Trump Dumps the Do-Nothing Congress

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Donald Trump is president today because he was seen as a doer not a talker. Among the most common compliments paid him in 2016 was, “At least he gets things done!”

And it was exasperation with a dithering GOP Congress, which had failed to enact his or its own agenda, that caused Trump to pull the job of raising the debt ceiling away from Republican contractors Ryan & McConnell, and give it to Pelosi & Schumer.

Hard to fault Trump. Over seven months, Congress showed itself incapable of repealing Obamacare, though the GOP promised this as its first priority in three successive elections.

Returning to D.C. after five weeks vacation, with zero legislation enacted, Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were facing a deadline to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government.

Failure to do so would crash the markets, imperil the U.S. bond rating, and make America look like a deadbeat republic.

Families and businesses do this annually. Yet, every year, it seems, Congress goes up to the precipice of national default before authorizing the borrowing to pay the bills Congress itself has run up.

To be sure, Trump only kicked this year’s debt crisis to mid-December.

Before year’s end, he and Congress will also have to deal with an immigration crisis brought on by his cancellation of the Obama administration’s amnesty for the “Dreamers” now vulnerable to deportation.

He will have to get Congress to fund his Wall, enact tax reform and finance the repair and renewal of our infrastructure, or have his first year declared a failure.

We are likely looking at a Congressional pileup, pre-Christmas, from which Trump will have to call on Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, again, to extricate him and his party.

The question that now arises: Has the president concluded that working with the GOP majorities alone cannot get him where he needs to go to make his a successful presidency?

Having cut a deal with Democrats for help with the debt ceiling, will Trump seek a deal with Democrats on amnesty for the “Dreamers,” in return for funding for border security? Trump seemed to be signaling receptivity to the idea this week.

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Will he give up on free-trade Republicans to work with Democrats to protect U.S. jobs and businesses from predator traders like China?

Will he cut a deal with Hill Democrats on which infrastructure projects should be funded first? Will he seek out compromise with Democrats on whose taxes should be cut and whose retained?

We could be looking at a seismic shift in national politics, with Trump looking to centrist and bipartisan coalitions to achieve as much of his agenda as he can. He could collaborate with Federalist Society Republicans on justices and with economic-nationalist Democrats on tariffs.

But the Congressional gridlock that exhausted the president’s patience may prove more serious than a passing phase. The Congress of the United States, whose powers were delineated in the late 18th century, may simply not be an institution suited to the 21st.

A century ago, Congress ceded to the Federal Reserve its right “to coin money (and) regulate the value thereof.” It has yielded to the third branch, the Supreme Court, the power to invent new rights, as in Roe v. Wade. Its power to “regulate commerce with foreign nations” has been assumed by an executive branch that negotiates the trade treaties, leaving Congress to say yea or nay.

Congress alone has the power to declare war. But recent wars have been launched by presidents over Congressional objection, some without consultation. We are close to a second major war in Korea, the first of which, begun in 1950, was never declared by the Congress, but declared by Harry Truman to be a “police action.”

In the age of the internet and cable TV, the White House is seen as a locus of decision and action, while Capitol Hill takes months to move. Watching Congress, the word torpor invariably comes to mind, which one Webster’s Dictionary defines as “a state of mental and motor inactivity with partial or total insensibility.”

Result: In a recent survey, 72 percent of Americans expressed high confidence in the military; 12 percent said the same of Congress.

The members of Congress the TV cameras reward with air time are most often mavericks like John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Jeff Flake, who will defy a president the media largely detest.

At the onset of the post-Cold War era, some contended that democracy was the inevitable future of mankind. But autocracy is holding its own. Russia, China, India, Turkey, Egypt come to mind.

If democracy, as Freedom House contends, is in global retreat, one reason may be that, in our new age, legislatures, split into hostile blocs checkmating one another, cannot act with the dispatch impatient peoples now demand of their rulers.

In the days of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, Congress was a rival to even strong presidents. Those days are long gone.

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Who’s the Conservative Heretic?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

In his coquettish refusal to accept the Donald, Paul Ryan says he cannot betray the conservative “principles” of the party of Abraham Lincoln, high among which is a devotion to free trade.

But when did free trade become dogma in the Party of Lincoln?

As early as 1832, young Abe declared, “My politics are short and sweet, like the old woman’s dance. I am in favor of a national bank … and a high protective tariff. These are my sentiments and political principles.”

Campaigning in 1844, Lincoln declared, “Give us a protective tariff and we will have the greatest nation on earth.”

Abe’s openness to a protective tariff in 1860 enabled him to carry Pennsylvania and the nation. As I wrote in “The Great Betrayal: How American Sovereignty and Social Justice Are Being Sacrificed to the Gods of the Global Economy” in 1998:

“The Great Emancipator was the Great Protectionist.”

During his presidency, Congress passed and Abe signed 10 tariff bills. Lincoln inaugurated the Republican Party tradition of economic nationalism.

Vermont’s Justin Morrill, who shepherded GOP tariff bills through Congress from 1860 to 1898, declared, “I am for ruling America, for the benefit, first, of Americans, and for the ‘rest of mankind’ afterwards.”

In 1890, Republicans enacted the McKinley Tariff that bore the name of that chairman of ways and means and future president.

“Open competition between high-paid American labor and poorly paid European labor,” warned Cong. William McKinley, “will either drive out of existence American industry or lower American wages.”

Too few Republicans of McKinley’s mindset sat in Congress when NAFTA and MFN for China were being enacted.

In the 1895 “History of the Republican Party,” the authors declare, “the Republican Party … is the party of protection … that carries the banner of protection proudly.”

Under protectionist policies from 1865 to 1900, U.S. debt was cut by two-thirds. Customs duties provided 58 percent of revenue. Save for President Cleveland’s 2 percent tax, which was declared unconstitutional, there was no income tax. Commodity prices fell 58 percent. Real wages, despite a doubling of the population, rose 53 percent. Growth in GDP averaged over 4 percent a year. Industrial production rose almost 5 percent a year.

The U.S. began the era with half of Britain’s production, and ended it with twice Britain’s production.

In McKinley’s first term, the economy grew 7 percent a year. After his assassination, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt took over. His reaction to Ryan’s free-trade ideology? In a word, disgust.

“Pernicious indulgence in the doctrine of free trade seems inevitably to produce fatty degeneration of the moral fibre,” wrote the Rough Rider, “I thank God I am not a free trader.”

When the GOP returned to power after President Wilson, they enacted the Fordney-McCumber Tariff of 1922. For the next five years, the economy grew 7 percent a year.

While the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, signed eight months after the Crash of ’29, was blamed for the Depression, Nobel laureate Milton Friedman ferreted out the real perp, the Federal Reserve.

Every Republican platform from 1884 to 1944 professed the party’s faith in protection. Free trade was introduced by the party of Woodrow Wilson and FDR.

Our modern free-trade era began with the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. Among the eight no votes in the Senate were Barry Goldwater and Prescott Bush.

Even in recent crises, Republican presidents have gone back to the economic nationalism of their Grand Old Party. With the Brits coming for our gold and Japanese imports piling up, President Nixon in 1971 closed the gold window and imposed a 10 percent tariff on Japanese goods.

Ronald Reagan slapped a 50 percent tariff on Japanese motorcycles being dumped here to kill Harley-Davidson, then put quotas on Japanese auto imports, and on steel and machine tools.

Reagan was a conservative of the heart. Though a free trader, he always put America first.

What, then, does history teach?

The economic nationalism and protectionism of Hamilton, Madison, Jackson, and Henry Clay, and the Party of Lincoln, McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, and Coolidge, of all four presidents on Mount Rushmore, made America the greatest and most self-sufficient republic in history.

And the free-trade, one-worldism of Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama enabled Communist China to shoulder us aside us and become the world’s No. 1 manufacturing power.

Like Britain, after free-trade was adopted in the mid-19th century, when scribblers like David Ricardo, James Mill and John Stuart Mill, and evangelists like Richard Cobden dazzled political elites with their visions of the future, America has been in a long steady decline.

If we look more and more like the British Empire in its twilight years, it is because we were converted to the same free-trade faith that was dismissed as utopian folly by the men who made America.

Where in the history of great nations — Britain before 1850, the USA, Bismarck’s Germany, postwar Japan and China today — has nationalism not been the determinant factor in economic policy?

Speaker Ryan should read more history and less Ayn Rand.

The Coming Age of Austerity

The Coming Age of Austerity

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“Are the good times really over for good?” asked Merle Haggard in his 1982 lament.

Then, the good times weren’t over. In fact, they were coming back, with the Reagan recovery, the renewal of the American spirit and the end of a Cold War that had consumed so much of our lives.

Yet whoever wins today, it is hard to be sanguine about the future.

The demographic and economic realities do not permit it.

Consider. Between 1946 and 1964, 79 million babies were born — the largest, best-educated and most successful generation in our history. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, both born in 1946, were in that first class of baby boomers.

The problem.

Assume that 75 million of these 79 million boomers survive to age 66. This means that from this year through 2030, an average of nearly 4 million boomers will be retiring every year. This translates into some 11,000 boomers becoming eligible for Medicare and Social Security every single day for the next 18 years.

Add in immigrants in that same age category and the fact that baby boomers live longer than the Greatest Generation or Silent Generation seniors, and you have an immense and unavoidable increase coming in expenditures for our largest entitlement programs.

Benefits will have to be curbed or cut and payroll taxes will have to rise, especially for Medicare, to make good on our promises to seniors.

As for the rest of our federal budget of nearly $4 trillion, we have run four consecutive deficits of over $1 trillion. To bring that budget to balance, freezes would have to be imposed and cuts made in spending for defense and other social programs.

From California to Wisconsin to New York, we see the process at work at the state level. Government salaries are frozen, government payrolls are cut, government pensions and programs are scaled back.

California and Illinois are on the precipice of default. Cities like Detroit, Birmingham, Stockton and San Bernardino are already there.

As for national defense, how long can we afford to spend more than the 10 other top nations combined? How long can we continue to defend scores of nations half a world away? How many more trillion-dollar wars like Iraq and Afghanistan can we fight on borrowed money?

Moreover, the day of the great national enterprises is over.

FDR had his New Deal and World War II, Ike his federal highway system, Kennedy his space program, LBJ his Great Society, Reagan his military buildup and tax cuts, Bush his two wars and tax cuts, Obama his Obamacare.

But there is nothing left in the till to do big things. One sees only deficits and debt all the way to the horizon.

Europe has arrived at where we are headed. In the south of the old continent — Spain, Italy and Greece — the new austerity has begun to imperil the social order. In the north, the disposition to be taxed to pay for other nations’ social safety nets is disappearing.

With government in the U.S. at all levels consuming 40 percent of gross domestic product, and taxes 30 percent, taxes will have to rise and government spending be controlled or cut. The alternative is to destroy the debt by depreciating the dollars in which it is denominated — i.e., by Fed-induced inflation.

But you can only rob your creditors once. After that, they never trust you again.

There is another social development rarely discussed.

The workers who are replacing retiring baby boomers in the labor force are increasingly minorities.

Black folks and Hispanics alone account now for 30 percent of the population — and rising rapidly.

Yet these two minorities have high school dropout rates of up to 50 percent in many cities, and many who do graduate have math, reading and science scores at seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade levels.

Can their contributions to an advanced economy be as great as were those of baby boomers of the ’60s and ’70s, whose SAT scores were among the highest we ever recorded? U.S. scores in global competition have been plummeting toward Third World levels.

Everyone talks about how we are going to raise test scores. But, despite record and rising investments in education per student, no one in decades has found a way to do this consistently.

Moreover, while boomers were almost all born into families where mother and father were married and living together, Hispanics have a 53 percent illegitimacy rate, African-Americans a 73 percent rate.

Among the white poor and working class, the illegitimacy rate is now 40 percent — almost twice as high as it was in black America when Pat Moynihan wrote his 1965 report on the crisis of the black family.

And between the illegitimacy rate and the drug-use rate, dropout rate, crime rate and incarceration rate, the correlation is absolute.

Some of us are often accused of always “crying wolf.”

But it is worth noting that one day the wolf came.

Why Congress Is Held in Contempt

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“I’ve got a pen,” said President Obama early this week.

“I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions … that move the ball forward.”

“When I can act on my own without Congress, I’m going to do so,” the president added Wednesday at North Carolina State.

Thus did Obama signal that he will bypass Congress and use his executive powers to advance his agenda of national transformation.

This dismissal of Congress has gone almost unprotested. In an earlier age it might have evoked talk of impeachment. But not now.

For though Congress may be the first branch of government in the Constitution, with the longest list of enumerated powers in Article 1, its eclipse has been extraordinary.

Congressional powers have eroded or been surrendered. The esteem in which Congress is now held calls to mind Emily Dickinson: “It dropped so low in my regard I heard it hit the ground.”

Congress boasts a 13 percent approval, a surge from its all-time low of 9 percent last fall before the budget deal.

While ex-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressed disappointment in Obama and Hillary Clinton in his book “Duty,” and was dismissive of Joe Biden, his view of Congress dripped with venom:

“Uncivil, incompetent in fulfilling basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned, often putting self (and reelection) before country — this was my view of the majority of the United States Congress.”

At Congressional hearings, Gates says he was “exceptionally offended by the constant, adversarial, inquisition-like treatment,” and lines of inquiry that were “rude, insulting, belittling, bullying, and all too often personal.”

Admirers of Obama, Hillary and Biden have all come forward to defend them. Where are the defenders of Congress from this searing indictment by Gates? Almost nowhere.

What happened to Congress? Not so long ago, school children were taught more about Sens. Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun and Daniel Webster than many of the presidents of that pre-Civil War era.

High among the causes of Congress’ decline has surely been the loss or surrender of its constitutional powers — to presidents, the Supreme Court and a federal bureaucracy Congress itself created.

Consider this. Under Article 1, Congress is entrusted with the power to “regulate commerce with foreign nations.”

With the exception of slavery, there was not a more divisive issue before the Civil War than the tariff question.

In the Jacksonian era, South Carolina almost seceded over the tariff, and Andrew Jackson threatened an invasion.

Today, Congress first surrendered to the executive the authority to negotiate trade deals, and then passed fast track, denying itself the right to amend those treaties. Congress has restricted itself to a yes or no vote on what the executive negotiates.

The transnational corporations that finance campaigns are delighted.

But as a consequence of NAFTA, GATT, and the WTO, a third of U.S. manufacturing jobs and a huge slice of our manufacturing base have been shipped overseas, and we have run $10 trillion in trade deficits since Bush I.

The stunning industrial decline of the United States has been matched in two centuries only by the USSR.

Congress was granted the power to “coin money” and “regulate the value thereof.” But in 1913, Congress transferred that power to the Federal Reserve.

With the Fed as its steward, the dollar’s purchasing power had fallen to that of a couple of pennies in 1913. And the Fed was responsible for the stock market bubble that bought on the Great Crash of 1929 and Great Depression, and the real estate and stock market bubbles that brought on our own Great Recession.

Yet, the Fed is untouchable.

Though Congress was granted exclusive power “to declare war,” our last declared war was in 1941.

Obama today draws “red lines” and tells nations not to cross them or we bomb, and announces to the world that, in dealing with Iran, “all options are on the table,” meaning war.

But when did Congress authorize Obama to wage war on Iran? Never.

Nor did Congress authorize Bill Clinton to bomb Serbia.

While Congress was granted the power in the Constitution to restrict the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, that court has been on an ideological tear, remaking America without a nod to Congress.

The court has created new rights for criminal suspects out of thin air. It ordered all states to integrate public schools, even if that meant forced busing by race across cities. It declared abortion and homosexual relations to be constitutionally protected rights.

Congress often complained, but almost always did nothing.

Congress has behaved more timidly than the Court, whose justices serve for life. And unlike the president, Congress cannot act decisively or speak with a single voice. It’s a cacophony.

Sundered by party and ideology, with 535 members, and rules and regulations that inhibit decisions and impede action, Congress appears a 19th-century anachronism at sea in a 21st-century world.

Who looks to Congress today as the bulwark of our liberties?

The True Believer

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Last May, Ron Paul filed his financial disclosure form, and The Wall Street Journal enlisted financial analyst William Bernstein to scrutinize his investments.

“Paul’s portfolio isn’t merely different,” said an astonished Journal, “it’s shockingly different.”

Twenty-one percent of his $2.4 to $5.5 million was in real estate, 14 percent in cash. He owns no bonds. Only 0.1 percent is invested in stocks, and Paul bought these “short,” betting the price will plunge. Every other nickel is sunk into gold and silver mining companies.

Bernstein “had never seen such an extreme bet on economic catastrophe,” said the Journal.

“This portfolio,” said Bernstein, “is a half step away from a cellar-full of canned goods and 9-millimeter rounds.”

“You can say this for Ron Paul,” conceded the Journal. “In investing as in politics, (Paul) has the courage of his convictions.”

Indeed, he does. Paul’s investments mirror his belief that the empire of debt is coming down and Western governments will never repay — in dollars of the same value — what they have borrowed.

And here we come to the reason Paul ran a strong third in Iowa and a clear second in New Hampshire. He is a conviction politician and, like Barry Goldwater and George McGovern, the candidate of a cause.

Aware it is unlikely he will ever be president, the 76-year-old soldiers on in the belief that this cause will one day triumph in a party where he was, not long ago, seen as an odd duck, but a party where today he speaks for a national constituency.

It is easy to understand why the young are attracted to him. There is a consistency here no other candidate can match.

Republicans may deplore the GOP Great Society of Bush 43. Paul stood almost alone in voting against every Bush measure. By two-to-one, Americans now believe the Iraq War was a mistake. Paul, alone among the candidates, opposed the war.

And because his campaign is about a cause larger than himself, it is a safe bet he will not quit this race until the last caucuses have met and the last primary has been held.

Prediction: Paul will go into the Tampa, Fla., convention with more delegates than any other candidate save the nominee of the party.

There is a gnawing fear in the GOP that Paul will quit the party when the primaries are over and run as a third-party candidate on the Libertarian or some other line in the November election.

Not going to happen. Such a decision would sunder the movement Paul has pulled together, bring about his own and his party’s certain defeat in November, and re-elect Barack Obama.

Paul would become a pariah in his party, while his son, Sen. Rand Paul, who would be forced to endorse his father over the GOP nominee, would be ruined as a future Republican leader.

Why would Dr. Paul do this, when the future inside the GOP looks bright not only for him but for his son?

The course Ron Paul will likely take, then, is this.

Commit to this nomination battle all the way to Tampa, contest every primary and caucus, amass a maximum of delegates.

If Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich lose in South Carolina, they will lose in Florida, and begin to peel off and drop out, for none is a cause candidate and each will soon come to realize that his presidential aspirations are done for now if not for good.

Their departure will leave the Republican contest a Romney-Paul race, giving Paul half a year on the campaign trail to increase his visibility, enlarge his following, grow his mailing lists and broaden his donor base.

In return for a commitment to campaign for the ticket, Paul should demand a prime-time speaking slot at the convention and use the speech to emulate Barry Goldwater in 1960 when he admonished conservatives at the convention to “grow up,” so that “we can take this party back.”

Assuming the nominee is Mitt Romney, should he win in the fall and Paul has campaigned for him, Paul will not only have a friend in the White House, but be a respected figure in the party with a constituency all his own.

Most important to Paul are the issues he has campaigned on: a new transparency and accountability for the Federal Reserve, a downsizing of the American empire, and an end to U.S. interventions in foreign quarrels and wars that are none of our business.

Whether Paul goes home to Texas when his last term in Congress is over in January 2013, or whether he remains in Washington in a policy institute to advance the causes he believes in, his views will be sought out by the major media on all the issues he cares about.

Moreover, his fears of a coming collapse, manifest in his portfolio, could come to pass, making of Ron Paul a prophet in his own time.

A Conspiracy of Counterfeiters

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the Capitalist System was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.”

“Lenin was certainly right,” John Maynard Keynes continued in his 1919 classic, “The Economic Consequences of the Peace.”

“There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”

Keynes warned that terrible hatreds would be unleashed against “profiteers” who enriched themselves through inflation as the middle class was wiped out. And he pointed with alarm to Germany, where the mark had lost most of its international value.

By November 1923, the German currency was worthless, hauled about in wheelbarrows to buy groceries. The middle class had been destroyed. German housewives were prostituting themselves to feed their families. That same month, Adolf Hitler attempted his Munich Beer Hall Putsch.

Today a coterie of economists is prodding Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to induce inflation into the American economy.

Fearing falling prices, professor Kenneth Rogoff, former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund, is pushing for an inflation rate of 5 to 6 percent while conceding that his proposal is rife with peril and “we could end up with 200 percent inflation.”

Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winner and columnist for The New York Times, is pushing Bernanke in the same direction.

Bernanke, writes Krugman, should take the advice he gave Japan in 2000, when he urged the Bank of Japan to stimulate the economy with “an announcement that the bank was seeking moderate inflation, ‘setting a target in the 3-4 percent range for inflation, to be maintained for a number of years.'”

And who inspired Bernanke to urge Tokyo to inflate? Krugman modestly credits himself.

“Was Mr. Bernanke on the right track? I think so — as well I should, since his paper was partly based on my own earlier work.”

But Krugman is not optimistic about Bernanke’s injecting the U.S. economy with a sufficient dose of inflation.

Why is Ben hesitant? Two words, says Krugman: “Rick Perry.”

Krugman believes Bernanke has been intimidated by Perry’s populist threat in Iowa after his first day of campaigning:

“If this guy (Bernanke) prints more money between now and the election, I don’t know what y’all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treasonous.”

Perry was indulging in Texas hyperbole, and the press came down hard on him for language unbefitting a presidential candidate.

Yet Perry has raised a legitimate series of questions.

What should be done to high officials of the U.S. government who consciously set out to dilute and destroy the savings and income of working Americans? What should be done to those who have sworn an oath to defend the Constitution and then steal the wealth of citizens by secretly manipulating the value of the currency, the store of wealth upon which those people depend?

Is inducing inflation — debauching the currency, the systematic and secret theft of the savings of citizens — a legitimate policy option for the Federal Reserve? Has Congress authorized official thievery?

Who do these economists think they are?

Inflation rewards debt — and erodes savings. It is legalized counterfeiting, the deliberate creation of money with nothing to back it up.

If a citizen printed dollars bills, he would be tracked by the Secret Service, prosecuted and imprisoned. Why, then, is the Fed’s clandestine printing of money with nothing to back it up a legitimate exercise and, according to Krugman & Co., a desirable policy for Bernanke and the Fed?

Schooled economists such as Rogoff, Krugman and Bernanke know how to shelter their wealth from the ravages of inflation — and even to get rich. But what about widows whose husbands leave a nest egg of savings in cash and bonds? What are they supposed to do as the value of their savings is wiped out at 4, 5 or 6 percent a year — or whatever annual rate of ruin the Rogoffs and the Krugmans decide upon?

This is not only an economic issue but a moral issue.

To inflate a currency is to steal the money citizens have earned and saved and entrusted their government to protect. Any government that betrays that trust and steals that wealth is not only unworthy of support. It is worthy of being overthrown.

On this one, as Keynes said, Lenin was right.

Perry and Ron Paul deserve the nation’s gratitude for putting this issue of the unfettered power and the amorality of our unelected Federal Reserve on the political docket.

Who’s Really Downgrading America?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

The decision by Standard & Poor’s to strip the United States of its AAA credit rating, for the first time, has triggered a barrage of catcalls against the umpire from the press box and Obamaites.

S&P, we are reminded, was giving A ratings to banks like Lehman Brothers, whose books were stuffed with suspect subprime paper, right up to the day Lehman Brothers fell over dead.

Moreover, S&P made a $2 trillion error in its assessment of U.S. debt and used political criteria in making its downgrade.

All of which may be true. But none of which is relevant.

This downgrade is deeply deserved. For no one really believes the United States is going to pay its creditors back the $14 trillion it owes them, or the $21 trillion it will owe them at decade’s end, with dollars of the same value as those that the United States is borrowing today.

In the last year alone, the U.S. dollar has lost 30 percent of its value against the Swiss franc.

A Swiss citizen who exchanged francs for $100,000 in dollars in June 2010 to buy one-year T-bills, then cashed those T-bills in this June, would have gotten back $100,000 in U.S. dollars. But those dollars would now be worth 30 percent less in Swiss francs.

On “Meet the Press,” Alan Greenspan insisted that the United States is not going to default. Why not? Because our debt is denominated in dollars, and we can print dollars to pay off our creditors. Which is pretty much what Chairman Ben Bernanke and the Fed have been doing.

With the dollar down 5 to 10 percent this year alone against the world’s more respected currencies, we are engaged in what the Romans called coin-clipping — official stealing from citizens and foreigners.

Why are the Chinese so upset?

Because they are sitting on more than $1 trillion in U.S. bonds and Treasury bills bought with dollars we paid them for Chinese-made goods, while the purchasing power of the dollars that those bonds and T-bills represent withers away every week.

“I believe this is, without question, the ‘Tea Party downgrade,'” says Sen. John Kerry.

How so? Because the Tea Party blocked the big deal President Obama sought to cut with House Speaker John Boehner to resolve the deficit-debt crisis.

The president, we are told, was prepared to accept $3 trillion in reduced future spending for entitlements like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, but the Tea Party caucus refused to let Boehner agree even to $1 trillion in “revenue enhancement.”

But here, a question arises: If the president believes entitlement reform is essential to get America’s deficit-debt crisis under control, why does he need Tea Party cover to do his duty?

He doesn’t. Tea Party intransigence on taxes is not the reason for Obama’s failure to cut spending. It is his excuse.

Indeed, if Obama announced tomorrow that he was going to cut future spending on entitlements by $3 trillion to restore our AAA credit rating, he would have the full support of the Tea Party.

His opposition would come from Kerry’s colleagues in the Senate and Nancy Pelosi’s in the House.

To see how absurd it is to blame Tea Party Republicans for the downgrading of America’s debt, imagine this scenario: Rep. Ron Paul is speaker of the House, Sen. Rand Paul is majority leader, and Rep. Paul Ryan is president of the United States.

Does anyone doubt this trio would restore the U.S credit rating in a New York minute? Every sacred cow in the federal pasture, from food stamps to foreign aid, would be hanging in the meat locker.

The American people have come to like the president, but a majority is coming to believe he is simply not the decisive president we need to lead us out of the morass in which he found the country and from which he has failed to extricate us.

“He made it worse!” is shaping up as the GOP slogan for 2012.

If Obama wishes to restore the AAA rating of his country, he might consider two separate and bold steps, both consistent with his professed beliefs.

First, tell the Republicans that if they will not agree to revenue enhancement, he will nonetheless do his duty and pare back spending in the entitlement programs. He would get instant GOP support.

Following this, he could go to the Republicans and tell them that if they agree to eliminate the clutter in the tax code — exemptions, loopholes, deductions — he will agree to cut tax rates for individuals and corporations alike, to make America more competitive.

Again, he would have the support of Republicans and the Tea Party. It might even advance his re-election prospects, if he could get renominated by his own party, which would rebel at both reforms because they would mean a suspension of the politics of tax and spend.

As for the S&P downgrade, again, the only surprise is it didn’t come sooner.