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November 26, 2014

‘Debt: The Sequel’ Flops in House Financial Services | Madisonville

Debt: The Sequel Flops in House Financial Services | Madisonville

Republicans thought they had the home-field advantage at the House Financial Services Committee’s “Why Debt Matters” hearing Tuesday. The falling snow seemed to energize them as much as the cause and they came early and in force, outnumbering the Democrats by more than 2-to-1 when Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas gaveled the hearing open.

The Republican juggernaut slowed down from there.  Sequels, even debt sequels, rarely work as well as the original.

Hensarling nevertheless reeled off the dangers, many of which are mighty familiar: an economic and political death spiral, street lights going out, ambulances not running, buildings going vacant and college graduates turning to subsistence farming. College graduates with the skills for subsistence farming seemed like an inviting campfire in the dystopia, but Hensarling didn’t mean it to be.  Not that the chairman was predicting any of this. He was just saying.

Ranking member Maxine Waters of California mentioned the Bush administration’s tax cuts and wars. She didn’t want to dwell on those things. She was just saying. Waters, to her own surprise, got David Cote, the chief executive of Honeywell Inc., to offer immigration reform as a way to spur the economy and contribute revenue to the government.

Cote was appearing for the debt-matters case and raising immigration reform was his own goal for the team. Later, in the spirit of just saying, Cote told the committee, “There’s a phrase we use a lot in the company, which is ‘we are where we are.’ ” Even Republicans must have wondered at this point whether the 1 percent are all they’re cracked up to be.

Republican Randy Hultgren noted that residents in his home state of Illinois are carrying another $25,000 per person of burden because of the dire finances. One involuntarily pictured the Illini squeezing into Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky and Wisconsin for a few weeks when the debt comes due to leave creditors holding the bag.  Hey, it works with the cable company, and may work with pensioners.

Alabama Republican Spencer Bachus said some middle-of-the-road things and it was only a coincidence that Republicans used his five minutes to remember something they had to do outside the hearing room.

The subject being the national debt and the place being Congress, Republicans and Democrats naturally played out the old “spend less-tax more” argument. Something has to fill the time between St. Patrick’s Day and Easter and Massachusetts Democrat Michael E. Capuano came closest to summing up the hearing, possibly because he arrived late. “I don’t know who said debt doesn’t matter. It’s a useless discussion.”

Hensarling eventually recognized North Carolina Republican Patrick T. McHenry. About a dozen well-dressed, young men and women rose from their seats and marched briskly and quietly out of the room. Maybe there’s a new saying going around: “It ain’t over ‘til McHenry speaks.”

Or maybe they were going to work on their subsistence farming skills.

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