The recent dysfunctional debate and ultimately terrible compromise over the federal debt ceiling has left the nation disillusioned and despairing about the future. To make matters worse, while only beginning to absorb this massive body blow to our economy and social safety net, Standard and Poors (S&P) made the outrageous and unprecedented decision to downgrade the nation's credit rating, though we had succeeded in raising the debt ceiling on time. This from S&P, which has no credible standing to downgrade anything and was itself complicit in creating the current meltdown by enthusiastically bestowing high ratings on risky mortgage-backed securities.
S&P's analysis is deeply flawed and only provides further fodder to the Republicans' stated commitment to take our economy to the brink with each increase to the debt ceiling.
But the debt ceiling is truly arbitrary and has nothing to do with the deficit. The debt ceiling does not prevent the United States from incurring new debts. That occurs when Congress decides to authorize more spending than revenues. The debt ceiling prevents the President from borrowing money to pay those debts when they come due. While this has never been a problem in the past, the dangerous game of chicken Republican radicals played with the full faith and credit of the United States demonstrates that we can no longer risk allowing this artifact of World War I to threaten our nation's creditworthiness.
So, I will soon introduce legislation to take this arbitrary issue off the table altogether. Let us abolish the debt ceiling, which has become a serious threat to our economic future and a pawn for Republicans intent on holding the economy hostage to impose their own extreme agenda. Then we must move forward with bold measures to create jobs and economic development, provide aid to states, build infrastructure, instill aggregate demand back into the economy, and get money flowing once again.
If we are to prevent years of unemployment and the attrition of America's great middle class, we must act now. We must eliminate the debt ceiling; we must create jobs and opportunity; and, we must move past this misguided and dangerous obsession with balancing the budget on the backs of the middle and working classes.
Are you as disgusted as I am with the stupid political game-playing in Washington over raising the debt ceiling? Boehner, Cantor, et al demanded cuts in such programs as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid--no mention of cutting the defense budget. Well, the deal is made, and the cuts in domestic spending are set.
Or ARE they? The "news" media has not discussed the effects of cuts on such programs as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, only how NOT raising the debt ceiling would effect the federal government's ability to make payments, and of the government's bond rating with Standard and Poor. (Who are our officials most answerable to, We the people or stockbrokers and bond-traders?) Nor was there ANY discussion, in Washington or the media, about raising taxes on upper-income people, the top one-tenth of the top one percent of the population, or of cutting military spending-such as cutting back on our losing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. It was all an excuse to take down the aforementioned programs that benefit people who have worked for a long time.
AND-Jon Kyl, in his reply to President Obama's address Saturday, kept up the idea that taxes would scare away businesses from setting up; a rehash of the supply-side theory that Ronald Reagan brought into Washington.
Where were these deficit militants in the GOP when Ronald Reagan ran up deficits, adding up to the deficits of all the other presidents combined? Or when George W. Bush, after Bill Clinton's budget surplus (due to a slight tax increase on higher incomes, but we had a great economic run in spite of the supply-side doom-saying) ran up a deficit due to upper-income tax cuts and two wars we can't win? No; it is just an excuse to target social programs, programs that benefit people, but are scapegoated as the cause of all economic ills.
(Of course, low-income and working people don't have thousand-dollar an hour lobbyists wining and dining congress-members, and writing down the language in the bills with them.)
It does NOT have to be like this. We CAN and MUST drive out the Tea-Party types from the House; but not just replace them with "Democrats," but with people dedicated to the public interest, preferably trade unionists who know what it's like to have to try to decide, "Do I pay for the heating oil now, or concentrate on the gas bill, and how much can I pay for the orthodontist for the kids?"
Well, well...did you watch the speeches last night? PURE Kabuki theater. Obama did a nice job of explaining how we came to this point, but his train left the rails when he was presenting the "solution" without mentioning that there were no increases to revenues. Boehner lied when he said there was bipartisan support for cut, cap and balance. Oh hell, he lied about everything except his name.
These two speeches were designed out of desperation. It's pretty obvious that the votes don't exist in either chamber to pass anything. Sadly, the Rethuglicans decimated the Gephardt Rule, which worked well for decades: it basically allowed for automatic-ish raises to the debt ceiling. Obama won't invoke the 14th. So all that's left is for the president to go on television and ask people who didn't even vote to figure out who their reps are and call them. Even that was a little half-baked: you'd think he would have said "If you need to find your Rep's or Senator's contact information, we're now listing it on whitehouse.gov." I list that info all the time, it's easy to get and post. (Senate link, House link. Total time: less than 30 seconds.)
So where are we? Fundamentally, screwed. It takes time to get legislation through Congress, and we're close to out of time. The last hope is that after Harry's Wednesday vote, it goes over to the House, Boehner agrees to schedule a vote, and it passes this weekend. If you think that will all happen successfully, you are probably also a fan of the scene in Woody Allen's Sleeper where the scientists of the future point out that hot fudge sundaes, steak and cigarettes are good for you and carrots will kill you.
The real truth is that America is simmering not just in outrageously hot weather (yes, teabaggers, there IS global warming) but in even hotter anger at a government which has become completely dysfunctional. Obama's right - call your reps -- tell them to pass a raise in the debt ceiling, talk about shared sacrifice, and tell them you vote. Then figure out how quickly you can learn to fiddle.
Boehner said no to the Obama "compromise." Boehner caved to pressure from the far right. You shouldn't be surprised. Obama shouldn't be surprised. Then again, Charlie Brown shouldn't have been surprised after the first 50 times.
The reason this keeps happening is NOT because the president is stupid. But because he, and the rest of the Democratic Party are seemingly oblivious to the cognitive dissonance that affects America. That is, most people do not come close to understanding what the truth is, nor what the potential ramifications of certain proposals can be.
To wit: most people who receive government money don't know that they receive money from a government program. Here's the chart:
Now, that chart is from a 2008 study, but it's unlikely the percentages have changed much. Face it, people can't value something they don't know they have. Further, the higher up on the income ladder a taxpayer is, the more likely he/she has received a tax subsidy of some sort. If you want to read the full, fascinating report, it's after the jump.
And there's something else that people don't know: if you add together the TOTAL cost of early childhood programs, low income housing programs, WIC funds, teacher training and afterschool programs, job training for the unemployed, LIHEAP, community health centers, homeless assistance grants, legal services for the poor, and Title X family planning, you get $44 billion dollars. Want to guess how much it costs each year for extending the Bush tax cuts for JUST the top brackets? $42 billion. Full breakout in chart form here, which includes some other eye-popping dollar amounts only for the rich.
The next time you're out driving in real traffic, watch the people who only see what's ahead of them, never on the side, nor behind them. Most people don't have a sense of what's around them. They can only look right in front of their noses. The Democrats, and ESPECIALLY the president, need to put these sorts of data right in front of people, as many times as it takes, until they understand.
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