Well, vacation is over, exams are (finally) graded, and cool and wet spring has turned into very hot and humid summer overnight. I think it is going to be a long, hot summer.
The House majority has just written themselves a certifiable admission to my asylum for politicians who do stupid things. They voted down an unconditional increase in the debt ceiling. Kevin Brady, a Republican from Texas, a senior member of the House Ways & Means Committee, and the senior Republican on the Joint Economic Committee, has issued a press release noting that this is the Republicans' clarion call to the President: they intend to hold the US economy hostage by using this vote and demanding the kinds of cuts they want. Their aim is nothing short of decimating and privatizing Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and unemployment insurance.
In right-winger Kevin Brady's words: “Mister President, it should be clear now that Republicans will not grant you an unconditional increase in America’s debt. Any increase in the debt limit must be accompanied by even larger cuts in spending and limits on future spending. And for those of us still concerned about the economy, the clearest signal we can send anxious consumers and America’s job creators is that Congress is going to put America’s financial house back in order.”
Back in order? Threatening not to increase the debt ceiling is like threatening to cause the US to default on its debt. This has nothing to do with putting the financial house back in order. It has everything to do with attempting to run roughshod over the principles of a shared democracy that are fundamental to this country .
Folks, this is playing with fire. The one thing the US still has going for it is that we have always been thought to be a prudent country that would always repay its debt. Again--refusing to increase the debt ceiling is equivalent to saying that the country is willing to default on its debt.
Setting spending reductions arbitrarily because some bunch of right-wing ideologues have decided that spending should be only some fixed percentage of GDP is a ridiculous way to set policy. We should have a debate about what we are willing to spend on and why and what kind of tax policy would be appropriate to go with that kind of spending. Then we should tax ourselves as necessary.
Now, spending reductions that cut back on the military industrial complex sound fine to me. I hope the Democrats propose an immediate 15% reduction in the military budget and demand that we get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, those wars of choice of Bush that have cost thousands of lives and accomplished nothing other than provide a market for arms and provide entry to US multinationals.
What is going on in this country now is a political faction determined to ensure that the corporatist agenda is followed hook, line and sinker. Meaning that corporate entities are more and more able to write the laws to suit themselves, their corporate managers and their wealthy shareholders. Workers are being squelched--silenced by the money spent by corporations on political campaigns, silenced by the laws that make it hard to unionize, silenced by the campaigns against teachers and public workers who are the ones who are most able to help ordinary people understand the problems of corporatism.
If the right-wing has its way in this matter of debt and spending cuts, it will mean ultimately the end of the New Deal. We will return to a country where the vulnerable are not protected by the state but the powerful, wealthy property owners can demand and get whatever they want from ordinary people. Because the one thing they are willing to cut is spending on the vulnerable--the unemployed, the poor, the elderly, the sick.
(Note that in Michigan, which recently passed a law requiring public employees to pay 20% of their health insurance premiums in the future -essentially a pay cut for public employees--, the legislature hasn't acted on a bill to require a sacrifice from themselves by requiring them to pay such a premium for their health insurance--they currently get FREE health care for themselves and their families in retirement, if they serve only six years in the legislature!)
What will it take to make ordinary people realize that they are being used and exploited? When will they stop repeating the shibboleths of "free market" and "competition" that have squandered an economy that served us all well in order to create one that serves only the wealthy well? When will they realize that the liberty that they yearn for can only be achieved through a cooperative spirit of community, that brute capitalism is just another form of enslavement?
Now, if I were President Obama, I think I'd call their bluff on this one. Does this Congress really want to go down in history as the direct cause of a financial depression ten times worse than the Great Recession we just went through? if so, they should keep voting no and demanding their "spending cuts" like the spoiled little brats they are.