House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) traipsed back to Washington from their excellent New York adventures visiting the courts of their Wall Street overlords. While Cantor spun the sojourn as proof the financiers supported GOP demands for trillions in service cuts in exchange for raising the nation's debt ceiling, one had to wonder whether the duo had in fact been summoned by their masters to be excoriated on the plush floor treatments of corporate penthouses.
The nation's $14 trillion debt ceiling must be raised after May 16 or the US will eventually be forced to default on maturing debt obligations. Such an event would send global bond markets into chaos, and many an aforementioned Wall Street tycoon hurling himself off of high parapets.
Raising the debt ceiling is normally a pro forma event, but Republican pols are intent on holding the vote hostage to their radical ideological demands. Boehner told the Economics Club of New York Monday evening that the GOP would seek trillions in cuts to vital services and citizen entitlements, carving up everything from health care, aide to the poor and elderly, environmental protection, and oversight of business and industry. Boehner said Republicans would demand more in cuts than the amount the ceiling would be raised.
While plutocrats and big money tycoons normally relish slashing services so they could gobble up the savings in tax windfalls, they get nervous when the debt ceiling is leveraged to do so. If there's one thing that gives any plutocrat palpitations, it's someone messing with their precious bond markets.
Thus, Boehner's pep talk drew rousing silence from his royal audience.
"Disconnected from reality," one well-heeled attendee was heard to say as he strode purposefully from the room.
"It was predictable," said another Wall Street exec. "I think it was posturing."
Cantor, who rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday, said he's been buoyed by the message he'd heard from Wall Street. Of course, one of his minions, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) had spun catcalls from haranguing town hall crowds dissing his move to abolish Medicare as "overwhelmingly supportive."
Ryan's move to bust Medicare didn't make the cut when House Ways and Means Chair David Camp (R-MI) said he had, "no interest in bringing up House Republicans' proposal to replace Medicare with subsidies for private insurance" while working out funding for the GOP budget bid.
Likewise, Cantor's spin might require the perspective of context. When a vassal is called on the carpet by his sovereign, he says, "Milord is gracious and wise," whatever expletives milord might hurl his way.
Having tanked the global economy, trashed the real estate market, and runs up trillions in debt putting two wars on the nation's credit card, Republicans have suddenly gotten religion and can't say two sentences without whining about budget shortfalls, deficits and debt. Their avowed goal of destroying the Obama presidency has nothing to do with it, they piously proclaim. That the two sentences these debt rants interrupt are, "More tax cuts for the wealthy," and "More service cuts for everyone else" is a remarkable development in a pony whose repertoire consisted of the one trickle-down trick.
Even while claiming to seek debt reduction, Republicans still managed to call for another 10% tax break for their wealthy masters, and still managed to dig their heels in against ending subsidies to oil moguls. Ryan's GOP budget proposal sought to slash the top income tax tier from 35% to 25%. While busting Medicare didn't make the grade, the tax cuts are still in there.
Furthermore, Boehner and company had denounced ending billions in oil company subsidies as a "tax hike."
Any attempt to end any subsidy to well-heeled cronies is a "tax hike," according to Republicans. A bipartisan effort to end ethanol subsidies by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) has been attacked by the GOP's extremist tax iman Grover Norquist as a tax hike on corn growers.
Whoa there, cowboy. If ending $6 billion in subsidies to corn growers is a tax hike, just as ending $4 billion in subsidies to oil companies is a tax hike, then, surely, ending trillions of dollars of investments in education, health care, research, oversight, elder care, infrastructure, disaster preparedness, first responders, and child development are certainly all tax hikes.
In fact, looking at it that way, Republicans have spent thirty years jamming through the biggest tax hikes in history, crippling Americans' ability to live, work, raise families and grow an economy.
Republicans actually mean giving money away to their rich cronies is okay, but supporting ordinary Americans isn't okay.
Which brings us back to John and Eric's excellent New York adventure. For weeks, all the big time plutocrats, from the US Chamber of Commerce to the gentry gathered around the Economics Club, have warned against playing chicken with the debt ceiling lest something Really Awful happens to all those platinum-plated portfolios. Despite protests to the contrary, GOP pols don't come out of the bathroom without a note from those august personages, The People Who Count.
President Barack Obama should demand a "clean" bill to raise the debt ceiling by the $2 billion the government needs to keep functioning and keep its obligations on dough we already owe. Even former GOP Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill - the Bush cabinet guy, not the Yankee ballplayer - likened debt ceiling hostage takers with al Qaeda terrorists.
At least Obama knew what to do with the head of al Qaeda.