Washington avoided a government shutdown when Democrats caved in to Republican demands for tens of billions of dollars worth of service cuts and tax subsidies to coddle some of the richest, most powerful plutocrats in history. Most Republicans can gloat over delivering billions of dollars in giveaways to the rich in the form of extended tax cuts payed for by slashed vital services that will harm the most vulnerable Americans and cripple oversight of business and industry. Of course, crippling oversight of business and industry is just a bonus for the plutocrats, as they're the ones who'll be getting away with strip-mining your home town then dumping the toxic slag in your kid's daycare center. The Tea Party is whining that the rich should have been coddled even more, but they always will.
The next opportunity for Republicans to browbeat concessions out of Democrats looms with the May 16 deadline to raise the nation's debt ceiling. Republicans have already declared they will hold their breath and not raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats accede to much, much more than the paltry tens of billions handed to the plutocrats in the Budget dust-up. Republicans are poised to demand that only the rich should get to see doctors, that laws should require toxic dumping and air pollution, and that women must die from backroom coat hanger abortions. Republicans will demand guarantees that, for the 2012 Budget, the Social Security trust funds be handed over to their Wall Street cronies, and Medicare be morphed into a giveaway program for insurance companies, leaving Americans with a handful of worthless vouchers. The Democrats will quiver and weep, and wring their hands. President Barack Obama will talk about bipartisanship, and the Republicans will get everything they want.
As was the recent Budget fight, all of this will be a classic Japanese Noh play, with all the characters wearing masks, reciting lines, and striking stylized postures designed to confound onlookers. All of the demands and all of the protestations and especially all of the capitulations would be complete fabrications for one simple reason: the plutocrats absolutely, positively cannot allow the government to shut down as a result of exceeding the debt ceiling.
If the federal government does not raise its current $14.25 trillion debt ceiling, the government will not be able to borrow to finance federal operations, and roll over its existing debt. It would be unable to pay off current debt that's constantly maturing, and would put the United States in default. The United States: not Greece; not Spain. The United States, the gold standard of global credit worthiness that's exponentially more golden than gold could ever dream an opium dream of being.
This would threaten havoc in the international bond markets. This would threaten a credit freeze exponentially more catastrophic than 2008. If there is anything that makes the blood run cold in the veins of any trans-national plutocrat, it's the prospect of uncertainty in the bond markets. Let alone chaos. Let alone a complete, total meltdown and collapse.
If anyone threatens to slam the bond markets in this way, don't be surprised if some plutocrat hires an army of assassins to stop that person. If anyone tries to filibuster raising the debt ceiling, or votes against raising the debt ceiling, don't be surprised if you see David Koch personally put a bullet through that person's skull.
This is why raising the debt ceiling is normally a routine, uber-pro forma event. Of course you raise the debt ceiling. You can't have chaos in the bond markets. Or a platinum-clad solid gold bullet encrusted with diamonds and emeralds blowing your brains all over your desk.
The government was shut down briefly in 1995 and 1996 when it didn't raise the debt ceiling, and Newt Gingrich, once the most powerful amphibian in history, disappeared off the face of the Earth for over a decade.
Which brings us to the horrible truth part. To the extent that Democrats cave in to Republican demands is the extent to which Democrats are completely, totally and utterly complicit with Republicans in coddling the richest, most powerful plutocrats in history. Any service cuts the Democrats accede to would be the Democrats' way of offering up more tax subsidies for the rich. Any capitulation on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid would be the measure of how much money from those programs the Democrats want to hand over to the ultra-rich.
All the talk of needing to cut services and lower taxes to rescue the economy and save America from the debt monster is utter balderdash. Service cuts do not improve the economy. Countless examples throughout history and around the world demonstrate that cuts actually hurt the economy. Stabilizing and growing the economy is the top priority before thinking about reducing debt.
Tax breaks for the rich don't help the economy. Corporations are already awash in trillions of dollars in cash, and show no sign of hiring or investing in America. More and deeper tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy just incentivizes more voodoo accounting to fatten corporate bottom lines, and more mergers and acquisitions followed by asset liquidations, layoffs, outsourcing, downsizing and offshoring. More tax cuts for the rich just means more outrageous executive compensations lavished on slash-and-burn managers who gut jobs to create profits they can divvy up with stock speculators.
None of the budget slashing, tax cutting, supply-side, trickle-down Ayn Randian sci-fi fantasies have anything to do with anything except to further enrich the handful of ultra-wealthy plutocrats who call the shots and who happen to be the same handful of ultra-wealthy plutocrats who'll be eviscerated should the bond markets collapse.
Democrats should, if they really were stalwart stewards of America, use the opportunity to start talking about revenue reform. Democrats should begin talking about how the richest 20% of Americans owns 85% of everything in America, with the very richest 400 families in America splitting $1.27 trillion, while the bottom 40% of Americans are splitting just three-tenths of one percent of the remainder.
Instead of giving the richest Americans a 10% tax cut, from 35% to 25%, as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) wants in his 2012 GOP Budget, Democrats should start talking about giving the bottom 60% of Americans the big tax cuts, which they'll promptly go out and spend to stimulate growth. Instead of caving to onerous cuts, Democrats should start talking about vigorously taxing the ultra-wealthy and really balancing the budget, lest the debt ceiling fairy comes along and destroys the international bond markets leaving the ultra-wealthy with nothing.
Of course, the Democrats won't do any such thing. That's why the whole debt ceiling show is just another Noh play.