I can’t help but think the vast majority of the public just doesn’t fully appreciate what’s transpiring here.
We’re dealing, after all, with fairly obscure legal mechanisms. Most Americans don’t know what the federal debt ceiling is, and in fairness, they’ve never had to. It’s a law that was approved more than eight decades ago, and hasn’t been particularly controversial or even relevant since. Policymakers have always realized they have an obligation — legal, economic, moral, and otherwise — to do the right thing.
The United States is like the Lannisters: we always pay our debts. And in the case of the debt ceiling, we’re talking about money we’ve already spent — this is the equivalent of getting a credit card bill for charges we’ve already made. The entirety of the Republican Party — in the House, in the Senate, among its presidential candidates — has said it might pay the bill, but only if Democrats agree to take trillions of dollars out of a fragile economy.
And if Democrats don’t do enough to make Republicans happy, GOP officials will simply refuse to do their duty. They know the consequences would be severe for the nation and the world. They apparently don’t care.
Americans almost certainly can’t appreciate the extent to which they’ve made a tragic mistake. Voters perceived the Republican Party has a conservative governing party, capable of responsible center-right governance, and rewarded the GOP handsomely in 2010. What voters probably didn’t understand are the similarities between today’s Republican Party and a not-terribly-bright organized-crime family, run entirely by petulant children.
The Economist, a conservative publication, had a fascinating editorial this week, explaining that Republicans are creating a crisis, on purpose, for no reason. The United States has a manageable debt, low interest rates, low inflation, and the ability to borrow on the cheap. But because right-wing extremists are chiseling away at our political system, we’re quickly approaching a point of no return.
The sticking-point is not on the spending side. It is because the vast majority of Republicans, driven on by the wilder-eyed members of their party and the cacophony of conservative media, are clinging to the position that not a single cent of deficit reduction must come from a higher tax take. This is economically illiterate and disgracefully cynical.
This newspaper has a strong dislike of big government; we have long argued that the main way to right America’s finances is through spending cuts. But you cannot get there without any tax rises. In Britain, for instance, the coalition government aims to tame its deficit with a 3:1 ratio of cuts to hikes. America’s tax take is at its lowest level for decades: even Ronald Reagan raised taxes when he needed to do so.
And the closer you look, the more unprincipled the Republicans look…. Both parties have in recent months been guilty of fiscal recklessness. Right now, though, the blame falls clearly on the Republicans.
The Economist added that this is “a gamble where you bet your country’s good name.”
I suspect there are many saying, “We get it; they’re reckless.” But that’s not enough — no one given this much power is supposed to be this reckless. Republicans gained power because voters were frustrated with high unemployment, and yet GOP leaders are threatening to deliberately create a crisis that would make unemployment much worse. And the breaking point is very soon.
All of this could go away in a heartbeat. Republicans could do, today, exactly what they did repeatedly during the Bush years: simply vote to raise the debt ceiling in a clean bill and move on. The entire process could take literally a few minutes.
But GOP officials don’t want to. They want to play a game in which the entire world could lose.
How is this not the biggest political scandal in modern American history? How is it that those who claim the high ground on patriotism could put our financial well being on the line, on purpose, when they don’t have to?
By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, Washington Monthly, July 10, 2011
As we ponder whether Obama’s offering to cut Social Security represents a betrayal of Democratic values, whether it’s an as-of-yet-unexplored opening in yet another 11th-dimensional chess match, whether a decrease of an increase is really a cut or not or whether, in the words of Paul Krugman, the president is executing an “anti-Corleone” by making the Republicans an offer they can’t accept, Democratic values are being systematically destroyed. But the source of the destruction isn’t coming from Washington; instead, it is happening state by state.
The lion’s share of coverage has appropriately focused on the unrelenting extremism of Speaker Boehner’s House majority, but the gains Republicans made in our nation’s statehouses have been no less devastating. In 2010, the GOP made historic gains rivaled only by the wave in 1994. There are now 26 states where Republicans control both legislative chambers; Republicans also occupy the governor’s mansion in 21 of those, compared to 15 and 11 respectively for Democrats. Not coincidentally, 26 states enacted further restrictions on abortion rights. Some of them are particularly odious, such as Louisiana’s measure that would deny malpractice insurance coverage to doctors performing abortions, or a now-blocked law in Kansas that would impose a series of unnecessary licensing restrictions that would have resulted in the closure of two of the three clinics in the state.
At an economic level, the Republican legislators of Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan are proceeding toward accomplishing at a state level longstanding objectives that they could never realistically accomplish at a federal one: specifically, achieving unilateral political disarmament by hamstringing a key funding source of Democratic campaign funding, or selling off public assets without any bidding process to whichever crony they deem appropriate. In Minnesota, Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives, and won control of the State Senate for the first time in history. The result? A government shutdown that is costing the state and its hardworking public employees just so the richest two percent of Minnesotans don’t have to contribute their fair share to help the state function.
Not that states with Republican-dominated legislatures are the only ones with problems. In California, Republicans dominate the budgetary aspects of the legislature despite having only about 35 percent of the seats in either chamber because of Proposition 13, the absurd rule that a two-thirds vote in each chamber must be required to raise revenues. Because it is as impossible to secure a sane legislative Republican in Sacramento as it is in Washington, California’s budget has been consigned for many years to be a series of ever-deeper cuts to the social safety net, public education, and the state park system.
This is a redistricting cycle, and the change in state lines could change some of these equations, but right now, the number of victories required to stop the damage, if not reverse it, is comparatively small. In California, a takeover of two seats in Assembly and Senate would be enough to prevent the Republican minority from continuing to hold the state hostage during every budget negotiation. In Wisconsin, a net gain of three Senate seats from the nine recall elections on Aug. 9 would stop Gov. Scott Walker from destroying Wisconsin any more than he already has. Retaking the lower chambers in Michigan and Ohio would be a slightly more difficult task, but no less achievable given previous history.
A child in an overcrowded classroom in Los Angeles. A Madison teacher fighting for her economic rights. A maintenance worker in Detroit. A scared, pregnant teenager in Orlando who will soon be required to notify her parents if she wants to exercise her rights. They are all being affected far more by what their state governments are trying to do to them, or cannot do for them, than by anything that Speaker Boehner has done since January.
This isn’t to say that retaking the House, re-electing Barack Obama and holding onto our Senate majority is not important. It most certainly is. But a Democratic Congress would not have stopped these state-level Republicans from attempting to enact their sweeping, destructive agenda. The only way to stop them is to raise enough money and awareness so as to defeat them and undo the massive damage that they have managed to accomplish in only six months of governance. Retaking the Wisconsin Senate on Aug. 9 will be a significant victory, but it must be viewed not as an endgame, but as an important first step in a much larger campaign.
By: Dante Atkins, Daily Kos, July 10, 2011
Oh, the irony.
After generations of conservative dogma based solidly in the belief that fundamental changes to America’s entitlement programs are essential to the economic survival and betterment of the nation, that goal is now, finally, within the reach of the true believers.
Yet, remarkably, this dramatic change in national direction is being permitted to slip right through conservative fingers by the very people whom those ensconced on the right should be counting upon to bring home this great philosophical victory.
The fulfillment of the conservative dream is not vanishing from sight because Nancy Pelosi and the forces of progressivism are prepared to defend entitlements to the death. Nor is it happening because the President of the United States has counted up the votes and decided that messing with entitlements will cost him re-election.
It is not even the result of “bleeding hearts” like me rising nobly in defense of the needy and downtrodden.
Significant entitlement reform, long the goal of the fathers of modern day conservatism, is being flushed down the drain by the very Republican Party that has long battled to bring that goal to reality.
Somewhere in Connecticut, William F. Buckley Jr. is turning over in his grave.
On Saturday, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced that the ‘grand bargain’ – rumored to bring $4 trillion in debt reduction over the next ten years through a mixture of entitlement reform, defense cuts and a measure of revenue increases resulting from cleaning up the tax code to get rid of some of the corporate entitlement programs that result in lower taxes and higher subsidies – is now off the table.
Apparently, Boehner could not sell the GOP Congressional Caucus on a deal that involved anything in the way of revenue increases- not even in exchange for accomplishing reforms for which his party has fought since the days of FDR and his “New Deal”.
True conservatives should not blame Boehner for this heresy as it appears that he is no happier with the position he is being forced to take than the President is with his proposal being rejected by House Republicans who don’t grasp the whole compromise thing.
What Boehner likely understands – better than those who he is supposed to be leading – is that the GOP is permitting the fundamental change, long at the heart of the conservative cause, to vanish into thin air and that it is happening in the name of protecting corporate subsidies that are the very antitheses of a free market economy – another of the inviolate tenets of conservative policy.
Subsidies that provide government incentives to industry are as anti-free market as government subsidies and controls that conservatives argue have skewed the costs of health care in America and led to our current crisis.
According to American conservative scripture, a truly free market requires that players compete on level ground – not with the edge that comes from government handouts and special tax breaks, whether they be for the benefit of a corporation or an individual.
Thus, the GOP is rejecting the opportunity to accomplish a landmark, philosophical milestone by protecting a policy that is, in and of itself, a violation of that same conservative philosophy.
Is the irony of this enough to make even the most ardent conservative believer question what in the world is going on here?
It certainly should be.
Could the explanation for this odd behavior be that the Congressional Republican Caucus has decided to turn its back on what is supposed to be their most fundamental beliefs because their constituents are demanding that they do so?
According to the Christian Science Monitor, the GOP Caucus does not appear to have any interest whatsoever in listening to its base.
“Two-thirds (67 percent) approve of making more of high earners’ income subject to Social Security tax, and nearly as many approve of raising taxes on incomes of over $250,000 (66 percent), reducing military commitments overseas (65 percent) and limiting tax deductions for large corporations (62 percent),” the Pew Research Center reported last month.
Still, any kind of tax increases – whether it be a greater tax bite on the wealthy or on corporations seen as “job creators” – is off the table as far as large numbers of Republican House members are concerned. Via The Christian Science Monitor
So, the GOP rejection of the debt deal is neither based in the free market philosophy nor the fundamental belief in entitlement reform. It is also not based on meeting their obligations to their constituents.
So, what is driving their rather remarkable position?
It must be jobs and the economy.
Surely, the Republicans in Congress are convinced that removing tax subsidies to the oil industry and cleaning up the tax code to get rid of corporate welfare that is no longer of any discernable value to the nation will make what is already a very bad jobs situation even worse.
Except that it turns out that you have to search long and wide to find an economist who supports this notion.
The other argument that advocates of tax cuts for the rich make is that many small-business owners would be see their taxes go up and thus would be discouraged from hiring workers. The facts do not support this. “Only 3 percent of small-business owners are in the top bracket,” notes Roberton Williams, a senior fellow with the Tax Policy Center, which is sponsored by the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. And, he adds, “They are not all what we think of as job-creating small businesses. A lot of them are hedge-fund managers and law-firm partners.” So other than perhaps a few restaurateurs on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the workforce is unlikely to be affected. Via Newsweek
So, while Eric Cantor continues to try and sell his base on this argument, it’s pretty hard to find anyone who knows anything about economics who actually is buying the pitch.
If it’s not philosophical dogma or fulfilling their obligation to those who elected them and it’s not the economy and/or jobs, what exactly is their problem?
I don’t know about you, but I can only think of one other explanation – fealty to the wealthy corporations and wealthy individuals who keep your Republican leadership rolling in the campaign cash so they can remain in their powerful jobs.
Now, if you believe this is a good enough reason to risk the financial stability of the nation – and possibly the world – then it’s all good.
Personally, I’m a little concerned.
I fear we are witnessing one of the most perverse and dangerous games our leaders have ever embarked upon. I’m stunned by the sheer audacity of these elected officials so ready to play chicken with the financial lives of so many simply to benefit a very few.
But what really amazes are the millions of middle class Americans who continue to believe that these officials are somehow acting in their best interest.
As curious as I am to see what will ultimately come of this game, my curiosity is far more piqued by the possibility that these middle class Americans might finally understand that the Republicans they sent to Congress work for the big corporations and care little for their needs and problems.
Should that light bulb (incandescent or otherwise) finally turn on, these folks should be assured that nobody is expecting them to run into the waiting arms of the Democratic Party. They can still quietly send their Congressional representatives a message indicating that they would prefer not to be abandoned so that Exxon might keep the government checks flowing in while maintaining their standing as upright, committed conservatives.
If these folks could – just this once – grasp what is being done in their name and communicate their rejection of the behavior of their leaders, the rest of us would genuinely appreciate it.
A true conservative should be as disgusted with what the Congressional Republican Caucus is doing as the rest of us and probably a great deal more so.
By: Rick Ungar, The Policy Page, Forbes, July 10, 2011