Abolish The Debt Ceiling

[ Posted Thursday, September 23rd, 2021 – 15:23 UTC ]

Here we are again. The Washington Kabuki theater is raging while all the media cheerfully go along for the ride. Will the United States reach its debt ceiling without Congress acting, and will the country then default on its debts for the first time in over 200 years? What will that do to the world's economy? What will it do to the American economy? Red flags are waved, warning beacons go off, fire alarms sound, signal flares are launched. It's all merry fun until a way is figured out (at the last minute!) to save us all from the "fiscal cliff" of defaulting on our obligations. It's all as regular as clockwork, now. But it just doesn't have to be this way.

Democrats are already being forced to pass a hike in the debt ceiling completely on their own. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is being a total schmuck about the whole thing, insisting that Republicans want absolutely no part in saving America from financial disaster. Democrats are in control, therefore Republicans are free to vote for the destruction of our entire country's economy. For McConnell, this is really just run-of-the-mill schmuckery, though. It really just feeds into his schmucky brand, to be honest. So he's comfortable enough with it all.

But if Democrats are going to be left to their own devices, why not defuse the issue forever? Instead of passing an increase in the budget ceiling, instead just abolish the concept once and for all. Never again will Republicans get to hold the entire country's economy hostage. Which any sane person would have to admit they will indeed do, if they are not pre-emptively stopped by eliminating the possibility entirely.

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Delta Wave Crests

[ Posted Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021 – 16:59 UTC ]

America may have just turned the corner in the fight against the Delta mutation of the COVID-19 viral pandemic. This is good news, obviously, if the trend continues. It could mean a return to at least the normalcy of the beginning of the summer, which would be a welcome relief to all. And it could signal that the next variant which hits us (whatever Greek letter it happens to have) will be less destructive. And that's really good news for all.

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Monday House Deadline Looking Shaky, At Best

[ Posted Tuesday, September 21st, 2021 – 16:22 UTC ]

In less than a week, congressional Democrats will face a deadline of their own making. Next Monday is the day Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised she would bring to the House floor the bipartisan infrastructure bill that the Senate has already passed. Because it has cleared the Senate, the next step for the bill (if the House passes it) is President Joe Biden's desk, for his signature. But unfortunately, it is increasingly looking like the companion budget reconciliation bill will not be ready for a vote -- perhaps not in either chamber. Since these two pieces of legislation are linked, this may mean neither one of them passes (at least, not next Monday). This would endanger the two bills which not only form the base of Biden's agenda, but also the basis for Democrats to run their campaigns on next year. Either both bills pass, Biden will be seen as a transformative president (on the order of L.B.J. or even F.D.R.), and the Democrats can run on a spectacular record of getting good things done in Washington -- or none of that will take place at all, which would pretty much doom the Democrats chances in the 2022 midterms. In other words, it's an important week -- one that may actually stretch into being an important month.

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Senate Parliamentarian Rejects Immigration Reform In Reconciliation Bill

[ Posted Monday, September 20th, 2021 – 16:17 UTC ]

Last night the Senate parliamentarian released the first in a series of opinions about the Democratic efforts to draft an enormous budget reconciliation bill. She said that, in her opinion, legalizing millions of undocumented immigrants should be seen as a policy proposal, not a budget proposal. If Democrats follow her advice, they'll have to remove the path to citizenship from the reconciliation bill. This would be a major blow to immigration reform, although not entirely unexpected.

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From The Archives -- Royal Pain

[ Posted Friday, September 17th, 2021 – 16:15 UTC ]

Program Note:

As I warned, there will be no Friday Talking Points column today, as I have other plans. Instead, please enjoy this column from a few years back. I must admit, I forget which particular royal baby had just been born -- and I care so little about it that I refuse to go look it up. Every time one of the British royals procreates I am astonished at the amount of attention Americans (and the American media) heap upon the entire process. After all (as I routinely say whenever anyone brings the subject up in casual conversation), didn't we fight a whole war just so we would never have to pay the slightest attention to the British royalty ever again? I mean, I seem to remember something in the history books about that....

In any case, while the subject isn't current (no royal babies on the horizon that I know of), I had but a limited amount of time to find an old column to run, and this one was just silly enough to catch my eye. So while it's a little late for Silly Season columns, this will have to do for today. And never fear, Friday Talking Points will return next week, same bat time, same bat channel.


Originally published July 22, 2013

[The Scene: A warm Philadelphia evening, 226 years ago. The delegates to the Constitutional Convention -- after a long and miserably-hot day of respectful debate (and quite a lot of just plain bickering) over the text of Article I, Section 10 of the proposed draft of the new United States Constitution -- take up the final item on the agenda. We join the Founding Fathers as they (somewhat-wearily) begin discussion of the final subject of the day. Since the debate was conducted behind closed doors, this re-creation uses no names for the participants, to protect their anonymity.]

Founding Father Number One: And so, fellow delegates, we come to the final item of the day -- should our new United States government confer titles of royalty?

Founding Father Number Two: This is an easy issue to dispose of, so that we may all adjourn to [gestures towards elderly member of the Convention] our beds for a well-deserved rest... or possibly to [gestures towards a crowd of younger, more-boisterous delegates in the back of the room] the local tavern to slake the thirst this long, hot day has raised. [laughter and huzzahs from back of room]. I move that we sweep all the trappings of monarchy aside, and utterly forbid all titles and any other hint of royalty from these newly United States.

FF1: While we can all appreciate adjourning for the day quickly, let us not make haste. Are there any other voices which should be heard?

FF3: [from back of room] Let us all just vote and repair to the ale-house! Enough delay! Nobody wants titles in a nation where all will be equal!

FF4: I rise to differ on this point. [groans from back of room] Please, gentlemen, allow me to speak! [groans subside] I thank you. While every sane man can see quite plainly that royalty and titles and rank are counter to our intentions that all men be treated as equals, I direct your attention to how I just addressed my (ahem) distinguished colleagues just now -- should the term "gentlemen" continue to be used to describe those of a certain standing in society? [room falls silent, as many are taken aback by the concept]

If we were to peer centuries into the future and consider Americans of some far-removed era, it should be obvious that the very notion of royalty will be looked down upon by all, with nothing but the scornful disdain it deserves. Will these unborn countrymen of the future care that some king or queen still reigns in a foreign land? Will the birth of an heir to the British throne even be reported by the newsmongers of the day? The very idea is preposterous, I submit. Americans of such an advanced age will simply not care about such things, since members of royalty will be seen as holdovers from unenlightened times of the past. I simply cannot see any future town crier even bestirring himself to shout such news to the town. I cannot see any American newspaper printing a special edition to harken such news, because Americans will not be interested.

FF5: Prognosticating the future may not be so easy.

FF3: [loudly, from the back of the room] For the love of all that's holy, sit down, Franklin -- nobody wants royal titles, let's vote now and just all go quaff a hearty ale in ten minutes' time! I will buy your first ale myself if you'll just allow us to vote!

FF2: [addressing rowdies in back of room] You sir, are out of order! Dr. Franklin has the floor!

FF5: Thank you for your patience. I am quite sure the taverns will not run out of ale in the short time it takes me to talk, fear not. [laughter from back, and one cry of: "They had better not!"]

I rise merely to point out the vagaries of human nature. We here in America lived under a royal system for centuries before we threw off this yoke of oppression. But since we achieved our freedom from royalty, it seems among some there is still an aching void which must somehow be filled. My friends from New England have largely dropped the term "gentleman," for instance, to show the absolute equality of our new society. Further south, however, the term is still used by all.

Some of us here are not immune to such yearnings. I note that one of the subjects on our agenda is what to call our new executive officer. While some have proposed "Chief Magistrate" as a proper way to address our new executive, and while some favor the shorter "Mister President," there is also a faction which has proposed [consults his notes] "His High Mightiness, the President of the United States and Protector of their Liberties" as the only proper address. What is such a title, if not one of the trappings of royalty?

I remind this body of my own professional origins in a newspaper printing office. I fully remember 1762, when Americans were indeed interested in the news of the birth of the current Prince of Wales. When the man who is first in line to become the British king was born, there was much interest in this babe who will eventually be replacing the hated George III. Given our country's history with Britain, even hundreds of years hence, I could see American citizens still hungering for such news.

When a thing is taken away from the populace, it is often missed in its absence. If we deny the American people titles of honor and rank in society -- as I agree we should and must -- then there may still be intense interest in such news from other lands, since we will have denied the populace the pleasure of speculating on such matters here at home. And I can certainly see town criers of the future, and newspapermen as well, vying to be the very first to spread such news. I can even see these future Americans placing friendly wagers as to what the new heir will be called. [hoots of derision from the rowdy section]

If we deny American citizens royalty, then they may just create their own stylings of royalty to set some above the masses. What direction this could take is open to much speculation. For instance, I could see political dynasties forming, where high political offices are passed from father to son. A common laborer with the Gaelic surname "Cinnéide" down at the Boston docks may one day sire a family which absolutely dominates Massachusetts politics for multiple generations, in such a far future time. [wild and angry protests (complete with anti-Catholic abuse) from the crowd in the back, who also begins tossing wads of paper and other small missiles at Founding Father Number Five]

FF1: Order! Order, I say! ORDER! We will have order, or WE WILL NOT ADJOURN ALL NIGHT!!! [rowdies finally settle down]

FF5: I will go further, if I may be allowed. While it may seem far-fetched that mere politicians will be treated as royalty or sire dynasties, the future could be even stranger -- where an exemplary opera singer and the son of the village blacksmith who performs ablest in the yearly contests of sport during the harvest festival are both given, by the general populace, the fawning attention and riches and respect of some Duke or Earl of our own times. [peals of laughter erupt from everyone]

I give you such ridiculous and unthinkable examples for a reason, dear colleagues. As my Poor Richard might say: "The thing most desired is the thing denied." It is true, Americans will likely be too intelligent and well-thinking to ever accord a sporting champion or a popular entertainer the status a member of royalty now commands -- it would be more proper, I think, if the humble librarian or schoolteacher were to be so lauded in the future. Or, perhaps, the federal treasury might benefit from renting titles of royalty on a yearly basis -- which would be a sort of taxation on people who had more money than common sense. [more laughter]

The twists and turns of the future are impossible to see. The consequences of our actions here today may give rise to unforeseen problems. It is not out of the question for Americans in the future to fill their lack of home-grown royalty by vicariously enjoying the birth of a future British monarch. But I submit to you that it will indeed be only vicarious -- and of no real import to any future American citizen's life or happiness. The newsmongers may be filled with joy at how many papers they can sell touting the news of the birth of such a child, but by the next day such a paper will only be good for wrapping fish.

I move for this debate to be ended immediately, and for the draft language to be voted on as a body. [boisterous cheers from the back benches] We have spent many a long and hot hour here today attempting to perfect Section 10 of Article I -- and we still have many a long and hot day ahead of us to complete our work. Let us all vote on simple language barring forever any American from being addressed as any sort of "Lord" and then quickly repair to the house that gives us cheer -- whether that cheer comes from getting early to bed... or from the tap of an ale keg!

[Explosive huzzahs from the back of the room, as the assembly moves to vote.]


United States Constitution, Article I, Section 10, final sentence

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.


[Note: This entire scenario is completely fictional, and was written because I am heartily glad that we will now no longer be getting daily "No news yet!" updates from that London hospital any more, on each and every edition of the nightly news. For historical accuracy: the Federalists in the early Congresses did indeed propose the title "His High Mightiness, the President of the United States and Protector of their Liberties" for the president, but it was laughed down by James Madison and others and the simple "Mister President" was accepted instead. For many decades, however, the more-common title used in newspapers and during campaigns was indeed "Chief Magistrate." Oh, and according to some, "Cinnéide" was the Irish spelling of the Kennedy clan, in the dim and distant past. The use of "gentleman" did become regional, as well. What else? George IV was born in August of 1762. The text from the Constitution is real, too. Pretty much everything else, though, is nothing more than the warped product of my own summertime-daydreaming mind.]

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


Policing Saturday's Pro-Insurrectionist Rally

[ Posted Thursday, September 16th, 2021 – 15:45 UTC ]

This Saturday, America will get to see whether the police responsible for the security of the United States Capitol have learned their lesson or not. After their abject failure to prepare adequately for the insurrectionist mob which took over the Capitol on January 6th (in an attempt to forcibly halt the final step in a presidential election), the police are going to face a crowd of sympathizers of the insurrectionist riot's participants. In other words, the insurrectionists' fellow travellers. One would like to assume that the police presence will be a lot bigger and a lot more proactive on Saturday than they were eight months ago.

We still haven't had a full accounting of all the things that went wrong with the security planning on January 6th, of course. There is a congressional select committee looking into it, but they've only held a few hearings so far. More of the story will undoubtedly be revealed over time, in much greater detail. One storyline that has emerged is that the people with the overall responsibility for security were worried because they had overreacted earlier to the Black Lives Matter street protests. Back then, there were photographs of officers in full body armor and military gear lined up in front of monuments in a very threatening posture, and then the whole thing culminated with Donald Trump ordering the park across the street from the White House forcibly cleared so he could stage a photo op (with the top Pentagon general standing next to him). Not to mention the helicopters chasing people on city streets and attacking them (there's no other word for it) with the downblast from their rotors. The cops (and the Pentagon) had heard the criticisms from these episodes and the higher-ups were concerned that there be no such "bad optics" on January 6th.

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Some Recall Reflections

[ Posted Wednesday, September 15th, 2021 – 17:17 UTC ]

California Governor Gavin Newsom emerged victorious from his recall election last night, chalking up a rather stunning margin: with 71 percent of the vote counted, "No" on the recall was beating "Yes" by a whopping 28 points (64 percent to 36 percent). Not quite 2-to-1, but close. Since it was a special recall election held at an odd time, it garnered more than the normal amount of media and political interest nationwide -- especially after a poll a few months ago seemed to suggest that the race was somehow neck-and-neck. Obviously, it wasn't. Newsom may in fact beat the margin of victory he managed in his last election. Whatever the final numbers turn out to be, though, it's hard not to use the word "landslide" to describe the outcome.

There are a few lessons Democrats should be drawing from this victory, however at this point nobody really knows which could most accurately be called the "deciding factor" in the election. It was likely a mix of things, but the first two should be fully embraced by Democrats in anticipation of the 2022 midterm campaign anyway (the last item is more of a caveat).

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One Change That Would End California's "Recall Circus" Election Problem

[ Posted Tuesday, September 14th, 2021 – 15:14 UTC ]

It is Recall Election Day out here in California today, so I thought I'd write today in support of a rather simple change that really needs to be made in California recall elections law. This one change could solve the nightmare scenario the nation's pundits were all a-twitter (and a-Twitter) over during the slow news days of August. Not only would this one fundamental change avoid having a candidate win the governor's seat with only a tiny fraction of the overall vote, but it would significantly lessen the appeal of recall elections in the first place, for the party who lost the last regular gubernatorial election. The change? Instead of simultaneously voting on: (1) whether to recall the sitting governor, and: (2) who should replace him (if a majority votes to recall); Californians would only be presented with the first question -- the recall question. If a majority did vote to oust the sitting governor, then the lieutenant governor would immediately be sworn in.

This makes all kinds of sense. What else is a lieutenant governor for, after all? To step into office should the governor not be able to carry out his or her duties. The office is equivalent to the vice president, in the national government (note: in some states the office of lieutenant governor doesn't even exist, but in California it does). He or she is, essentially, a spare part. "Plan B." Insurance against unforeseen events.

If the California governor quits or dies in office or is impeached and convicted by the state legislature, then he or she is replaced by the lieutenant governor. So why should this process be any different if the people, as a whole, decide to give him or her the boot?

It really shouldn't. A recall election is nothing short of a populist impeachment. Instead of the lower chamber of the state legislature bringing charges and the upper chamber adjudicating those charges, the people (a fraction of them, who have to sign their support) make the case for removal, and then the question is put to the entire electorate to judge. But if the decision is made to remove the sitting governor, then why not have the lieutenant governor step in?

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It's Not A Vaccine Mandate, It's A Testing Mandate

[ Posted Monday, September 13th, 2021 – 15:36 UTC ]

Republicans, as they are wont to do, have been falsely framing President Joe Biden's order to medium-to-large businesses last week as a "vaccine mandate" or "vaccination mandate." House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy even tweeted it out in all caps yesterday: "NO VACCINE MANDATES." On the Sunday morning political chat shows, this framing was presented by other Republicans with little or no pushback from either the hosts or even the Democratic guests. But it is false. It is highly misleading. What Biden ordered for the private sector was not a vaccine mandate. It was a testing mandate. Nobody's going to get fired for not getting vaccinated -- but people could get fired for refusing to submit to weekly testing. That's a big difference. Republicans are trying to obscure this reality by framing it as a "getting fired for refusing a vaccine" issue. And so far, at least on television, this seems to be working for them.

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Friday Talking Points -- Democrats Should Lean In To Biden's New Pandemic Mandates

[ Posted Friday, September 10th, 2021 – 17:04 UTC ]

This week, President Joe Biden picked a political fight. Or, more accurately, he got up off the sidelines and engaged in a political fight that had already begun, by strongly opposing Republican politicians fighting against basic public health safety measures under the fake guise of "freedom." Biden stood squarely for science and safety, while Republicans are left to fight for recklessness and death. That is precisely how the matter should be framed politically, and so far it looks like Biden is doing a fairly good job of presenting this dichotomy to the public. He's even taking the fight directly to all the GOP governors who are sounding increasingly unhinged about the basic concepts of public health and safety.

Biden gave a speech yesterday where he laid down some new rules (which have yet to take effect). The ones with the biggest impact are vaccine mandates for all federal employees and contractors, all workers at healthcare facilities that take Medicare and Medicaid money (most of them, in other words), and all federally-paid schoolteachers (think: Head Start). Furthermore, private businesses which have 100 employees or more must require either vaccinations or weekly testing for all workers -- or face a $14,000 fine for each individual violation.

To some of those frustrated by the intransigence of the unvaccinated among us, this didn't go nearly far enough. The new workplace-safety rule is not an actual mandate -- the weekly testing option will still be there for those who refuse to get their shots. This rule will, however, cover 80 million workers, or two-thirds of America's workforce. The one thing Biden didn't do, however, was to mandate vaccinations for passengers on airplanes, trains, and buses. Perhaps if this phase of ramping up the pressure on the unvaccinated goes down well politically, Biden might take this step later. It would be significant indeed if he did decide to do this right before both the Thanksgiving and winter holidays.

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