Strong opinions, weakly held

David Obey keeps it real

Congressman David Obey, the current Chairman of the House Appropriations committee, is retiring after 42 years of service. He doesn’t pull any punches in his statement:

In the last months, two colleagues, Charlie Wilson and Jack Murtha, have died. Both were 76. For me, that is only four years away. At the end of this term I will have served in the House longer than all but 18 of the 10,637 men and women who have ever served there. The wear and tear is beginning to take its toll. Given that fact, I have to ask myself how I want to spend the time I have left. Frankly, I do not know what I will do next. All I do know is that there has to be more to life than explaining the ridiculous, accountability destroying rules of the Senate to confused, angry, and frustrated constituents.

I absolutely believe that, after the economy returns to a decent level of growth, we must attack our long-term budget deficit. But, perhaps I expect too much because, in addition to an attack on the federal budget deficit, I also want to see an equal determination to attack the family security deficit, the family income deficit, and the opportunity deficit which also plague the American people.

I am, frankly, weary of having to beg on a daily basis that both parties recognize that we do no favor for the country if we neglect to make the long-term investments in education, science, health, and energy that are necessary to modernize our economy and decline to raise the revenue needed to pay for those crucial investments. I do not want to be in a position as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee of producing and defending lowest common denominator legislation that is inadequate to that task and, given the mood of the country, that is what I would have to do if I stayed.

Seems like he’s feeling liberated.


  1. In 1968 the national debt was $350 billion, now it’s almost $13 trillion. I wonder how much his votes have added to the national debt? I think Obey doth protest too much. If he was serious about the national debt, there is a lot more he could have done about it. Someone with his record of service shouldn’t try and play the victim card.

  2. Just don’t operate under the assumption that the Republicans are more serious than Democrats in taking on the deficit. If anything, they’re even less serious than the Democrats.

  3. Rafe, two years ago I would have agreed with your statement. Now, I’m not so sure. Obama and the Democrats have taken fiscal irresponsibility to a new level since winning in ’08.

    That said, I certainly don’t think Republicans like Burr will change their ways but I do think there are some serious budget hawks in the Republican party, just not enough of them yet.

    We need to raise revenue and cut spending and we need to do both by a fairly significant amount, I don’t see anyone in Washington willing to bite the bullet. I guess guys like Obey would rather bail than fix the problem they created. He could have taken a stand and passed a real PAYGO bill (how many times have Dems already gone around that? 4? 5 times?).

    Both political parties are a joke right now.

  4. I don’t agree that Obama has been fiscally irresponsible. Restoring economic growth has to be the biggest part of fixing the deficit issue, and the stimulus bill was important to restoring economic growth, as were the bailouts, even though I hate them. Both policies could have been better designed by a benevolent dictator, but they weren’t awful. And health care reform puts a lot of pieces in place that should help rein in the growth in health care costs that are going to cause Medicare to blow up the federal budget over the next couple of decades. I look at Obama and see that he at least has a plan. As best as I can tell, the Republicans do not.

    They know as well as Democrats do that Medicare is the biggest threat to national solvency, and yet during health care reform, they lined up behind the “no cuts to Medicare” position. That’s not responsible. When they were in charge, they passed tax cuts and new entitlements with no plans to pay for them at all. Obama has not done that at all.

    Honestly, I would love it if the Republicans were serious about getting the deficit under control. They are going to have success this fall and are going to be a big part of governing the country forever, but I just don’t see them as proposing serious solutions to any of the country’s real problems. It’s depressing.

  5. We just have to agree to disagree. We both agree on the problems, but we definitely disagree on the solutions and I’ll leave it at that. I disagree so much so that it’s gotten to the point where after a 18 year run as an Independent/Libertarian I’m considering registering as a Republican.

  6. Jeff, if you do, just remember where the bulk of the $13T came from.


    This chart shows a histogram of increases in the debt. It is on a very biased site but is as far as I can tell accurate:


    Reagan borrowing and spending more money than all the presidents before him combined had borrowed appears to be where the problem started. The Bush family combined then really started the borrow and spend phase of the modern GOP. It’s interesting to see what happened under Clinton as well.

    In short, it’s not a partisan problem, and if it were, the GOP appears to be the worse of the two in terms of deficit spending.

  7. Posting as a 2+ decade Independent myself I might add; I have never registered Democrat or GOP in my voting life.

  8. I harbor no illusions about Reagan being a fiscal conservative. The man liked to spend.

    I also feel you do GH Bush a disservice. His tax increases all but cost him the ’92 election. That’s not a typical GOP move. You can see the effects of those tax increases and the recovering economy after the first Gulf War on his last years numbers and Clinton’s first year in office.

    As for Clinton, it wasn’t until Newt and the CWA Republicans took over Congress that the budget outlook really started improving.

    Which brings me back to my original point. Of that wonderful graph (which I agree is accurate) how much of that debt was passed while each party controlled the House (which has the Constitutional responsibility to originate spending bills even though I know the WH all but writes the budget these days) and how much of the debt was passed until each party’s control of the Senate?

    It really looks like the only time we’ve had progress on the debt is when one party controls the white house and an opposition party controls Congress. Note to Democrats, you weren’t an opposition party when you controlled Congress for the time you did under Shrub.

    I have to think while Obey was in office, he signed off on a lot of those budgets. The Democrats have had a virtual lock on the US House other than from ’95-06.

    I’d also love to see this chart updated with Obama’s deficits.

  9. Actually, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 is the piece of legislation that set the foundation for the balanced budgets of the Clinton Era:


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