nation's salvation, an encouraging sign that the ever-expanding leviathan is collapsing under its own weight. Robert Heinlein would undoubtedly welcome the gridlock we see today on Capitol Hill. In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Heinlein's character, Professor Bernardo de la Paz, advises a constitutional committee as follows:

I note one proposal to make this Congress a two-house body. Excellent, the more impediments to legislation the better. But, instead of following tradition, I suggest one house legislators, another whose single duty is to repeal laws. Let legislators pass laws only with a two-thirds majority ... while the repealers are able to cancel any law through a mere one-third minority. Preposterous? Think about it. If a bill is so poor that it cannot command two-thirds of your consents, is it not likely that it would make a poor law? And if a law is disliked by as many as one-third, is it not likely that you would be better off without it?

Gridlock by design? He was on to something. Here's to hoping they don't find a solution.

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trav7777's picture

They'll spend enough to make this an election issue in the closing weeks, bitchez

malikai's picture

If Iran happens soon enough, they'll spend it all by summer.

Buck Johnson's picture

They need this war to kick off in order to have cover for their economic and political policies.  And also the implosion of some financial systems. 

Pool Shark's picture



Don't know who junked Trav, but he speaks the truth here.

Front row seat for the next budget ceiling debaucle: October, 2012... 


Janice's picture

Agreed. Everyone hates Obama except Pelosi. Obama has thrown too many under the bus to make himself look good. Payback is a mother.

geotrader's picture




Date:  12/16/11

Bank of  Mr. Pres Contributor (BPC):  Mr. Obama, we'd like to donate $5M to your campaign.  Does this interest you?

Mr. Pres:  I'm listening.

BPC:  It's like this.  As you know our stock hasn't been doing so well.  We need your short term help.

Mr. Pres:  I'm listening.

BPC:  Everyone knows more QE is coming.  If history is any indicator, then the money will be going in to the NYSE.  Kindly direct some of that in our direction.  When our stock price hits $x, our group is prepared to donate $5M where you direct.  

Mr. Pres:  Thanks for coming by Mr. Banker.  Consider it done.  The tax payers will never know they just paid me $5M to get re-elected.


And there you have it!  Nothing going on here, move along now.


fonzannoon's picture

Yeah right gridlock. Like both parties are not only too happy to let the ponzi go on.

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

I´d rather have spending cuts, really big cuts, but I can live with gridlock.

redpill's picture

Agreed.  I'm ecstatic I don't get nearly all the government I pay for.

GovtMediaLiars's picture

Indeed. It's a good thing they are so inefficient at most things or we'd have been screwed long ago. Of course, we're still still getting screwed so...

Tsunami Wave's picture

Most people I know here in the NJ area don't give a fuck about what anyone outside of the democratic party thinks here.  They think Obama must be re-elected because he saved the economy from the abyss, he's ending 2 wars, he passed Obamacare, republicans are really dumb, they're intellectually superior, they have no idea why re-hypothication/LTRO/ESM or EFSF/Operation Twist is, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah they won't hear any of it. We're done.

piceridu's picture

I rather have those cleptocrats doing new idiotic law on the books; sitting quietly with their hands folded for 4 more years. But we know that could never much ponzi-fiat-bread-circus to give, so little time.

847328_3527's picture

I'd rather have Graved Lachs then gridlocks.

Breaker's picture

Normally, I would agree with you. Normally, I would cheer for the Congress that accomplishes the least.

But ever growing spending and deficits are built into the system now. A gigantic crash is built into the system now. A passive Congress comprises tacit consent to the crash.

Zero Govt's picture

"The first session of this 112th Congress was spent ... at loggerheads.."

Well it's already been a complete bloody farce for over a year ..just wait for the unlucky No. 113th Congress ...popcorn dipped in valium to watch these morons friggin round the rigging (again)

democracy: the biggest shitshow ever invented

Comay Mierda's picture

its all a charade.  you think these psychopaths want to restore a constitutional republic with a balanced budget?  you are out of your mind.  the best way to establish a dictatorship in a country is to bankrupt it.  let the slaves try to revolt.  they will be too focused on surviving day-to-day to revolt against the dictator.

babylon15's picture

Gaddafi would like a word with you.

Piranhanoia's picture

What legislation was passed?   That will tell us what was is important to the companies that own the concept of America. 

EscapeKey's picture

Ah, I haven't seen a good act of political theatre for a while. Pass the popcorn.

Zero Govt's picture

True, where did Super Committee go ..they on holiday?

UP Forester's picture

They went back to Krypton.

ilovefreedom's picture

That's why I think its funny when people say Obama is a shoe-in for re-election, the way the economy is doing this topic will be front and center before election time.

Moe Howard's picture

I have a plan to get out the vote for Obama. I am going to get me some of those US flags with obamas head instead of stars, and fly those and some  hammer and sickle (?) flags from my truck and write "Kill Whitey" all over it and drive it around the suburbs with rap music blasting. That should help get out the vote.

UP Forester's picture

Sounds like when I lived in Alabama.

Loud rap music all week, and I had to be to work for 4 a.m.

On weekends, after the bar closed, I'd do Low 1 runs around the neighborhood.

I guess the neighbors decided a slightly lower volume on their car stereo was a small price to pay compared to dual glass-packs at 2:30 in the morning from the crazy Yankee with Michigan plates....

ClassicalLib17's picture

@ Moe  That was hilarious,  I think you're on to something there.  I found the Obama head flags to be particularly disgusting.  I hope you don't mind that I copied and pasted your post in an e-mail for the more forward thinking on my contact list.   God bless

smb12321's picture

Tyler -  You said, "How embarrassing to have to say "re-elect me – and by the way, I need to borrow some more money..."   But don't you see, Obama is not the least embarrassed and in fact, seems to relish in his power to drown the country in red (or should I say blue?).  His "solutions" to the debt are on par with those fror energy independence - every action undercats his avowed objective.  Just truly pathetic - a politician who neither leads nor inspires.

non_anon's picture

Blago just started his prison sentence today, Obammy needs to follow

bob_dabolina's picture

I just want Obama to release the SPR stock so I can buy oil and than sell it back to him at a 30% premium when it needs to get refilled.

....just waiting for Obama "the oil speculator" to make his move.

For a guy so worried about evil speculators manipulating the price of oil he sure has earned himself a spot in the upper echelon of price manipulators. I wonder if he's smarter than the market he's speculating in?

TMT's picture

For a guy who says he has no control over gas prices, it's interesting he is releasing SPR.  Which is it - he has no control or does have control?

It's all optics with this clown.

bob_dabolina's picture

Nancy Pelosi would call him a speculator and part of the reason that oil prices are so high.

Because B.O is speculating right? With a source of oil that's meant to be reserved for times of war.

bu bu bu speculators are evil.

nmewn's picture

No shit. Maybe he needs a new teleprompter.

If the quantity of oil on the market doesn't make any difference in the price of oil...then why release any? The mental calisthenics he goes through are a sight to behold, no wonder he only gives speeches to kids.

He even trotted out the Flat Earther meme today...ROTFL!!!...when they knew perfectly well the earth was round in Columbus' time. 

bob_dabolina's picture

OBAMA!!! The Great Oil Speculator!

nmewn's picture

And he has the "authority" to force the issue ;-)

krispkritter's picture

Mental calisthenics? I bet he can't spell that.  I'm also guessing it looks like the exercise portion of World's Biggest Loser...President God, the guy couldn't fucking fix breakfast and he thinks he can solve this countries problems? Oh crap, he is the problem. Gotcha...

PS. New teleprompters cost money unless he's buying cheap Chinese ones...hmmm... (We no likey what you say. We change programming maybe?)

nmewn's picture

"...unless he's buying cheap Chinese ones..."

You'll love this one...

Yes, the flag was made in

T-roll's picture

The problem is the US voter because We the People keep electing the same assholes to represent us.

StychoKiller's picture

Correction, the US voters either choose heads or tails, but it's ALWAYS the SAME COIN!

Doubleguns's picture

Every thing passed this past year has been designed to remove more rights from the people. NDAA and now the attacks on freedom of speech around any areas designated by the secret service as off limits its called the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act. Patriot act was extended, and god only knows whats in bills we still do not know about. "You have to pass it to find out whats in it" always comes to mind.

uno's picture

yes and both passed overwhelming, the freedom of speech had 3 nay votes.  The only thing these aholes agree unaminously on is destroying the Constitution.  If this does not show us the 0.1% control nothing will.  

house vote  399 yes - 3 no


House Vote On Passage: H.R. 347: Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011


apberusdisvet's picture

Who needs Congress.  Laws can be written by the EPA, the DOJ and the CIA, and signed by the President.  Haven't you heard?  The Constitution was abolished by secret vote.

GMadScientist's picture

Who needs Congress.  Laws can be written by GE, GS, and GM, and signed by the President.  Haven't you heard?  Democracy was abolished by corporate political "speech".


Breaker's picture

Actually, EPA, DOJ, FCC, HHS all write laws that need not be signed by the President. Then those agencies investigate violations of the laws. Those agencies try the violators. The appeal is usually to the agency. And the agency has enforcement powers. 

Complete abrogation of separation of powers. That was progressives' goal in creating the modern administrative agency. Separation of powers is so inefficient and gets in the way of wise, smart people doing what is best for the dumber, flyover country people, who don't even know what is best for themselves.

TMT's picture

1.  Flat tax with no deductions.

2.  Balanced budget amendment.

3.  Make all meetings/conversations between politicians and lobbyists public record and live-streamed on the internet.

4.  Move the white house and congress to the center of the country.  There they can work in cubicles in large warehouses.  DC is too corrupt to do the people's business.

5.  All military action must be approved by congress.  All politicians' children of age must be put into a draft.  At least one of the politician's in DC children will be drafted for every military adventure.

6.  Term limits for all elected politicians and judges.  Once your term is up, you cannot work for any firm who has any direct or indirect dealings with the federal government.

7.  Politicians have to use public funds to campaign for office.  $20 MM for each presidential candidate and $1 MM for each house/senate candidate.

8.  Every bill must be approved by a Constitutional Committee who has to site the section of the constitution that authorizes said law.

That would be a decent start.

reTARD's picture

It maybe simplier than you'd think as our corrupt government and their dealings have everything to do with creating complexity. They use the addition of more laws, regulations and deductions (exceptions) as a means to mask their real motives. Everytime you heard them say "it will be for the public good" you know it's the opposite. And the way to combat that is simplicity.

I agree with your #4.

The simple fix is to make government positions undesirable. That will by nature limit the size and scope of government and at the same time be a constant reminder to the "civil servant" that they work for the people and not the other way around.

geotrader's picture

9. When an elected official declares themselves to be a candidate for another office, they must resign their current post.  It's all or nothing.

Breaker's picture

9. Remove rule making authority from administrative agencies.

10. Force administrative agencies to try violators in a court of law subject to normal due process.