EASTON, Md, July 11, 2011 — The clock is ticking like a time bomb.
One week from this Friday, July 15, Congress must act to raise the debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion, ensuring that America does not go over the economic cliff.
The actual deadline is August 2, but it will take at least ten days for the paper work to be done. Thus July 22 is the ‘Do-or-Die’ date.
Yet at this point, Democrats and Republicans are so far from a compromise that saner heads lament that our country has reached the breaking point. Now with the grim statistics of little job growth just released, things look worse than ever for a compromise.
There is so much confusion about what the debt ceiling really is, that before going any further, let’s get one simple fact straight:
Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize more spending. That spending has already happened.
It only allows the US government to pay those bills it already passed, such as paying for our military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While George W. Bush was President, the debt ceiling was raised seven times with nary a protest from members of his own party.
Congressional members, I might add, during the Bush years increased the debt with ten years of tax cuts for the richest Americans while we fought two unpaid for wars and passed an unfunded Medicare Part D.
Everyone, including President Obama, loves to compare the government to family finances, so imagine you buy a car, and now you are hard pressed to make the payments.
Yet the loan is due. You either borrow on another credit card, from a bank or your home equity to pay the bill or you default and lose the car, destroying your credit.
If the US government doesn’t pay for what it has already spent, we will default, which means not sending out 80 million monthly checks for Social Security, the military, the disabled, and veteran benefits.
Our exceptional bond rating will drop and interest on everything from our own credit cards to adjustable mortgage rates will soar.
The ripple effect on the economy will hit Treasury bonds, the stock market, and ultimately wash up on the global shores, eroding whatever fragile stability the world has achieved since the recession.
We could be plunged into a whirlpool of a deeper recession or worse, the abyss of a Great Depression, taking the world with us. Think I am exaggerating? Then listen to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) who said this past Friday at a news conference:
“The situation that we face is pretty urgent, as a matter of fact I would describe it as dire.”
How Did We Get In This Mess?
Simple, my friends, extreme partisanship.
Democrats want tax revenues raised before accepting the GOP’s severe spending cuts to programs that serve the poor, the working class, and the middle class.
Republicans want only spending cuts. Draconian ones.
When the newly elected Republicans to Congress trounced the Democrats in 2010, they believed they had a mandate. Actually they did: to create jobs.
Sadly, they have done everything but that, from defunding Planned Parenthood to going after Elizabeth Warren and the Consumer Protection Agency to looking for new ways to scrap Medicare.
The Republican Congress has not produced one jobs bill, yet according to all the polls that is the number one priority of Americans. Not the debt limit. Not even the debt itself.
So Republicans didn’t create jobs and they are fixated on the debt, but how did we reach this impasse on the debt ceiling, of all things?
Again the answer is simple, found in the words of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who said in an interview with the National Journal right after last year’s elections that the job of the GOP is to “retake the government.”
“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
He then added,“Our single biggest political goal is to give our nominee for president the maximum opportunity to be successful.”
This is why there is no deal on the debt ceiling.
A Dangerous Game of Chicken
Whatever can be done to make this President look bad, the GOP will do. If it takes putting the economy in the toilet, so be it.
This has resulted in Republican Representatives 1) insisting on no compromise on the debt ceiling which would necessitate raising taxes on the richest amongst us as well as spending cuts, 2) signing a no new tax pledge drawn up by Grover Norquist, and 3) holding the nation hostage to slash and burn economics.
So far the Republicans have succeeded beautifully. While most of the public believes we are on the wrong track as a nation and that the sputtering economy is Obama’s baby, the President has continued to compromise over and over. Yet what has he to show for it?
Obama’s extension of the Bush tax cuts for Millionaires Plus did not invigorate the economy, just as it did nothing for the rest of us during the Bush years. Instead unemployment has risen, middle class wages have stagnated, fat cats rake in astronomical pay raises, and people lose their homes.
And now the President proposes going really big with $4 trillion in spending cuts, maybe even taking the meat ax to Social Security and Medicare. So far, Republican leaders aren’t buying it.
The gloomy job report, while making the President go big, has emboldened the Republicans who say they cannot possibly consider tax hikes when the recovery is limping along. Democrats say Obama’s plan is a no-go for most of them.
Yet there is President Obama, optimistic, once again holding out still another olive branch, although it’s looking rather tattered these days.
The question becomes who has the most to lose? Whom will the American public blame if August 2 comes and the debt ceiling is not raised.
Both sides fear the wrath of the American people and both sides hope the blame for failure will fall on the other party. But this is an adolescent game of chicken they’re playing. Not unlike the one in Rebel Without A Cause.
Remember when James Dean was challenged by the movie’s bully, Buzz, to “Chicken Run,” driving stolen cars to the edge of the cliff? The first one who jumped from the car lost and was the chicken or a coward.
The contest ended in tragedy after Dean jumped, but Buzz got snagged by his leather jacket on the car’s door handle just as his car plummeted over the edge.
My biggest fear is that it is the American people who are now trapped in the car headed for that cliff.
And there just may be no time for us to jump out.
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