Yesterday, NPR host Robert Siegel interviewed U.S. Rep. Allen West about the federal debt fight. West, a member of the House Tea Party caucus, is adamantly opposed to raising the debt limit. He doesn't want the U.S. government to borrow any more money, even if that means the feds will be unable to pay basic bills.
From the moment Siegel introduced him, West was his usual blunt, confrontational self, immediately defensive about being called "uncompromising" on the debt issue.
"Well, thanks Robert. But 'uncompromising,' that kind of me makes sound like an
intransigent kind of fellow," West began.
"No, I was saying staunch, is how I meant it," Siegel clarified.
"Oh, OK. Staunch sounds much more academic," West said.
Siegel, a generally reserved fellow, had trouble wrapping his mind around West's brand of Tea Party economics. President Obama has warned that if the debt crisis isn't resolved, seniors might not get their social security checks next month. West disagreed, saying U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner just needs to "prioritize."
Siegel pressed him for specifics, and West, in typical fashion, went from reasonable to crazy in record time.
Seigel: "You're saying that even if the debt ceiling isn't raised, that Secretary Geithner can pay seniors their Medicare, pay social security, Medicaid, the interest on the debt, and there's enough money to do all that?
Rep. WEST: Yeah. As a matter of fact, I'm just looking at a chart that was sent out from the U.S. Treasury, as well as Goldman Sachs, that alludes to that point, that there's revenue that will be there, about $250 billion, that will allow us to prioritize and then take care of that debt interest payment, take care of our seniors, and take care of our military as well.
SIEGEL: But, actually, the Bipartisan Policy Center did a day-by-day analysis of income and obligations, and they concluded that if you paid the entitlements and the interest, you would not actually have enough money right there for military active-duty pay, veterans programs, federal salaries, benefits, food nutrition programs, and several other Cabinet departments.
Rep. WEST: Well, you just threw in several other Cabinet departments; maybe those aren't essential functions that we need to prioritize.
SIEGEL: The Justice Department?
Rep. WEST: As I said, I'm looking at this chart. It starts the first of August. It goes to the 29th of August. And this chart shows very well that when you look at the receipts line that those priorities, such as Medicare, social security, interest, and essential defense fall under that revenue line.
That's right. Apparently West believes the Justice Department is not an "essential function" of government. Wonder how he feels about the Department of Education?