Eric Zuesse: Understanding President Obama’s Strategy to Force Cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (Updated)

By Eric Zuesse, an investigative historian and the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

In order to be able to understand the current debt-limit battle in Washington, here is the essential historical background:

Although the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment states very clearly that “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, … shall not be questioned,” the so-called “debt limit,” as it’s currently known – which violates that Amendment boldly, by raising serious questions about “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law” – was instituted only in recent times. It was instituted in 1995, by the Republican-majority U.S. Congress, when Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich tried to coerce President Bill Clinton to slash “entitlements”: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. He especially wanted to slash Medicare. The solid-Republican Congressional votes against increasing the debt-limit in order to pay “the public debt of the United States, authorized by law” did actually shut down the Federal Government, for the first time in history, starting on 14 November 1995 for five days, and then yet again on 16 December 1995 for 21 days.

During those two periods, “non-essential” government services were suspended, while the “public debt of the United States, authorized by law” continued to be honored. The second federal shut-down ended on 6 January 1996, when the Republicans finally passed and the President signed “Public Law 104-94,” a Joint Resolution to raise the debt-limit. This action – which until then had always been treated in Congress as routine – enabled the U.S. Government to resume and continue to function, and the federal debt to continue to be paid.

Between that time and this, Congressional Republicans have insisted on their right to violate this provision of the 14th Amendment, and Democratic Presidents have not challenged that right. While Republicans have been determined to force cutting “entitlements,” Democratic Presidents have been ambivalent about it. That is: Presidents Clinton and Obama have shown by their actions that they didn’t/don’t want to use the force of Constitutional law to counter Republicans’ force of this new congressional precedent, of eliminating the previously routine nature of increasing the federal debt-limit. Clinton and Obama have accepted Republicans’ option to violate the Constitution’s provision that “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, … shall not be questioned.”

During an early-December White House “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 12/06/2012,” the President’s Press Secretary was asked “whether the President would invoke executive power and the 14th Amendment,” and Mr. Carney responded: “This administration does not believe that the 14th Amendment gives the President the power to ignore the debt ceiling – period.” In other words: Barack Obama was now officially on record as removing that weapon from the available arsenal in his negotiations with Congressional Republicans about the debt limit. They could now quote him as agreeing with them, that the change in Congressional custom that had taken place on this matter in 1995 was simply Congress’s assumption of a power that Congresses had always had – nothing violating the Constitution at all.

Barack Obama had previously caved to the Republicans without fighting, concerning his elimination of the public option from his “Obamacare,” and more recently breaking his long-made promise never to compromise on increasing taxes on the top 2%, $250,000+, and he had also chosen not to hold Republicans’ feet to the fire on the fiscal cliff; but now, the only thing that realistically remained in his arsenal of weaponry against Republicans’ forcing slashes in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, regulatory enforcement, and many other vital government programs, was simply handed away by him, even well before the fiscal cliff came on January 1st. Clearly, therefore, Mr. Obama is determined to give Republicans much of what they want on these matters. He evidently wants to find a way to allow that to happen. He wants House Republicans to be able to block the Federal Government from paying its previously contracted debts, so as to force him to cut “entitlements.”

On all prior occasions in which Obama has caved on vital details before even negotiating with Republicans about them, he had the public on his side but caved by his own choice. Polls showed about a 2-to-1 support for the availability of a public option; polls showed about a 2-to-1 support for the $250,000 benchmark for increasing tax-rates. But Obama conceded on those matters because he had lied to Democrats – and even to many moderate Republicans – about those claimed goals of his, and his actions showed that he actually agreed more with the goals of congressional Republicans on these issues than he did with Democrats and others who, in poll-after-poll on them, showed that they agreed with his stated (and even promised) positions on them.

Now he is repeating this same behavior, regarding cuts to “entitlements.” Yet again, polls show that the public rejects raising the retirement age, reducing the inflation-measure in calculating benefits, and the other Republican-pushed measures; but Obama is doing all he can to help Congressional Republicans get what they want on these issues.

Barack Obama had, even earlier, driven Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to fits with his back-door efforts to gut such “entitlements,” as when he had appointed the conservative Democrat Erskine Bowles to serve opposite the extremely conservative Republican Alan Simpson as being the two co-chairs on the White House’s “bi-partisan” federal debt commission concerning entitlement “reform.” (The Commission produced recommendations that Congressional Democrats roundly repudiated for slashing entitlements, and that Republicans condemned for increasing taxes.) Obama had set this Commission up to deal with the soaring federal deficits that had been caused by Bush’s 2008 economic collapse, by their using those federal deficits as an excuse to slash entitlements and thus produce even more suffering for the poor, at the same time as Wall Street was being bailed out. (Bowles was supported by the very Wall Street banks that were being bailed out by taxpayers. Simpson was a born conservative who followed in his father’s footsteps as Wyoming’s Republican U.S. Senator. His father had been quite extreme: “one of six Republican senators who voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”) So, that was a wolf-in-charge-of-chicken-coop type of operation, which Congressional Democrats opposed. Republicans opposed it because it would have meant increasing taxes – it wasn’t conservative enough for them. Thus, on the very same day, 28 March 2012, when Bowles-Simpson was finally dashed in the House, the House passed instead the Paul Ryan budget, which Mitt Romney ended up running on, against Obama. The 2012 “election” was thus between two conservatives, one of whom pretended not to be.

Yet again, Pelosi and Reid are tearing their hair out about Obama’s deceits and his preemptory caves on vital issues. On January 4th, Pelosi in her weekly press briefing was asked about using the 14th Amendment to annihilate the Republicans’ threats to violate the 14th Amendment, and Pelosi said, “I’ve made my view very clear on that subject. But I’m not the president of the United States.” On the same day, Ryan Grim at Huffington Post bannered “Harry Reid Would Back Obama If He Bucks GOP On Debt Ceiling: Source.” Reid “has privately told other Democrats, including President Obama, that if the administration used its constitutional and executive authority to continue paying its debts in the face of House Republican opposition, he would support the approach.”

The way this would work is: Republicans would repeat the 1995 shut-down cliff-hanger, and President Obama would cite the 14th Amendment, and possibly also the trillion-dollar-coin tactic, to continue paying the U.S. Government’s debts; and the matter would then go to the Supreme Court to be adjudicated. But Obama has already, through his Press spokesperson, said that he won’t use the 14th Amendment. That will leave only the coin-tactic, which is less likely to succeed. He has already publicly trashed his biggest weapon.

Democrats in Congress cannot publicly say that they despise a Democrat in the White House, but the signs indicate that they do. On the other hand, what will be their response if the President continues along this path? Pursuing this trajectory would be far worse than anything that happened during the Clinton years. There is no way of knowing, ahead of time, what would happen if he does that.

UPDATE (1/7, 12:05 AM): Nancy Pelosi on Sunday January 6th said on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” that, “If I were president, I’d use the 14th Amendment,” and she – even more importantly – explained there why. She is, thus, for the very first time publicly, effectively challenging the nominal head of her Democratic Party, the Republican “Democratic” U.S. President Barack Obama, to indicate now whether he intends to continue to stab Democrats in the back, as he has been doing ever since he was elected and chose Timothy Geithner, Eric Holder, etc., and continued many of his predecessor’s policies that he had campaigned against. She is doing this at this time, because Obama’s “Fiscal Cliff” deal inexplicably discarded Obama’s politically popular claimed proposal on taxes and handed Republicans a needless win “against” him on federal taxes, and because Obama’s shocking December 6th repudiation of the powerful 14th-Amendment argument for blocking Republican efforts to employ the debt ceiling as a weapon to “force” him to strip Democratic programs on the expense side – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and regulatory enforcement – now threatens to hand Republicans a total victory on fiscal matters, which would be too much for congressional Democrats to stomach in abject silence, especially since polls show strong public support for the Democratic position on both the tax and spending sides of these matters. There is thus now a Democratic Party rebellion against Obama, and he will soon show by his actions – no longer just his words – whether he is a Democrat, and whether his Republican actions in the past have reflected, on his part, stupidity, rather than actual treachery.

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  1. Gerard Pierce

    “Democrats in Congress cannot publicly say that they despise a Democrat in the White House”.

    Can they publicly say that they despise a Republican in the White House who pretends to be a Democrat?

    It’s time for some senior Democrats to call for Obama’s resignation. We achieved our goal – we don’t have a President Romney. Time to declare a victory and get out of the game.

    President Biden could probably get Hillary appointed as Vice-President and we could all sit back and watch heads explode on the Republican side of the house.

    1. Mary Bess

      That would pave the way nicely for Hillary in 2012 and throw us from the frying pan into the fire. She’s already got Dick Cheney’s endorsement!

        1. sgt_doom

          After Hilary Clinton’s help in the overthrowing of the demcoratically-elected gov’t of Zelaya in Honduras (while she was chair of the MCC, who kept financing it) and her giving the go-ahead to the murder and general putdown of the protestors in Bahrain, one assumes she probably has Wall Street’s endorsement as well, and certainly Clinton’s appointments of Victoria Nuland as State Spokesperson (married to a founding member of the ultra-rightwing PNAC, or Project for a New American Century bunch, Robert Kagan), as well as Clinton’s appointment of Bush Inner Circle guy, Marc Grossman (fingered by Sibel Edmonds as one of the nuke-secrets-selling bunch), as well as Robert Hormats and the late Richard Holbrooke, Clinton has to be ultra-tight with the plutocracy?

          1. RanDomino

            I’m glad someone else remembers the coup in Honduras. The response of everyone in this country was despicable for one reason or another- either they supported it, or they opposed it but had no intention of actually doing anything to stop it. I tried to suggest organizing a boycott of companies that used Honduran sweatshops, but no one paid attention…

    2. rob

      Hillary is as big a “republican” as her husband. They both flow from the democratic arm of the koch bros. DLC.Bill ,after all passed nafta,attacked another country without the UN,when natural resources were on the line, but hid with words while thousands were hacked to death in rhawand ,under his watch,the debt cieling was enshrined,glass-steagle was repealed,graham-leech-blaloch?,creating dark markets,as well as the old “carnivore” of the FBI and others who were illegally spying on americans and “eschelon” of the NSA/Cia also illegally spying on americans.Allowed the FBI,militarization and had the waco and ruby ridge assaults.The clinton administration was in power when the 9-11 conspirators started being “protected”.
      And hillary is surely cut from the same cloth.After all it was her legal partners who were front and center in many “inproprieties”.
      She got the pork for new york, while the state racked up debt.Playing perfect politics.Getting all those new york neo-liberals behind her.As sec.of state.She went and delivered another 2 billion to the afghani’s right after wikileaks showed the evidence that it was long known that american tax dollars were given to the same networks(hakani/others) who were killing american soldiers.Then she was head of the state dept, and then the lies ran strong after the ambassador to libya was killed,then she “ducked” any scrutiny whatsoever…and now is “recovering”…Hillary is nothing that obama isn’t.

    3. NotTimothyGeithner

      Let us pretend Hillary wasn’t a DLC/warmonger-type just for a moment and pretend she was some kind of reasonable person. We won’t pretend she is a liberal champion because that would be too fantastic and would create a different dynamic of moral obligation to support Hillary.

      Given that situation, we should look at her 2007/2008 campaign. She hired the worst of the worst, lost to Obozo, and ran a coronation campaign despite a large anti-Clinton presence in the Democratic Party and among non-teaching unions*. I’m not exactly certain I would consider “fantasy HRC” to be worth anyone’s time, much less the real Hillary Clinton.

      1. sgt_doom

        Excellent points, as Hillary’s and McCain’s and Obama’s people all came from the same global-level public relations firm.

      2. different clue

        I used to think the same thing. She hired the worst-of-the-worst and she lost to Obozo. But starting a couple years ago I began reading The Confluence by blogger Riverdaughter which offered up a lot of under-reported data about the 2008 primary season and the Road to DemCon 2008. Most of her blogposts are not organized or sorted for finding by topic, but a few are under the top-of-the-screen heading called Conflucian Classics. Among a few of those classics are posts about Clinton earning more delegates in primaries than what Obama earned in caucuses. There are also questions about how many out-of-state illegitimate voters the Obama forces brought in to steal caucus votes. There are also articles about how delegates sent by Clinton voters had their votes completely mis-assigned without their permission at all to Obama. An egregious case was the “leader” of the New Jersey Delegation . . . Mr. MF Global himself . . . Governor Corzine, declaring all New Jersey’s delegates to be “for” Obama. I think these posts might be worth a read. I would link to it but this computer does not have “link-to-it” capabilities.

        1. Aquifer

          dc – that may all be true, but it deoesn’t change the fact, IMO, that Hillary is a schmuck as well – she just got out schmucked by a more clever one ….

        2. Lambert Strether

          Here is what nobody remembers about the Clinton campaign — after the strength of the Obama campaign’s caucus- and media-focused campaign because evident and they fired Mark Penn. While Obama was a web-driven effort (“check the website” was — really! — the scripted distractor for anybody who asked detailed questions about policy), the post-February Clinton campaign was driven by throwaway cell phones. Why? Because Clinton’s base wasn’t surfing the web; they were at work, probably at one of their three sh*tty jobs. And Clinton, let us remember, won a majority of the vote, and RanDomino

          Never mind politics! They’ll only listen if you threaten to make them obsolete. Organize!

        3. Dan Kervick

          Right, the parties just respond to waves of anxiety or change of focus by tweaking their marketing campaigns. Right now the Democratic Party is actively hostile to progressive change. They have grown so conservative that their sheep-like members barely remember what progressive change is anymore, and console themselves with small victories consisting only in getting a slightly slower pace to privatization and plutocratic domination.

          And yet the Democrats control two of the three political branches of the government!

        4. Aquifer

          Dan –

          “I see no need at this time to embrace any parties or political leaders. There are no saviors out there.”

          I rather suspected that from your previous comments elsewhere …. Unfortunately, IMO, there are too many out there who think the way you do, which is why, come election time, the D/Rs, being considered the only game in town, once again waltz away holding the reins of power …

          ” …. the parties just respond to waves of anxiety or change of focus by tweaking their marketing campaigns.”

          The D/R parties that is – let us be clear about that … I won’t let that slide ….


          “They’ll only listen if you threaten to make them obsolete.”

          Yup, and the only non violent way to do that is vote them out of power …

      3. Glenn Condell

        ‘Let’s stop imagining that Obama is the only top Democratic leaders who is not a “real” Democrat’

        True, but he is the only one who is POTUS. With great power comes great responsibility, and also increased scope for appropriate placement of blame. He is at the very least a world-class coward (a position which gets harder to defend with each passing day) and if that’s not true then he is something much worse, the ultimate enemy of the people, ideally placed to defeat them on behalf of his, and our, owners. Theo’s heartfelt cry above sounds like my own reaction to the possibility, now shading into probability that the latter scenario is more likely.

        The bully pulpit has cobwebs all over it, but are there too many obstacles on the steps or is the ‘most powerful man in the world’ simply not interested in climbing them? Unable or unwilling? Even if you tend to weakness over knavery, you’d have to admit that a volte-face, a genuine game-changing Damascene conversion to pro-citizen anti-corporatism – perhaps clothed in a righteous anger that he’s spent 5 years bending over backwards to be bipartisan and inclusive, to no avail – in other words, an FDR/TR/Ike style challenge to TPTB, would provide a galvanic shock that might start some balls rolling. Either he can’t (Yes We Can’t!) or he won’t.

        ‘Show me the ones who are advocating a dramatic expansion in the public role or a serious assault on the plutocracy.’

        That cupboard is bare and there’s plenty more vacancies where BO came from. Requirements – silver tongue, no scruples, obedience. So (I keep hearing) don’t vote for them! Great, so we vote for….

        ‘Nobody. I see no need at this time to embrace any parties or political leaders. There are no saviors out there. The point, it seems to me, is to go directly after public opinion and stoke a broad-based demand for social transformation and progress that is so insistent that no matter what clowns are running for office, from whatever parties, they can’t ignore it.’

        I’m not as sanguine about that. Build up that head of steam and create a ‘movement’ – then do what with it, exactly? Channel it into a new party headed by a charismatic leader? They can and will ignore it (that’s if they can’t splinter, undermine, control and eventually utilise it) because unlike the 60s they are prepared, with virtually full spectrum dominance of all avenues for revolt, from soft to very hard indeed.

        What is required, as I have carped about here and elsewhere a few times at considerable length, is not a focus on particular outcomes or even a range of them (difficult to sign everyone up to and easy for the 1% to attack), but on a permanent mechanism to achieve them and to me the answer is utilisation of the net’s capacity to count and to rank preferences of all voters in real time, all the time, rather than have the reins our democracy and our hopes for renewal pinned to a two-horse race every four years, with both horses, not to mention the callers and bookies and trainers all owned by the same people.

        Build the road before dreaming of the destination… though I freely admit this idea is as fantastic and unlikely to take root as any wished-for outcome it could enable. The point I guess is that if we all shed blood sweat and tears getting a more direct democracy up for good we might wrest the levers of power back from those who represent us in theory but TPTB in practice.

        When you consider the outlook and opinions of many Americans who would never darken the doors of say this blog and those like it, you do wonder at the wisdom of such a move, but could it really be worse than leaving it to the Serious People?

  2. charles sereno

    @ Gerard Pierce
    Upon reading the post, I copied the same quote —

    “Democrats in Congress cannot publicly say that they despise a Democrat in the White House, but the signs indicate that they do.”
    Except that you omit the final clause and then proceed to a bait-and-switch distraction while positioning yourself to be the first in the Comment queue. The reason I copied that quote was to note that the author was perhaps being too optimistic about “Democrats in Congress,” in an other excellent report. What were your motives?

  3. Glen

    I think by the mid term elections all of the Dems in Congress are going to feel like Obama has spent two years painting a big target on thier back. Expect an epic blowout which makes the 2010 shellacking look just a warm up.

    Obama has wanted to make fundamental change in America like Reagan, and he has, he has almost singlehandely killed the New Deal and the Democratic party of FDR. We now have one political party with a right wing and a far right wing.

  4. jake chase

    Face it sports fans: BHO is the Manchurian Candidate. If he were 100% white instead of 50% white, he wouldn’t have carried three states. Congratulations, liberal intellectuals, for your fair minded refusal to pay any attention to what he does, and your single minded focus on what he “is”, while marveling at his charisma as he blows endless smoke up the country’s rear end.

    He and what’s her name are laughing all the way to the bank. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the board of Goldman or JPM Chase in 2017.

    Has anyone actually read that essay that placed him on the Harvard Law Review? I remember when that honor was reserved for those who got top grades on exam papers to which no name was attached.

  • Haidir Aulia Reizaputra

    I think the U.S just try to reduce the consumption rate, so they can prevent the debt accumulatiion even higher. My personal research shows that trade deficit in U.S incrased in 1971 to 2006 and decrease since 2007 to match 558 bilion dollar on 2011 that only can be happen because import reduction and the rise up of export.

    1. sgt_doom

      “I think the U.S just try to reduce the consumption rate…”

      Perhaps a little arithmetic is in order? That 70% consumption figure derives from the vast consumption of the upper 15% (used to be top 20% but super-wealth has become even more concentrated over past several years) — and one doesn’t dictate to the plutocracy, my friend.

    2. different clue

      And the “trade deficit” comes from the fact that the Free Trade Conspirators passed and signed various Free Trade Agreements designed to dismantle thingmaking industry throughout America and ship the parts overseas to “re-mantle” them into thingmaking industries overseas . . . so as to import underpriced overseas-made things back here in order to further exterminate what thingmaking still exists in this country.

      The way to solve the trade deficit is to abolish Free Trade and repeal and/or abrogate every Free Trade Agreement going all the way back to Truman’s GATT Round One if necessary. Only permit trade with countries at or above our cost-structure. Repatriate our stolen kidnapped production held-hostage-in-exile in our trading enemies such as China/Bangladesh/Vietnam/Haiti/etc. etc. etc.

      And if we had to buy things we cant make or grow, but still need, buy them only from countries which raise their wages and standards and conditions costs for those things up to what our own costs would be for those things. What would it cost to grow a coconut in Florida? Don’t by coconuts from somewhere else until somewhere else pays all the costs to grow a coconut that Florida would have to pay to grow a coconut.

      And that’s how to solve the trade deficit problem. Of course . . . very few people really want that problem to be the least bit solved.

      1. RanDomino

        As long as workers in one country can be used to threaten the livelihood of workers in another, we’ll never be able to make such a stand. One possibility is that the first-world countries get to third-world levels of poverty and stratification. A better way is that we organize across national boundaries- they do nothing but divide the world into cantons. But instead the unions decided to preach racism in order to protect their privilege.

  • timotheus

    There are NO Bowles-Simpson “recommendations.” The committee report was never adopted as it did not reach the 60% minimum required. The report never was formally endorsed nor sent to Congress. The opposition to this pre-ordained “expert” panel’s conclusions was considerable and successful.

    1. Aquifer

      Opposition was considerable – but, as we are soon to discover, methinks, not successful ….

      1. Lou Mains

        “Opposition was considerable – but, as we are soon to discover, methinks, not successful”

        Yes, I agree. Obama has been telegraphing his intentions to undermine many traditional Democratic programs and policies for months and years. He is a self-defined “New Democrat”, and their values are closer to Republican than Democratic.

        As much as it is important that the US has its first bi-racial President, if we are honest with ourselves, Obama demonstrates horrible governance as a Democrat. I cannot discern one value that he would steadfastly hold. For political gain, there seems to be nothing he wouldn’t trade away!

        I detest valuelessness. There is no stability in Obama’s governing. The ground under him is always unsteady and up for sale, cheaply too.

        I’m glad I voted for Jill Stein. No guilt, or having to defend the indefensible. Congruence with my values, not in opposition to them–Unaffordable Care Act, NDAA, wireless wiretapping, increased drone killing, ignoring the Constitution. He’s been a governing nightmare for the most part, for me.”

        1. Aquifer

          I gotta admit – i didn’t think it terribly important for the country to have its first “biracial” Pres., any more than for it to have its first female Pres., if that meant electing someone of either “persuasion” meant electing a schmuck (surprise, surprise, white males are not the only cache of schmucks ..)

          But I am glad you voted for Stein, as did I. She is still posting stuff on her site and i hope she will be around in ’16 – what a great contest that would be Stein v Clinton and for comic relief, Palin – LOL

        2. different clue

          “First black president” was exactly how the Obama forces were able to extort support from so many proglibs. Only a racist would object to voting for America’s first black president, right? Of course right.

          He ran a different version of that hustle on the black community. Black race-card pride voters voted for Obama by 93% to show their racial race-card loyalty. That loyalty will be very costly to their own future survival if their beloved Preciousssss the One is able to destroy their SS/Mcare/Mcaide survival benefits . . . along with everyone elses.

          I expect the Congressional Race Card Caucus will support
          the BS Obama Catfood Plan to their last breath because “if you don’t support our Black President you must be an Uncle Tom. Or a racist”.

          1. ambrit

            I’ve heard black folk around here, Hattiesburg Ms., refer to Obama as an Uncle Tom, several times.

          2. Aquifer

            yeahm ambrit, but did they vote for him again – he didn’t care what you called him, as long as you voted for him ….

          3. Aquifer

            dc – methinks he got a lot of “white bleeding heart liberals” who sought to expiate their racial guilt – along with a lot of identity “politikers” – Amy Goodman was falling all over herself about how wonderful it was to have a black Pres ….

            But it would seem nobody really learned much this time around, did they …

            In fact, ISTM, that Obama could more “honeatly” claim he got a mandate in ’12 to do just what he is doing – he wasn’t an unknown in ’12 – he had been out there for 4 years doing just what he is doing – he started it from the get-go, even before he was elected in ’08, and he has been quite clear about what he wants to do even with respect to SS et,al.

            One could argue, though frankly i don’t think it is very convincing (except for a couple of things), that he “lied”, and that might be an acceptable excuse in ’08, but this time around he didn’t even bother to lie – and folks still voted for him. I’m sorry, but i am tired of letting people off the hook (except for the younger folks who don’t have enough “experience” yet ..) Folks are indeed getting what they voted for – if they wanted something else than what they are getting, they should have voted for something else …

  • Jim Haygood

    ‘The so-called “debt limit” … was instituted only in recent times. It was instituted in 1995, by the Republican-majority U.S. Congress …’

    You’re kidding me, right? From the inception of the U.S. government under the 1789 constitution until 1917, each issuance of Treasury debt was approved individually by Congress. Back then, there was no such thing as weekly auctions of T-bills (which were only introduced in 1929) or quarterly auctions of T-notes. U.S. debt issues were few and far between.

    Only during World War I, when Treasury debt issuance ballooned mightily, was a debt limit instituted in place of Congressional approval of each individual issue. Here is one of many sources documenting this fact:

    Eric Zuesse thinks the debt limit was invented by Newt Gingrich in 1995? LOL! Wasn’t that the same year Al Gore invented the internet?

    1. Eric Zuesse

      If you will look at, then you will see that there have been worthy of note in the U.S. only one shutdown of the Federal Government, and 6 shutdowns of state governments. The first U.S. shutdown of a government was the federal shutdown in 1995.

      When I did the research for the article here, several sources that I consulted said that until 1995 the congressional hike in the federal debt-limit had been routinely approved.

      1. dcblogger

        I distinctly remember government shut downs during the Reagan administration. They only last a day or so, occurred during weekends, and a deal was always reached quickly as the Democratic controlled house did not like government shutdowns. I also remember debt ceiling votes in previous administrations with Republicans strutting around blathering about how they could not vote to meet obligations they had previously supported.

        1. Eric Zuesse

          Yes, and that’s generally acknowledged, just as it is generally acknowledged that Newt Gingrich’s tactic of dragging out these shutdowns for an extended period of time was an entirely new development, without historical precedent. Historians make a distinction between the 1995-1996 and subsequent shutdowns and the ones prior to that, which were never intended to nor did do anything more than to make a statement. None of them threatened the full faith and credit of the U.S. Government. This is why my article says “the so-called ‘debt limit,’ as it’s currently known.” As it’s currently known (i.e., since November 1995), the debt-limit battles do threaten that, and violate the 14th Amendment in doing so. If you don’t know that, then your ignorance of the fact is itself yet further evidence of the failures of the U.S. press and of the Democratic Party, and especially of Barack Obama (who has the bully pulpit but refuses to use it), to make this crucial fact clear to the American public.

      2. Susan the other

        I distinctly remember reading about religio-social shutdowns in the first century AD. Apostles Peter and Paul talked code. Christ was code for the halucinogenic mushroom Amanita Muscaria (Allegro – forever) which was ther bedrock pagan religion, and it was grafted onto a new political movement of Jesus-son-of-god which didn’t like the Roman imperialism. Who did? It’s too bad we have not progressed in all these thousands of years. I mean, who likes the son-of-god these days?

    2. from Mexico

      That’s quite a fascinating document you linked there, Jim Haygood.

      I especialy like the graph that shows how almost all the growth in federal debt, and then some, is by borrowing from the federal government’s own accounts, the Social Security Trust Fund I suppose being the biggest of these. When you combine that graph with the following graph, which shows how payroll taxes (which include Social Security witholding) have soared as corporate taxes have plummeted,

      one sees how, with the help of the magic of debtcraft, the Congress has succeeded in shifting more and more of the burden of running the federal government off of corporations and onto the working man and woman.

      It’s also interesting how the moral obligation to take care of the old, the young, the weak, the unable and the infirm — something that our hypersocial humanoid progenitors have done for time immemorial, and long before the concept of money was even invented — gets recast in the new language of monetary debt. Morality, in other words, gets monetized, something I suppose isn’t all bad in a society that deems the only obligations worth honoring to be those that are expressed as monetary debt. (Unless of course the moral prerogative entails corporate welfare, welfare for the rich or military spending. In our current pantheon, those are the highest gods.)

      But other than those exceptions, the primacy of monetary debt — the “utility of the debt ceiling” as one of the footnotes put it (really, you couldn’t make this stuff up) — stands at the apogee of the celestial hierarchy, and the authors mince no words as to where their devotion lies:

      In the words of one author, the debt limit “expresses a national devotion to the idea of thrift and to economical management of the fiscal affairs of the government.”

      1. Chris Rogers

        From Mexico,
        A good post raising many valid points, being a bit of a Humanist myself, one gets a little annoyed at all the bullshit our neoliberal friends keep ramming down the majority’s throats on a daily basis – to put it bluntly, our class enemies seem to know the monetary worth of everything and the actual human value of nothing.
        Still, if you worship mammon, this is what happens and our masters do seem obsessed with mammon rather than actually living fulfilled lives that benefit communities globally.
        Shame on them and the politicians who enable all this deceit and murder in the name of greed – the sooner the present system implodes the better for us all as no government and socioeconomic system can be as bad or worse than that which exists presently to the detriment of all humanity!

        1. Aquifer

          “… no government and socioeconomic system can be as bad or worse than that which exists presently to the detriment of all humanity!”

          Don’t bet on it …

          1. Chris Rogers


            If your reasoning incorporates ‘concentration camps’ and a ‘final solution’ for the majority of the global 99 percent once the renter class has extracted all remaing wealth it can from the majority, then I’m inclined to concur.

            However, the fact remains the apparatus for this final assault is already in place and firmly entwined in the present socioeconomic setup we have in place – this being a fascist kleptocracy that firmly believes its genetic makeup is superior to that of the bulk of the human race.

            Regrettably, many a deluded fool adheres to this falllacy aided and abetted by the media – talk about turkey’s voting for Christmas!

          2. Aquifer

            Chris – my point was that even if you believe that “the sooner the present system implodes the better for us all”, it is incumbent to have a better one with better folks ready to replace it with. Assuming that nothing could be worse and that its demise, ipso facto, will usher in a “better day” is not, IMO, a very good assumption to hang your hat, or anything else, on …

            So who/what are you preparing/supporting to replace it with?

      2. Lady Liberty

        David Cay explains nicely how when the Tax was raised on SS it did just that. I am just shocked to see the amount of people who believe SS adds to the deficit in the first place acting as if it’s a welfare program when it is entirely self funded. (David Cay link)


        Social Security Does Not Add To the Deficit Nor Is It A Welfare Program – Setting The Record Straight On Social Security

        1. Aquifer

          LL – good piece by Johnson …

          The last section I thought was particularly striking and seems to me should be shouted from the rooftops:

          “Under current tax rules, the Social Security shortfall for the next 75 years is $8.6 trillion.

          But there is a much bigger problem that needs our attention. If we continue national security spending at current levels, with no future increases, the total cost would be $63 trillion, based on the figures in President Barack Obama’s latest budget. Unlike spending on Social Security, much of the national security spending goes overseas. And that makes us worse off.”

          So let’s see – which is the bigger threat, over the next 75 years – SS @$8.6 trillion (with an easy fix as he outlines) or “national security spending” @$63 trillion …. Hmm that’s a toughy ….

      3. Doug Terpstra

        “. . . one sees how, with the help of the magic of debtcraft, the Congress has succeeded in shifting more and more of the burden of running the federal government off of corporations and onto the working man and woman.”

        Michael Hudson underscores this powerfully on Counterpunch in “The Ideological Crisis Underlying Today’s Tax and Financial Policy”, explaining how people have been deliberately blinded by all the trees from seeing the forest of rentier looting extraction and tax evasion. He also believes we are approaching the tipping point of economic seizure (lockup) that you alluded to earlier.

        “Academic economics is turned into an Orwellian exercise in doublethink, designed to convince the population that the bottom 99% should pay taxes rather than the 1% that obtain most interest, dividends and capital gains. By denying that a free lunch exists, and by confusing the relationship between money and taxes, they have turned the economics discipline and much political discourse into a lobbying effort for the 1%.”

        Even Krugman and Reich support this doublethink in a way by consistently concealing Obama’s concerted duplicity in this propaganda campaign.

  • craazyman

    Mr. Zuesse, Apologies in advance if this is woefully off-topic but it is Sunday and I read the Amazon blurb on your CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS. I take 20 mg daily of Pacifex (TM) which neutralizes the political psychosis wave and allows me to disconnect like a zombie from nearly all political discussions.

    Therefore, I am curious, if after your research: 1) You accept the historicity of Jesus without question. In other words, He really did live in historical time as a human. 2) What happened to Paul on the road to Damascus? 3) You may have notice the literary construction of Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion parallels the literary construction of tragic drama — all the way to the visual/action of Judas’ kiss, which is clearly a device that would be used in a dramatic presentation. That is a little odd, for texts presumably created to be historical records. Morever, the death/crucifixion/three days in the underworld/resurrection closely parallels — in substance — the ancient myth of the death and resurrection of the grain god. It seems odd that such a literary construction would be used by the gospel writers purporting to write journalism when the historical reality must not have been like that. 4) Is it conceivable that Jesus survived the crucifixion with help from Roman soldiers bribed to medicate him into a coma that resembled death — possibly with help from Joseph of Arimathea? I’ve seen this theory, which could explain his escape from his tomb and reappearance after. 5) What about the miracles? Were these hoaxed or staged somehow? The casting of demons into the pigs would be hard to hoax. Jesus’ capacity as a healer would be hard to hoax. Something weird is going on there. 6) Perhaps most ludicrous of all, I wonder if you’re familiar with the theory that Jesus was the illegitmate son of a Roman soldier, which would partly be a cover for the virgin birth story. Jesus’ mother appears late in the gospels, but the father is nowhere to be seen. This theory was referenced, although not argued, in Ian Wilson’s JESUS: THE EVIDENCE 7) Jesus clearly was relatively unknown in his time beyond a small circle. The Roman soldiers sent to arrest him, who must have been stationed in the area and may have had occasion to hear of Jesus, did not even know what he looked like (thus the need for Judas’ kiss, to identify Him) and the Jewish/Roman historian Josephus makes only one reference to Jesus in his copious writings. This may not be strange, but it seems at odds with the magnitude of social tumult described in the gospels surrounding Jesus. I wonder if you have an opinion on this. Apologies in advance for this far-off-topic digression. No worries if you don’t feel this is an appropriate forum for a response.

    1. Aquifer

      craazy – frankly i find rather amusing at Christians insistence on the “factuality” in all particulars of the Jesus story …. As if, somehow, should one facet be “proven” false, the whole shebang known as “Christianity” would fall apart …

      For me, the whole point was the message – I realize i would be considered a heretic, but frankly my “faith” wouldn’t be affected if Jesus had been married or was gay (methinks that “beloved disciple” bit is a bit suspicious :)) And it, in fact, has seemed to me that the crucifixion story would be even more powerful if he, “in fact” were “merely” a man – with no assurance of immortality after his sacrifice …

      Ironically, ISTM, this insistence on historical “fact” is based on a considered need for proof in the secular scientific sense – when that is not what “faith” is about at all ..

      The nice thing about insisting on “faith” over “fact” is that i don’t have to worry whether someone “proves” or “disproves” it historically … Though I realize such “battles” prove a lucrative pastime for authors and such, for me they are of entertainment value only …

      I realize you want to hear from the author and not somebody like me – but i just thought i would throw in another perspective :)

      1. Aquifer

        Rats – even when i “preview” it i don’t catch all the errors – oh well, to err is human, as they say – one’s reach must exceed one’s grasp, or what’s a heven for …. :)

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        Although I’m not the type who goes for magical sky people, most Christians/(insert people of faith of choice) are superstitious not religious. They can’t deal with factual errors because they have no concept of what is in the Bible. Pointing out errors isn’t about the fallacy of Jesus for them as much as exposing the shallow nature of their faith and attacking their identity.

        The religious themselves are usually aware of the issues and the quirks. Take Stephen Colbert. The guy teaches catechism every Sunday, but he when he mocks religion and Catholicism he really brings it. Now I don’t mean to say there are “real Christians” and “fake Christians,” but there are different kinds of people in the pews. The majority is superstitious.

        Ash Wednesday is a perfect example of superstition. Officially its not that big a deal. For Catholics, the most holy thing one can do is to attend Mass and take the Eucharist, ritualized cannibalism. Catholics from all over, including people who very rarely go to Mass, will fall all over themselves to line up to have dirt smeared on their forehead by a pedophile and then leave which according to their faith* is their fullest communion with God and outpouring of God’s love/grace. Since Catholics will be prominently displayed on Ash Wednesday, you should take the opportunity to innocently ask about the ashes on their forehead. The answers will be astonishing.

        *13 years of Catholic school, confirmation and First Communion classes really paid off. I can make points on the internet.

        1. Aquifer

          NTG – if all those years availed you of nothing more than making points on the internet – you really weren’t paying attention – just out of curiosity, did you pick a confirmation name, and why did you pick it? what do you think of your choice now? Do you see the connection between that and the vision quests, say, of indigenous folk who return with a “new name”? Read some Campbell – you have thrown the baby out with the bathwater …

          Rats – see what you started, craazy, you rascal you! Always stirring the pot – just like my Dad, LOL ….

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            I don’t go for sky fairies, so my confirmation name choice process went something along the lines of, “I already have a first name, and I hate my middle name*. Well, first name it is.”

            I still have the name tag the church made for the Bishop to read aloud with my first name on it twice. I take it to family reunions, weddings, and funerals where people appreciate my more unusual habits.

          2. from Mexico

            @ Aquifer

            Have you ever noticed how the most strident critics of sky fairies seem to be the most fervent true believers of secular fairies?

          3. Aquifer

            NTG – methinks you made my point – you weren’t paying attention. If you are going to ridicule, at least have some passing understanding of what it is you are ridiculing …

            It’s too bad – that confirmation routine is a mythic ritual honored from ancient times re the transition from child to adult, and the eucharist is a ritual that recognizes the acquisition of spirit through the ingesting of physical “flesh and blood” …. You may mock the concept of ritual altogether, but then methinks you don’t really understand how that works, either …

            Why do i mention this stuff here? Not to convince/convert anyone of/to anything except – that ridiculing folks on the basis of their “beliefs” without even bothering to examine the basis for those beliefs is sure to alienate them. And while that may not bother you at all, if “the left” is EVER going to have ANY kind of cohesiveness, let alone the kind that can exert sufficient power to produce change, it can ill afford to alienate those whose traditions would, in many ways, complement and expand the causes that the “secular” left claims to advance …

          4. Aquifer

            from Mexico –

            Yup – methinks it is not the concept of “fairies” they object to, it is “sky” fairies. As i have mused before, ISTM a lot of “atheists” are actually “anti-theists” – it is not so much that they don’t believe in a “God” its that they are really pissed at Him/Her/It for not living up to the cardboard cutout they were handed in their youth … LOL

          5. different clue

            Atheism is a Religion. Atheism is the True Belief and Faith that their is no god or gods. Some of the so-called New Atheists are some of the most disgusting Militant Missionaries for their religion in our present day society.

      3. Keenan

        If you are not familiar with Tulane professor Frank Tipler’s notions concerning the laws of physics, the “cosmological singularity” and the person of Jesus, you might find his conjectures thought provoking.

        Did your note to Verizon get satisfactory results?

        1. Aquifer

          First – yes, thank you! I was finally able to get through to them, and they are coming – on Tues! They are trying to talk me into going fiber optic, but i don’t trust ’em – my DSL was promised at $14.99/mo “for life” when i signed up on “copper” and i figure if i go to fiber optic, they will consider that a “new deal’ (and not an FDR one, either) and start raising the rates – maybe I’m cutting off MY nose to spite THEIR face but i am a stubborn SOB .. LOL. In the meantime i was able to switch my lost $10.00 K-mart cell phone to another $10.00 K-mart cell phone, so i can wait Verizon out – LOL!

          But, more importantly – Do you have any specific references to Prof Tippler’s work that i could find online? Thanx, again!

          1. Keenan

            Ah, another DSL holdout like myself. I too have that same 14.99 for life since 2008 and Verizon’s been badgering me too. I may be the last copper wire customer in my neighborhood.

            RE: Frank Tipler:

            The “Anglican Curmudgeon” has done a series which is the best synopsis of Tipler’s thesis that I’ve seen. I believe this will pull them up for you:


          2. rivegauche

            Several years ago I read Tipler’s The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God, and the Resurrection of the Dead. These comments may spur a re-reading! (An interest in quantum physics led me to Tipler.)

            Coincidentally, a friend was recently discussing de Chardin and his Omega Point. I was not familiar with de Chardin’s work before that discussion, but find it and his life interesting. (We weren’t taught about de Chardin in my Catholic hs.) Tipler’s Omega Point seems comparable but arrived at by a different means, as I recall: humans become the machines / machines become human.

          3. Keenan

            Tipler expanded his theory and wrote “The Physics of Christianity” (2007) in 2005, in part while taking shelter from hurricane Katrina. As a scientist, he proposes various experimental measurements, the results of which would either falsify or bolster his theory. I seem to recall that in his earlier work (1994) he proposed a range of mass for the then undetected Higgs boson consistent with the “Omega Point”. CERN’s LHC data provided a measurement which fell within that range.

          4. Aquifer

            Thanx- I read the series, interesting indeed – but it all rests on the necessity of the “singularity” as demonstrated by math – if math “demonstrates” something else in the future – oops However it is intriguing because it seems to come to the same conclusions as the “myth” tellers – hmmm, myth, math, only a “sigularity’s” difference …

            Methinks I will I will not rest my “faith” on anything as tenuous as physics, however – LOL. What I believe i believe because I need to believe, I suppose it is just that simple …

        2. Aquifer

          rivegauche – i have been meaning to go back and read “The Phenomenon of Man”. Was his “noosphere” an Omega point of sorts or was it more like the internet – LOL

          But i do not mean to scoff – it is a wonderful book …

          1. Keenan

            Aquifer: If I recall my maths correctly, once a mathematical conjecture is proven (demonstrated )it is a truth. There can be other demonstrations (proofs) but these do not ever overturn the first proof of that truth. They are simply other avenues to arrive at that same conclusion. Different from science where experiments or refined observation may show a model to be invalid or of limited applicability. It strikes me that singularities are metaphysical and therefore ultimately beyond complete comprehension. The best we can do is get asymptotically close.

            The clever wordplay in your posts is always appreciated.

          2. Aquifer

            Keenan – i get your point, but i was never much of a cypher maker (just a cypher …)

            What i got out of those posts was that Tipler said, forget all those new-fangled theories, like “strings” and all that, because there has been nothing demonstrated that they describe, whereas the old tried and true theories have ample “manifestations” in the real world, and the singularity, involving infinite “stuff”, pointed to by them is outside, by definition, any laws of physics which can only deal with stuff that can be “measured” or counted…

            But if there is anything to these, or any other, new theories, then the singularity may well be redefined in terms of them – i.e. a new way of “measuring” or “counting” will be introduced by which the singularity will be redefined and we are off to the races …

            Is this not the way it works? STM that physics is rather like finance in a way – derivatives piled on derivatives and universes inflating … The question is, is our universe too big to fail? Has there been some “presence” out there continually bailing us out?

            I do like that “The Man Who Saw Through Heaven Story” ….

          3. Keenan

            ..derivatives piled on derivatives and universes inflating … The question is, is our universe too big to fail? Has there been some “presence” out there continually bailing us out?

            Indeed, Aquifer, the notion of an eternally inflationary universe, (by Guth, Linde and others)does seem similar to the prevailing economic paradigm. Physicist Brian Greene even invoked comparisons with the Federal Reserve in one of his books on cosmology.

            The successes of quantum mechanics have prompted investigation to determine whether perhaps both space and time are, like mass and energy, fundamentally quantized. A pixelated universe leads to the the speculation that this is all some sort of a digital construction, a sort of Matrix:


            Maybe as the ditty sings: “…. merrily, merrily, Life is but a dream”

        3. rivegauche

          Keenan – thanks for that mention of Tipler’s most recent work. Will have to check it out. At the time I read The Physics of Immortality my thought was that Tipler is either genius nonpareil or had veered down the wrong path. I have a nagging sensation that it’s the former.

          1. Keenan

            rivegauche: You’re certainly welcome. Tipler has paid a price for his unconventional views. He has written that his university compensation is 40% below other tenured full professors at Tulane in part because of his different way of thinking. Regardless of what one may think of his ideas, one has to admire a man who values advancing them above his own material reward. You may also be interested in the writings of John D. Barrow, who with Tipler co-authored “The Anthropic Principle” about 20 years ago.

    2. Eric Zuesse

      Craazyman, your questions are all addressed in the book; and the present place is not an appropriate forum to summarize it. However, I can say here that the most important sentence in that book is “Methodology is even more important than findings, because it determines the findings.” My book, Christ’s Ventriloquists: The Event that Created Christianity, is the only book on the start of Christianity that applies to this subject modern (post-1939) legal/forensic methodology, which is the most rigorous methodology for reconstructing history from evidence. The key here is not the evidence, which all historians have access to; the key is the first-ever application of this, the scientific, methodology for reconstructing history from evidence. If my findings differ from what you currently believe, the reason is that you are applying a different methodology.

      1. craazyman

        Thank you for your considerate reply Mr. Zuesse. I will certainly read your book.

        Back to politics . . . :)

        1. Eric Zuesse

          Lambert, thank you for saying that, because this is the core idea in the book, and none of the readers who have commented on the book, at Amazon or elsewhere, have picked up on it, much less appreciated it as you apparently do — not even the favorable reviews of it do. All of the reviews of this book talk only about its findings, which are far less important than its methodology, even though I would never deny that the findings are also important — but only because of the methodology that has produced them. Without that, the findings would be, in my view, worthless — just as I believe that every other book about Christianity’s start is.

          1. Lambert Strether

            If you do any kind of media critique (and I suppose your book could be considered to call into that category (adding, I’m self-dechurched and not a believer in supernatural beings)) that principle is the only way to stay sane.

            It is also our only defense against the massive and very well-funded apparatus of bullshit and lies erected by the elite.

          2. Aquifer

            Ah, but there ARE other ways of staying sane … but that begs the question – what does it mean to be sane in an insane world?

    3. chriss1519

      Why don’t you send the guy an email instead of hijacking this thread? God damn what an asshole.

      1. Aquifer

        craazy ain’t no “asshole”, as you would know if you have been around for awhile ..

        And, for chrissake, 1519 – you are free to respond to whatever part of this conversation you find more interesting and free to ignore what you don’t …. I realize scrolling can be taxing, but, as we say in church, “offer it up” … LOL

    4. diptherio

      My guru, an old Hindu ascetic of the Aghori Nath sect, told me that Jesus was *really* the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu and that his mother Mary was born in Ladakh (Kashmir-Jammu region) and that Joseph was from Srinagar, or something like that. This actually seems like a pretty common-place belief in the Nepali village-side, although more strict, traditional Hindus will deny it.

      I think most people have misunderstandings when it comes to “religious truth” and what that means, atheists as much as believers. Many on both sides get hung up on the literal truth of the stories, the literal existence of an invisible man in the sky, when the truth of the religious traditions lies on a much deeper level. No one argues over whether or not works of fiction can contain truth (they obviously can) even though they are openly admitted to be fabrications. The truth of the Bible or the Bhagavad Gita or the Talmud or the Koran has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not the events and personages contained therein ever existed; to argue about the truth of these works on a literal level is base misunderstanding.

      My story about religious texts goes something like this: 1) a person has a “mystical” or “spiritual” experience, i.e. they are briefly made aware of aspects of reality that are normally filtered out by our senses; 2) this person attempts to convey and describe this experience to others through metaphor (since the experience itself lies outside the sphere of normal perception and language and therefore can not be expressed directly) by saying things like “I was touched by God”; 3) people who have never had such a “mystical” experience take the metaphor at face value (i.e. there is an entity called God and it has a finger); 4) this literal-ization of metaphors is reified by, and used for the benefit of, institutions of social control; 5) anyone who then offers a different set of metaphors to describe a “spiritual” experience is deemed a heretic and suppressed, since institutions now rely on the literal understanding of metaphorical truths in order to control the populace; 6) some people see that the whole thing is a BS scam and denounce all of it, including the possibility that someone could even become, however briefly, aware of things which our senses normally filter out (i.e. they end up denying the validity of “spiritual” experience along with literally understood metaphors; Cf babies and bathwater).

      John Hick’s An Interpretation of Religion: Human Responses to the Transcendent offers a highly refined, post-modern take on the phenomena of religion and is highly recommended reading for anyone interested in these topics, whether theist, atheist or agnostic.

      Here’s my videographic exposition of these ideas (turn your volume down, the intro music is a little loud)

      1. diptherio

        Moses Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed goes into great detail about the error of taking anything in the Bible (at least as it relates to the Divine) literally. A very interesting text, if somewhat dry and “wonky.” Contains an account of early Islamic atomic theory as well.

      2. Aquifer

        dip – great summary …

        Images or metaphors are only really useful to the extent they are considered pointers or guides to what is beyond them, ISTM. They are meant to be used as aides in “transcending”, meant to be “gone beyond”, not as ends in themselves – when they become ends in themselves they are, indeed, idols, which all spiritual practice warns against. I find it interesting that 2 of the folks who i think have explored this in depth are Joe Campbell and Karen Armstrong – both “disaffected” Catholics. It seems the RC church DOES foster true spirituality, only not quite in the way it intended, LOL …

        1. diptherio

          Teillard de Chardin is another outcast Catholic-mystic-scientist. His ideas about the “Noosphere” and the coming “Omega Point” (i.e. singularity) are quiet prescient.

          From my studies and experience, it seems to me that most mystics, of whatever denomination, are quiet clear about the difference between the “territory of the Real” that they seek to describe and the “religious maps” that they use to describe it. Others, unfortunately, always looking for easy answers, simply fall into arguing over which mystic’s map is the “true” one, or whether the scientist’s map is the “true” one.

          All statements are true in some sense, false in some sense, meaningless in some sense, true and false in some sense, true and meaningless in some sense, false and meaningless in some sense and true and false and meaningless in some sense. If you repeat this to yourself 666 times you will obtain supreme enlightenment…in some sense.~Robert Anton Wilson, Discordian mantra

          1. Aquifer

            Uh, yup …

            As i just mentioned above, i have been meaning to pull out “The Phenomenon of Man” again …

      3. Denise B

        As an atheist – and I think all other atheists would agree with me – I know perfectly well the difference between a metaphor and an entity called God with a finger. I only disbelieve in the latter. It wouldn’t even make sense to say I disbelieve in the former, would it?

        If people don’t actually believe in the literal man in the sky then maybe they should stop using his name to refer to whatever it is that they do believe in, to avoid confusion. Even calling it “George” would be clearer. If you insist on calling your metaphor “God” then don’t be surprised if I think you are referring to the guy in the sky with the beard.

        I know we are talking about ineffable experience, but I think we can do better.

        1. diptherio

          I agree that the word “God” is loaded and should often be avoided since people in the West tend to think of the invisible man in the sky whenever that term is used. It must be said, however, that this word has many different connotations throughout our world, and that the invisible man concept is only of many conceptions. To a student of Vedanta, the word means something like “the ground of all being.” The world of religious belief is far more nuanced than I think most atheists give it credit for. Immediately discounting all “God language” because one cannot understand it as anything other than statements about an invisible man in the sky, says more about one’s cognitive flexibility than it does about the value of “God language,” imho.

          But for those who can’t get over the word, there are, thankfully, other words like Brahman, the Real, the Field of Pure Potentiality, Buddha-nature, etc. John Hick, among others, has developed a non-God-based “theology” that I think many atheists could probably relate to (and maybe even benefit from).

          And, for the record, the only church I belong to is the First Church of Diptherian Ontology, Orthodoxymoronic (Reformed). Our theology is far more bizarre than Christianity’s.

    5. jake chase


      You really have to go out more, but make certain you have a bodyguard if you insist on tampering with peoples’ beliefs. Remember what Tug McGraw told us: you gotta BELIEVE!

  • chris

    Obama isn’t caving.

    Obama is doing exactly what he wants to do and has frequently said he’d do.

    So too with his war crimes… they are intentional, despite their illegality.

    The real problem is his cult of faux-progressive cheerleaders, who eagerly put on rose colored partisan glasses and choose a willful blindness from the glare of both his pernicious psychopathology and their own moral terpitude.

    1. Aquifer

      That was my impression when i read the first half – another “Obama caving” routine, but then i read the second half where we get to “Obama lying” and i thought – whoa, was there a bolt of lightening that stuck somewhere in the middle of this piece? Is this an internal discussion between Gollum and Precious, or whoever those 2 personalities are …?

      Methinks he could have cut out the first part and gotten right to the meat of the matter – what i was hoping to find here, for purposes of fun and games, was a guess as to how this betrayal of folks at large was going to play out such that even this charade of “caving” could be prolonged …But no such speculation ….

      1. Bill Frank

        Obama and the murky, yet distinct, powers that be are deftly positioning their effort to further consolidate control over the masses. The economic piece to this revolves around a relentless push to transfer wealth from the masses to those at the top. Lies and deception must be employed and every once in a while even the most sophisticated attempts to do so don’t meet the smell test. The liberal complaints/storyline that Obama is “a bad negotiator” or that he “caves” under pressure will disintegrate after he strikes a deal to “reform” entitlements. When this happens, and it’s just around the corner, the emperor will be naked. At that point, the powers that be won’t give a damn because they’ll have what they want. Then, they simply employ the propaganda machine to saturate the air waves with another fear soaked distraction, how about a really good, just war. Soon, the masses forget they’ve been robbed again. Rinse and repeat.

        1. different clue

          Will the masses forget? Or will they remember and seek reversal and revenge? We have to do what we can to see that the masses keep remembering, because we will get robbed along with the masses. If we can keep the masses remembering, perhaps we, and others, and the masses themselves; may seek and may GET reversal and revenge.

          If the masses choose to forget, and keep forgetting, then they deserve to be robbed. But we who remember don’t deserve to be robbed. Perhaps we can prevent that robbery even though it means preventing that robbery for the forgetful masses as well as preventing it for ourselves.

          And if we can’t prevent the robbery, and the masses choose to accept and forget, we can still be aware of the mechanisms of robbery . . . and we can pursue what defensive
          survivalism we are able to pursue against a grid matrix of robbery. For example, even if the Class Enemy gets our Social Security money, that doesn’t mean we have to put any money into 401ks for the Class Enemy to get THAT money TOO.
          We can put what money we have into personal survivalism . . . turning our suburban house-and-yards into little fortresses of neopeasant survival and subsistence, etc. (Well.. I can’t . . .because I don’t have a real yard with a real house on it. But if I ever get one, that is what I will do with it).

        2. Aquifer

          Well – i was speculating the other day that O would “sweeten” the deal for the masses by agreeing to “roll back” the payroll tax in return for the “reforms”. This rollback, AKA, tax holiday, has already been played in the media (or hadn’t you noticed ..) as a real blessing and its re-instatement as “raising taxes” at a terrible time – so the rich got their tax deals and the rest of us got that “awful” payroll tax raised. It has already been turned from our investment in our future to a regressive drag that keeps us in debt …

          So now Obama can say he not only is rescuing the program by reforming it, but cutting that awful payroll tax to boot – and if you don’t believe the rescue bit – at least you’ll have more money to spend and you can buy another 6 pack to drown your sorrows in – ain’t that grand …

          Yeah – I wish i could believe that this would be the denouement for the Dem party, but i have seen several other developments in the past, under Clinton, that should have served as well – and didn’t …so i am not holding my breath …

    2. Lambert Strether

      Obama doesn’t “cave.” Do not accept narratives of Democratic weakness! They are well-funded, smart, and doing exactly what they want to do, and that includes the career “progressives” running interference for him.

      Do note how the “Obama caving” fits into the business model of “progressive” activism:

      1. Obama threatens to “cave”

      2. “Progressives” leap into action with petitions and other campaigns to “Tell Obama _____.”

      3. “Progressives” collect membership fees, collect commission on clickthroughs and petition signings.

      4. Obama does what he was going to do anyhow.

      5. “Progressives” — having successfully distracted* the vulnerable and exploited from any discussion of whatever con Obama was actually running — explain to everyone that “this is the best we could do.”

      6. Rinse, repeat.

      Notice the self-licking ice cream cone: The more Obama “caves” the more “progressives” collect.

      This was called “giving the Democrat a spine” back in, oh, 2006, when Kos, MoveOn, and the rest of the usual suspects leveraged the technology from the Dean campaign.

      I may have the dates a little wrong — lot of blood under the bridge since the day we though “More and better Democrats” was the answer. Happy, innocent days!

      NOTE * This is what they are paid for.

      1. different clue

        If Riverdaughter’s posts on The Road To Denver and Grand Theft Nomination 2008 are factually correct and analytically well founded . . . then that process was not completed till the nomination of Obama.

        How many prog-leaders are cynical perps and how many of them are witless dupes themselves? (Digby and Atkins are cynical perps).

        Perhaps we should misappropriate some terms from the old John Birch Society and retarget those terms and begin speaking of Dupes, Symps, and FelTravs?

        1. Lambert Strether

          Yes, they are. (I’ll caveat this or that detail, but the picture she presents is an accurate depiction of what happened to the Democratic Party when Obama’s faction took it over. I was there, not in the same trench, but in a nearby trench — the only reason I’m caveating). It’s important that this history not be forgotten, though of course it’s suppressed in official Washington. RiverDaughter did a super job under the most stressful conditions imaginable.

      2. Aquifer

        I have mixed emotions on petitions – i don’t see them as distractions, though i suppose they could be, because i spend about 30 seconds (only cause i am a slow typist) when i bother and i bother for 2 reasons only – 1) not because i think the receiver gives a rat’s ass, but so that the receiver can never say “my constituents aren’t concerned about this, so it’s OK” (and, to play devil’s advocate a bit, strangely enough, if you live in a cocoon – those “petitions” may be the only way your rep “hears” from you other than election time … ) but more importantly, 2) so that we can point out, directly – “See you petitioned him/her in droves – you spoke out and (s)he ignored you, thumbed his/her nose at you, don’t you think it’s time to throw the bums out!”

        Oh yeah – i may sign the petition, but i don’t send money :)

  • Mista B

    Whatever is done, it’s imperative that no cuts ever be made to Medicaid, Medicare, or SS. Even if it means bankrupting the country or runaway inflation, we should just keep spending without considering the consequences. That’s the American way. Debt doesn’t matter. Deficits don’t matter. Countries aren’t like individuals. The U.S. isn’t Japan.

    1. John

      Cut the military budget of 660 billion in half.

      It was doubled from 2000 to 2010.

      End the HLS that is eating up over 60 billion a year.

      And the JD. Useless. That saves 27 billion a year.

      Why are you so against cutting these and instead want to cut SS and Medicare?

    2. Lambert Strether

      Single payer would save the country $400 billion dollars a year.

      Implement it and cover the uninsured. Of course, what are a few tens of thousands of lives beside the unquestioned right of an insurance company executive to purchase a third Hermès yacht cover?

    3. different clue

      I realize you are being sarcastic. But I am going to pretend you are being serious, and on that basis I seriously agree with you.

      Since SS/Mcare/Mcaide contribute precisely ZERO to our deficit, they should suffer precisely ZERO adjustment in addressing it. It is better to burn the government, the economy, the dollar, and the system all the way down to the ground then to let the Upper Class steal any of our SS/Mcare/Mcaide survival benefits money. I sincerely believe that.
      If that is the choice which the System Lords are able to force us to make, then my choice from those two choices is to burn the country/government/economy/government all the way down to the ground to keep the Upper Class from stealing any more of what is not theirs. If that is the choice they (and you) want to force, then that is the forced choice I have decided to make.

      1. Aquifer

        Bravo! Hear, here – a line in the sand! (but you might want to make sure you draw it high enough above sea level …

  • Norman

    Wonder what they do with all those chicken feathers they pluck? Perhaps they can use them in conjuction with that goop Canada will be sending down to Texas, and once and for all, tar & feather every last one of the idiots who got this situation to where it is today.

  • debridement

    On the bright side, each time the regime voids another provision of this crap constitution, we’re closer to dispensing with it entirely. When the constitution is discredited along with its institutional fossils, the ensuing collapse of legitimacy gives us a shot at adopting some functional, up-to-date state papers.

  • Dave of Maryland

    Why are we listening to this man? He has previously invented a wholesale fantasy to explain early Christianity. He did not have to go there. Dear Eric, if you chance upon this, the reason the Gospels were not permanently committed to paper until a full century had passed is because, being written in verse (I have this directly from a translator, that they were in verse and that they could easily be memorized), early priests were expected to memorize and recite them. Just as we recite Poe and Kipling, they recited the Gospels. Which continued until the Church was growing so fast they had to write them down for reference. Which, to this day, is all the Church has ever written down.

    1. diptherio

      You might want to check out some other (more recent?) scholarly findings. Thomas Sheehan of the Jesus Seminar and Stanford University has a good on-line lecture series (free) available for download as a podcast:

      There’s a lot more to how the Bible came to be what we know today than you seem to imply. The “gnostic” gospels, for instance, don’t seem to have a place in your story.

  • Aquifer

    Hmmm – now why should “good Dems” have a problem with condemning their nominal party head when 1) he has clearly deceived and betrayed at least the nominal tenets of the party and is in the process of destroying the best accomplishments of that party, and 2) he has even described himself as a “moderate Republican”?

    Well ISTM if these really are “good Dems” in the sense they want us to believe, they would denounce this guy lickety split and encourage a revolt. And, it further STM, in refusing to do this they are clearly demonstrating that the Dem party they wish to preserve is NOT the Dem Party folks thought they were “voting for” ….

    Obama is proving an extraordinarily effective means of eviscerating any remnant of “the party of FDR” – the question is, what will it take for those who actually like that version of Dems to defect en masse? i have been hoping for that for some time now …

    That “(t)he 2012 ‘election’ was thus between two conservatives, one of whom pretended not to be”, is really rather obvious, obviously, even among members of the party whose head “pretended not to be” ….. So their continued following of Obama’s lead clearly labels them as “conservatives” as well …

    Which, ISTM, leaves those of us who, claiming any lefty coloring at all in the sense of wishing to advance lefty programs, vote for these morons arguably good candidates for Rahm’s label of “f***ing retards” – especialy when there is at least one bons fide “New Deal” alternative …

    1. Aquifer

      Just a little humor at my own expense – while in Church earlier (Sunday, and all) it occurred to me that after my yackety-yak above about “belief” in the “Christian message”, i turn around and call folks “f***ing retards” …

      Tch, tch, tch – hmmm, methinks i ought to go to Church BEFORE i blurp on NC –

      1. jrs

        Yea, they’re annoying though. I may hold in the abstract that people come to different conclusions because they see different aspects of reality and so on, that I don’t necessarily have the one and only valid gloss. But Obamabots oh so proud of their vote for the drone murder in chief are just whacked, and try all patience.

    2. different clue

      Perhaps we of the Demvoter Base can torture and terrorise them into it. If not all at once, then step by step.

      It costs very little time and money to call our officeholders just before and after every little “fiscliff” drama to remind them that we will never vote Democratic again if SS/Mcare/Mcaide are so much as even MENtioned in ANy legislation EVer. If anyone wants to go beyond that and tell their officeholder that “I support you if you decide to ask Obama to resigne the Presidency for reasons of odious deceit”,
      they can do that to.

      They could even say ” sigh . . . I wish I had a Real Democrat Party to vote for. I just feel like the Democratic Party has too many Bipartisan Republicans in it these days.”

  • djrichard

    So what law gets violated if Treasury resorts to unsterilized spending to avoid raising the debt limit? In other words, Treasury doesn’t issue bonds to offset spending which isn’t covered by taxes. Ta da, no more deficit spending :-).

    In a way, we’re doing unsterilized spending already. Monetization of the debt by the Fed Reserve (whether that’s the intent or not, that’s what’s happening) is functionally equivalent to unsterilized spending by the Fed Gov.

    But maybe explicit un-sterilized spending will wake up more responsible parties to put this farce to an end. But I’m wondering if it could pass legal muster in the mean time until those responsible parties step in.

      1. John

        Yes he is but he has such a beautiful family and is such a great dad and husband.

        So it’s all good. Right Democrats and Obama loyal fans?

        1. diptherio

          I, for one, didn’t need to read Naomi Klein to see what was coming. Why? I looked at the project Vote Smart website and saw that Obomba’s and McCain’s top four campaign contributors were the same four companies, and that they were all big finance. Also, I actually listened to Obomba when he said, during the campaign, that he wanted to put more troops in Afghanistan. If you didn’t expect Obomba’s multiple betrayls in 2008, you just weren’t paying very close attention, imho.

          Not trying to put anybody down though, the MSM has become really, really good at hypnotism.

          1. different clue

            Most people work every day and they come home tired. Do you really expect them to spend hours at a computer to find out the things the MSBM was hiding from them?

            Also, a lot of seemingly Clinton supporters did a lot of “well-poisoning” which rebounded to Obama’s benefit. I didn’t hear about “birtherism” from Fox News. I don’t watch Fox News. I heard about “birtherism” from Larry Johnson’s No Quarter blog. I figured if this sort of filth supports Clinton . . . what other filth supports Clinton and what filth is Clinton really fronting for? Plus Bill Clinton shot his god damned fucking mouth off from time to time about the South Carolina primary vote going for Obama for “obvious inevitable reasons” hint hint nudge nudge wink wink. Bill Clinton created a real opportunity for the Obamanauts to cry racism. Why did he shoot his god damned fucking mouth off? Who asked him for his god damned fucking opinion? I sure didn’t.

          2. Aquifer

            “If you didn’t expect Obomba’s multiple betrayls in 2008, you just weren’t paying very close attention, imho.”

            Yeah, i have been saying pretty much the same thing for the past 4 years – but methinks folks don’t want to have their illusions shattered – comforting illusions are often preferred to painful truths – it gets tricky, a certain amount/type of illusion, methinks, is necessary to keep one from despair – but political illusions are downright dangerous, as we ought to have seen by now …

            Why don’t you tell us how you REALLY feel about Clinton? LOL

    1. Lou Mains

      Obama is not a traditional Democrat with traditional Democratic values. He has lied to us about who he is. All that fine rhetoric that draws progressives and liberals to vote for him!

      He is a self-defined “New Democrat” with all their horrible policies and values (Republican-lite).

    2. Lambert Strether

      The only consistent answer I’ve ever been able to come up with is that the elite wish the non-elite to suffer and die. (This is my answer to the eternal question: “Are the elites stupid and/or evil?”) A goal they are successfully achieving, as did the oligarchs in post-Soviet Russia. The elite literally and actually see the non-elite as subhuman (“human resources,” in corporate argot). And like all animals, the subhuman herd is culled, bred, and slaughtered for the use of real humans. (Lucky subhumans, like, say, David Brooks, become companion animals.) Of course, I like to think of myself as human, so this attitude on their part is a problem for me, and those like me. Looking on the bright side, these policies increases the actuarial soundness of Social Security.

      Think of it this way: The elite and their servants travel up and down the East Coast on the Acela. Think of how the Northeast Corridor looks out the Acela’s sealed windows from Manhattan through Philly: Every form of human, industrial, and ecological devastation possible, along with obvious infrastructural collapse (and lousy WiFi, too). They must see that, they haven’t done anything about it, and so they approve of it. They may even enjoy it).

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Some readers were annoyed that I said nice things about Django Unchained, but it gives a view of the brutal side of slavery. It’s still hard to fathom how slave owners could see people as not people, but if you are brought up with that belief and those non-people look different, I suppose it’s easy. And they become distinguishable over time by means other than race. Lower classes in the UK were generally visibly smaller than the aristos. Churchill was particularly proud of his efforts when he was with the Labor Party and as Home Secretary in implementing measures to improve wages and diet of the poor and lower classes. He said you could see it a generation later, when it was impossible to distinguish a similarly-attired lower class person from an upper class person (say in military garb) by appearance.

        Mark Ames in his book Going Postal has a chapter on slave revolts (as in why they were non-existant) and I’ve told people to read the book for that chapter alone. One really creepy part of that chapter is that there was an emerging slave management literature which has significant parallels to modern management.

        1. Aquifer

          Paul – then why do so many companies still have HR dept.s?

          As i have noted elsewhere we used to be nouns (“Personnel”) then we became adjectives (“Human” Resources) and treated like other resources – mined, processed, fabricated, sold, used and discarded …

      2. jake chase

        No, what the elite want is simply MORE for themselves. They don’t concern themselves with consequences. They shrug off consequences. They see life as a battle between ME and everyone else. They accept allies, but only reluctantly and temporarily. The understand that he who would make omelettes must break eggs. You, Lambert, are an egg, and so is damn near everyone else.

        Our biggest problem is that so many people are willing to collaborate in exchange for small slices of pie.

    3. Z

      Why does obama want to cut the social safety net? Why is he so f’ing needy to do it? Why has he worked harder than anyone in our government to achieve this? Becoz he will benefit by it more than anyone else when he goes on his post-presidency tour. He wants the same golden parachute, corporate sponsored post-presidency plan that the big corporate lapdog clinton got. And this from a man who already has over $12M in total wealth and plenty of ability to make plenty more with or without corporate sponsorship. It takes a disgusting, horrible person to sell so many out just so that they can get into triple digit millions instead of simply tens of millions. Just a lowlife scum!


      1. jake chase

        Well, Z, twelve million isn’t what it used to be. It now earns about $1500 per year, risk free.

  • rob

    sorry, this is off theme too,but it does have a part to play in our current malaise.
    Christianity, is a hoax.
    Jesus may or may not have been a real person.If he actually lived,which he probably did.He was just a man. he was a fanatic, who pissed off the powers that be and was treated as the others who were crucified .
    the stories that christians tell are ALL uncorroberated. THe fact that they were all written after the fact, means they are not historical documents.THe fact that jesus was a jew, and yet the entire jewish faith does not consider him to be the messaiah,says something. the fact that the writings from the time that has survived,without re-copying;the dead sea scrolls.They don’t mention him. the teacher of righteousness, who had all the supposed traits of jesus died before 170 bc@.the dead sea scrolls, which were interred @70 AD, when the romans sacked jerusalem,which were likely written by the essenes, who if jesus lived, would have almost certainly been a part of; or at least privy to… didn’t mention a jewish messaih who lived and preached just miles from qumran, and supposedly died and was ressurected just 35 years before.This among so many other things, just puts jesus’s divinity in the same camp as obama’s sincerity.Too fanciful for adults to believe.Nevermind the manufacture of the catholic faith by the romans,at nicea in 325. By an emporer who thought being a christian would make him win more battles.
    What is more likely,jesus was a rabbi. who had a WAY, of seeing things that was admirable. He had a message. His divinity was created by those who needed a figurehead for a new church/institution. This story has been sold for@1700 YEARS.All of these abrahamic religions are obviously cruel hoaxes played on mankind.
    Now the founding fathers were wise enough to know that the literal story of jesus’s divinity was made up. They respected the “message” of jesus,which is an admirable way of seeing the world. as long as people don’t believe the myth literally, they can be good and balanced individuals.But today, too large a part of our population has been lied to by these three religions,judaism,christianity and islam.this sets the stage for people to believe our lying political actors. This causes people to put off demanding accountability , in the here and now, for an eternal reward….but as the profit has said”No eternal reward will forgive us now, for wasting the dawn”

      1. rob

        The prophet I refer to being:,Jim Morrison.
        But Yes, I see profit in the religious sense as what the prophets are good for.

    1. SubjectivObject

      Your grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling compromise any confident interpretation I may have of what are the explicit and implied points you may/are making. Thus I have essentially to ignore it.

      1. rob

        Yes,the construction was bad.The points aren’t even close to being explained,or even properly asserted.I was in a hurry.But,so what?
        No matter what I say, this is an issue that has been around for millennia.The proof is that there is no pudding.These three sister religions, all have nothing but”the faithful”.

        One reason why nothing was written down immediately by christs supporters, was that they thought he was coming back and the world was about to end.Deluded people have thought the same thing for @ 2000 years now.When will they learn?If in 300 years people find writings of supporters of david koresh,who may have completely fabricated points of fact where no evidence is possible,and 1000 years after that continue to kill everyone who doesn’t “believe” and teach countless generations of facts that were never true…for 700 years after that….would david koresh be as worthy as jesus?Most likely.
        Why I bother to remind people of this on an economic question, is the same lack of a sense of “following through on promises”,is shared in peoples political affiliations.

    2. Lambert Strether

      Nice deflection. It’s generally a good practice to consider carefully before responding to a comment that begins “this is off topic,” especially one that’s riddled with typos and grammatical errors.

    3. diptherio

      Rob says: “What is more likely,jesus was a rabbi. who had a WAY, of seeing things that was admirable. He had a message.”

      Ok, that sounds good.

      Rob continues: “All of these abrahamic religions are obviously cruel hoaxes played on mankind.”

      Uh…so which one is it? Was Jesus’ Jewish, rabbinical perspective “admirable” or was it a “cruel hoax played on mankind?”

      Your otherwise plausible take on the historical origins of Christianity is offset considerably by your obvious visceral distaste for those you consider to be ignorant sheep, i.e. followers of the Abrahamic religions.

      You might try considering the difference between a religion, in the general sense, and the individuals who use religious institutions in order to control the masses.

      Your particular method of rhetoric, fwiw, is unlikely to be convincing to anyone who doesn’t already share your perspective, especially anyone who identifies as Christian, Jewish, or Muslim (you’ve alienated most of humanity right there). Of course, maybe you’re content preaching to the choir.

      1. rob

        Actually, I was trying not to “go off the rails”, of this post.I didn’t want to be rude to the poster or the forum, by not adressing the point being made.I still don’t see a use in taking up too much space(too late,I know).but…
        Whatever Jesus’s intentions,beliefs, capacities,etc.;I do not fault him for what has been wrought in his name.He lived 2,000 years ago.Could you fault HIM for his superstition?It is the institutions, I critisize for perpetrating these myths.These institutions(people) are what teaches children myth as fact.The “message” of jesus, is the same enlightened message of all moral/spiritual leaders throught time, that has any veracity…you know, the golden rule and be kind to others and all that.The divinity,is another story.There, is a useful public purpose for teaching the message of great men/minds/common wisdom wrapped up in one persons name.Be it :jesus,ghandi,martin luther king,Lao tzu,etc.Aesop.
        I Do not have any contempt at all for people who believe, or have this or that faith.WE all have our crutches,right.But these superstitions,are part of the prison that most peoples minds are in.The dogma is paralyzing.
        What I wish, Is that people can see past the old stories that weren’t true, and could deliberate to make new stories that are.We need to abandon fanciful impossibilities,and adopt realizable,sustainable concerted efforts to materialize “heaven on earth”.
        “Heaven is spread over the earth,but the eyes of men do not see it”

    4. jake chase

      You mean filling people’s heads with errant bullshit practically from birth makes them dumber? I thought we had television for that.

  • Min

    The threat to mint $1T coins may be a tactic, but the actual minting is not. The gov’t has the right to coin money, and the Congress has explicitly not put a ceiling on the coinage of platinum. The debt ceiling gets in the way of appropriations that the Congress has already enacted, because the total of revenues and loans is insufficient. To claim that under such circumstances the gov’t cannot use seignorage to meet its obligations is absurd.

    1. rob

      I would guess the platinum coin idea, is akin to Lincoln’s use of “greenbacks”.Which from my understanding,worked pretty well.This is the idea that the US gov’t can create money.As enshrined in the constitution.Rather than ,borrow it from the fed ,as was enshrined in the federal reserve act of 1913.This being the way to “print” money without the fed, as the treasury is still allowed to coin “hard”money,without going through the fed?
      But while a trillion wouldn’t be enough to cause inflation,it also isn’t much time,at the gov’ts spending rate.
      It seems like a half measure when what should be happening right now, is the kucnich “need act” ,112th congress HR 299.That plan should be in the process of being implemented.It would make it a permanent situation where america’s money wasn’t borrowed from a private combine. This way America would be on the road to financial Dynamism,and economic stability.

      1. djrichard

        I agree.

        Maybe I’ve been tainted too much by marketing. The market space for a platinum coin is too dubious: too specific and too boutique-ey. The market space for a greenback is much more obvious, much more general purpose. If we had to bring one of these to market, which would we choose?

        1. Min

          Well, our dollar bills are already greenbacks. They have been since 1971. The legal reason that we do not just print more of them to finance the deficit is that Congress has put a cap on all currency, except for platinum coins.

          We used to have high denomination Federal Reserve Notes that did not circulate, but were deposited in the Federal Reserve system. That’s the function that the $1T or $1B coins would serve today.

  • amspirnational

    there are still dems who believe Hillary is any less servant than O of the bankster-imperialist-ziocon-neolib ruling class after her vote for the war? well, maybe some one-issue feminists can be forgiven. (not.)

    in truth, there should now be extant a vibrant third (and possibly fourth on the anti-ruling class right)party on the left which has received 5-ten-fifteen percent of the vote
    nationally…for the past two decades, such has been the obvious corruption and “caving” to the plutocracy displayed by the Dem leadership.

    americans are more politically “unsophisticated” than any
    group in the “first world.”

  • Conscience of a Conservative

    As a society we need to recognize that pension and other entitlement spending continues to grow as a percentage of our federal , state and local budgets and the deficits grow with it. Regardless of whether the discussions occur at appropriations time or when its time to extend the deficit cap, they need to occur. That the majority of our country who receive some form of benefit are in favor of continuing to receive it is no big surprise, but simply taxing other people or kicking the can down the road is no solution either.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Even using the CBO’s assumptions, which are disputed (see web version of a later journal paper below for an example), Social Security goes from 5% of GDP to 6%. That’s manageable.

      As for Medicare, we’ve posted on how the CBO’s assumptions actually contradict government requirements for budget forecasting and lead to projected cost increases that exceed what is almost certain to happen. And that is not our view, that is the view of two Fed experts on long term budget forecasting who savaged the CBO forecasts.

      In other words, the idea that we have a problem that must be addressed, now, is VERY much exaggerated. This is a phony crisis to line the pockets of Wall Street and the rich.

      1. Eric Zuesse

        And even if that were not the case, there are other ways of cutting Social Security and Medicare than on the backs of the middle class and poor as Obama and other Republicans are pressing for. Instead of raising the retirement age from 65 to 67 and reducing the inflation-adjuster for benefits, the President can, for example, publicly state that Republicans lie that SS is an “investment plan” and that it’s instead an insurance plan, and in any form of insurance plan no benefit is paid unless it is needed. Do you get paid by your fire-insurance company if your house hasn’t burned? Of course not! The official name of SS is “Old Age, Survivors’ and Disability Insurance.” And that is how it has functioned ever since FDR started it.

    2. jrs

      Are you rich? A 1%er? How do you plan to handle your old age without Social Security and Medicare? Plan to die before then? Maybe work until you drop dead (while this might be an option for certain professions and self-employment, manual labor can’t because of the demands on the body and corporate drones can’t because of the age discrimination). Maybe already have a government or corporate pension and thus are nothing more than a total hypocrite for criticizing people who don’t have this and need SS. Plan to retire on the interest on your money, oh wait ZIRP. Spend all your free time studying investments to beat a broken system? House flip? Plan to have the kids help to support you with their young able bodied wages when you are old? What?

      There was a day when companies provided pensions, and there was a day when savings accounts paid 5%, but those days are long since gone, and mostly people are staring scared into the barrel of retirement with nothing more than SS and if they are lucky a dubious 401k.

    3. jake chase

      I suppose you simply ignore military spending and empire building, spying, snooping, Congressional boondoggles, public investments in nonworking technologies, etc.

  • skippy

    “Suplements to Eric Zuesse’s Christ’s Ventriloquist by Edward Jones

    Crucial new understandings of the “Jesus Puzzle” made possible by present historical and scientific methods and knowledge.

    Ogden: “We now not only know that none of the writings of the OT is prophetic witness to Christ, we also know that none of the writings of the NT is apostolic witness to Jesus.” This is a historical judgment based on historical evidence determined by an insider of the Guild of NT Studies. Eric Zuesse : “The religion of the NT actually has nothing to do with the person of the historical Jesus.” This is a scientific judgment based on scientific evidence determined by an outsider. Hence we now have conclusive evidence, both from the methodologies of historicity and science, that the writings of the NT, Paul’s letters, the Gospels, as well as the later writings of the NT, are not sources for knowledge of Jesus.

    Our most certain historical evidence can only come from within the Guild of NT Studies, even as our best scientific evidence can only come from outside. No evidence, historical or scientific, is presented to question that we have NT source of apostolic witness to Jesus. Only from within the Guild of NT Studies might a scholar have acquired sufficient competence in its areas of special knowledge, which necessarily applies if one is equipped to fully access the historical evidence necessary to identify this NT source of apostolic witness to Jesus.

    As Eric Zuesse’s probe demonstrates, full historical details of origins of Jesus traditions during the years 30-65, can only be accessed by historical scholars from within the Guild. E.g., Eric’s probe fails to recognize that there were two distinctly different movements of earliest Jesus traditions, each with its own understanding of the significance of Jesus, marked by “an extraordinarily intimate, more precisely adversarial, relationship” (Betz). Both were pre Christian, pre Gospel, partly pre Pauline.

    Paul was never a member of the first, the Jerusalem Jesus movement from which is derived our sole source of apostolic witness to Jesus. Paul was persecutor of the second movement, which soon followed the first, a pre Pauline Hellenist movement which introduced the notion that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah whose significance was the salvific effects of his death and resurrection, which abrogated the Torah. This in effect was treason for Temple authorities.

    Paul is introduced as a participant in an apparent put down by Temple authorities of some kind or anti Torah demonstration, holding the garment of those casting the stones in the Acts story of the stoning of Stephen, a leader in this Hellenist group. Next we find Paul as persecutor of this group, having his “vision” on the road to Damascus to where the Hellenist group fled, resulting in his conversion to this group from which he received his Christ myth gospel. In taking his Christ myth gospel to the Gentile world first to Antioch, meeting with much success, this had the effect of severing Jesus from his teaching and his Jewish roots. The Gospels were written by followers of Paul’s Christ Myth gospel. All of these developments are sufficiently documented in the NT.” – snip

    Skip here… just had to pop that in the thread, all the HAARP loonies doing the J man, biblical, death ray foretold thousands of years ago thingy… shezzz.

    Skippy… BTW… “Although it mostly died out 1600 to 1700 years ago, Mesopotamian religion has still had an influence on the modern world, predominantly because Biblical mythology that is today found in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Mandeanism shares some overlapping consistency with ancient Mesopotamian myths, in particular the Creation Myth, the Garden of Eden, The Great Flood, Tower of Babel and figures such as Nimrod and Lilith (the Assyrian Lilitu). In addition the story of Moses’ origins shares a similarity with that of Sargon of Akkad, and the Ten Commandments mirror Assyrian-Babylonian legal codes to some degree. It has also inspired various contemporary Neopagan groups to begin worshipping the Mesopotamian deities once more, albeit in a way often different from that of the Mesopotamian peoples.

    Ergo… all the foundation myths from this region are not much more than an extension – of a societal template – based on Market Place Fundamentalism. Cough… I made a profit… the Gawd[s find me worthy and put me in charge. I’m in debt… the Gawd[s find me lacking in personal character… repentance (to change one’s mind) aka fall in step willingly.

    Skippy… The Jesus character would not have had the scope and breath of data that we have today, that in its self, would radically alter anyone’s perspective… eh.

    PS. “Keep on Truckin”… snicker…

  • casino implosion

    “…his actions showed that he actually agreed more with the goals of congressional Republicans on these issues than he did with Democrats …”

    This, in a nutshell, is why I voted Green. Obama is playing a slick game with the Republicans. Don’t throw me in that austerity briar patch!

    Obama agrees with the GOP on economic/fiscal issues, like most “centrists”. He’s a gay-marriage economic neoliberal. No wonder Andrew Sullivan loves him so much.

    1. Lambert Strether

      Sullivan endorsed Obama because the Unity Pony:

      Obama’s candidacy in this sense is a potentially transformational one. Unlike any of the other candidates, he could take America—finally—past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us. So much has happened in America in the past seven years, let alone the past 40, that we can be forgiven for focusing on the present and the immediate future. But it is only when you take several large steps back into the long past that the full logic of an Obama presidency stares directly—and uncomfortably—at you.

      At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a war—not so much the war in Iraq, which now has a mo­mentum that will propel the occupation into the next decade—but the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most. It is a war about war—and about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, Obama—and Obama alone—offers the possibility of a truce.

      Turns out that the real war is between the banksters and everybody else, and Obama is on the banksters’ side. Nice going, Andy.

  • Aquifer

    “There is thus now a Democratic Party rebellion against Obama, ..”

    Wishful thinking, methinks – Obama is not the only Dem to “cave under pressure”: the Dems who said they would “never” sign on to a health care bill without a public option, come immediately to mind, and i am sure folks could fill this “page” with others … And she says “If i were the Pres. …” which leaves the other shoe to drop ” which, however, I am not ….” Kucinich told us what he thought of the health care bill, until he voted for it …

    ” …and he will soon show by his actions – no longer just his words – whether he is a Democrat, and whether his Republican actions in the past have reflected, on his part, stupidity, rather than actual treachery.”

    Here is the crux – who gets to define what “a Democrat” is? A Dem is as a Dem does – ISTM …

    When Obama himself says he would have been called, in Nixon’s day, “a moderate Rep” – what more does one need? The Dems have been “acting like Reps” since at least the days of NAFTA, and Welfare and Bank reform; they have not been the party of FDR at least since they the 90’s (and no doubt before). They are now “the Party of Clinton” – as i have said elsewhere, I always thought the reason O beat H in the primary was because he was a better Clinton than she was …

    Ironically, methinks even “a moderate Rep” wouldn’t stoop as low as this guy ….

    But, actions speak louder than words – so a “rebellion” is as a “rebellion” does – when it comes time to vote on Obama’s “caves” will the proof be made – catfood or pudding …

    As for rank and file Dems, well ISTM they must decide, if they want the party of FDR they cannot pull the levers of just about any current Dems and need to look outside what now calls itself the Dem Party … Folks, for now, seem to have chosen the Party of Clinton – so that is what I would ask Pelosi – are you of the party of FDR or the party of Clinton? If the party of Clinton – there is no “rebellion” in the works …

    1. Doug Terpstra

      We should never confuse Nancy Pelosi with someone who cares about the New Deal safety net, not Harry Reid either. A real rebellion is indeed wishful thinking; this is just a bit of adlibbing on a script that’s already fixed.

    2. Brooklin Bridge

      Obama is not the only Dem to “cave under pressure” -Aquifer

      It should be obvious that a rebellion in the ranks is nonsense, but do you actually think that Obama “caves”? In anything?

      1. Aquifer

        Hell, no – that’s why i put it in quotes …

        STM the best description of Obama is Glen Ford’s “the more effective evil” …

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          Thanks Aquifer,

          Not quite sure why, but I got confused reading the comments (really good comments, too) to this thread.

  • molten_tofu

    I’m confused, the 14th amendment says:

    The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.

    Doesn’t “authorized by law” mean that essentially the legislative branch has to sign off on it? Meaning a “debt limit”, as imposed by the legislature, is actually quite a valid thing?

    Disclaim: Only thing I know about the 14th amendment is what it says on Wikipedia.

    1. Aquifer

      Unless i am mistaken (which would not be unusual) – what seems to happen is that Congress votes to fund all sorts of stuff and makes commitments to pay for it, i.e. in-debts the country, then later on down the road “realizes” that it has committed itself to more than some arbitrary “debt ceiling” amount and has to “raise the ceiling” – so if the ceiling isn’t raised, the debts it has incurred theoretically “can’t be paid”, and the “crisis of default” is raised. Of course this crises is de fault of the idiots who want to play games, so the 14th Amendment says “BS on you, you can’t get in the way of paying debts that the US has contracted, so crawl back in your hole” or something like that…

      Apparently, however, Obama prefers to play games and so won’t pull the 14th Amendment sword out of its scabbard to cut this silly Partisan Knot …

      And that is my version of the 14th Amendment Shuffle …

  • online payday loan

    I don’t know much of economics but as far as I know our economy is going the rough roads and the expenditures on these Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are increasing at a faster pace than our economy. There is a heavy amount spent on military but that is absolutely justified. But what is spent on these things should be minimised so as to revive our economy with a bang.

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