Wednesday, October 16, 2013

World Probably Not Destroyed, Now What?

Hopefully, fingers crossed, barring one last act of complete and total stupidity that drives us over the deadline, it appears we might have a deal to end the shutdown and push the debt ceiling past the new year, and though everyone is immediately dreading having to go through this whole fight all over again at that point, for now people are beginning to exhale. It seems redundant, just one more voice among many, preaching to the choir even, to detail just how avoidable this all was. How easily this fight could have been made to not happen.

I suppose one could raise an argument about whether the debt ceiling is even necessary; how if we simply removed it, we wouldn't have these fights anymore. The problem is, we would. The debt ceiling was created for World War 1. Until that point, Congress had to pass a fresh piece of legislation authorizing a specific amount of debt every single time the President wanted to spend money on something. World War 1 caused a problem, because nobody had any idea how much the war was going to cost. The debt ceiling was created as a way to simplify the process; if they guessed wrong, they could always raise it. It was going to be shelved after the war, but then World War 2 came along and the budget for that was essentially 'all the money'. So the debt ceiling was kept, and by the end of that war, it was pretty much around for keeps, having been around long enough now that everyone was used to that system of accounting. If the aim is to reduce fights over the funding of the government, all that would happen is a long string of fights over every individual thing that the President wishes to fund.

One of the lessons we ought to take from this- I guess this might be my contribution to things- is that, when you create a system of governing or discharging the duties of governing, imagine that any system you create to complete that task will be exploited to create the biggest partisan fight it is possible to create with it. Essentially, you want to ask yourself, 'what would happen if I placed this way of doing things in the hands of total assholes?' If you cannot come up with an answer, ask around. Perhaps you've missed something.

Is this the way we should look at things? Of course not. We SHOULD be looking at doing things in the way that will best enable us to be the best nation we can be, and facilitate the best world we can contribute to. But we cannot, in doing so, ignore the way things actually are. To do that would be to naively open ourselves up to abuse. And I think we can agree, we've had quite enough abuse for a while.

Which is to say nothing of what abuse is forthcoming if this deal blows up somehow.

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