Wednesday, July 13, 2011

McConnell's Debt Hike End Around Kicks Deficit Reduction Down Road

A day after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suddenly morphed into the Tom Cruise guy from Valkyrie and basically offered to give President Barack Obama the "clean" debt ceiling hike everyone should have agreed to months ago, and a day-and-a-half after the US Chamber of Commerce sent Congress a message wrapped in a blanket with a horse's head telling them to raise the debt ceiling, now, or sleep with the fishes, all the actors continued to hem and haw and storm out of meetings and generally pretend that tense, serious negotiations to cut spending and to get a handle on the nation's $14.3 trillion debt were still ongoing.

Giddy House Republicans had been on the verge of destroying America and plunging the global financial markets into catastropic cascade failure when US Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue Monday said, "We've got a few days to fix this debt, or we're going to be running around with very serious problems."

No one should assume that "we" meant some generalized collective plural, a drift McConnell doubtless caught, prompting him to examine the maniacal Republican agenda of wanton destruction and make like Colonel Claus Von Stauffenberg. Von Stauffenberg tried to save Germany by turning against the Nazis and assassinating Adolf Hitler.

And, as House Republicans continued to remain smugly intransigent on raising even the most modest taxes on even the richest, most privileged plutocrats because they'd all Pledged as much to their guru, snake-oil selling gnome Grover Norquist, McConnell's double-fake handoff end-around to short circuit the legal requirement of voting to raise the nation's spending limit appeared it would most certainly form the basis for moving forward.

In McConnell's plan, the President would ask Congress to raise the nation's debt ceiling, and, instead of having Congress vote to approve the debt hike, Congress would vote to disapprove the debt hike. Then, all the President would have to do is veto Congress' denial. Since Congress wouldn't be able to muster the two-thirds vote needed to override the Presidential veto, the debt hike would prevail.

McConnell's solution had the advantage of featuring all of Washington's favorite ruses: it was arcane, convoluted, and, on the matter of reducing the nation's debt, kicked the football down the road.

Despite all the whining to the contrary, Republicans clearly never really cared about reducing the nation's debts and closing the nation's budget shortfalls. If they had, they wouldn't have spent thirty years giving rich folks all those tax breaks that caused the problem in the first place. When Republicans said they wouldn't raise the debt ceiling unless Obama cut trillions in spending and reduced the deficit, they were probably taken aback when all Obama would talk about was cutting trillions in spending and reducing the deficit.

"Given a choice between a bad deal and avoiding default, I choose to avoid default," McConnell said, all thoughts of deficit reduction forgotten.

All but 20% of Americans wanted to address deficit reduction with some combination of spending cuts and raising taxes, a new Gallup poll revealed today. House Republicans remained solidly among the 20% who wanted to reduce the deficit with spending cuts alone, if they indeed cared about deficits at all. There was deep suspicion in some circles they only really cared about shameless self-promotion and wanton destruction.

Unless Congress and the President can get together and raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2, the federal government will no longer be able to fund operations, pay existing obligations, or send out any of the 55 million Social Security checks slated to hit the mailroom Aug. 3.

Moody's, the moody Wall Street bond rating agency, was not optimistic, and announced Wednesday it was putting the nation's credit rating on review for a downgrade. In other words, regarding that global financial cascade failure, the proverbial overweight soprano was spraying her throat and singing scales in her dressing room.

McConnell had offered his plan as a last-ditch, emergency fall back option, primarily because the nation was in a last-ditch, emergency situation.

"I strongly support Sen. McConnell's efforts to avoid a default on our nation's debt, and the last-case emergency proposal he outlined yesterday to ensure that Republicans aren't unduly blamed for failure to raise the debt ceiling," said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), understanding the proposal would also ensure Republicans wouldn't properly be blamed for same.

"Everybody believes there needs to be a backup plan if we are unable to come to an agreement," House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said soberly, "I think Mitch has done good work."

Except, of course, not everybody believed a backup plan was needed.

"Currently, there is not a single debt limit proposal that can pass the House of Representatives," shrieked Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), drunk with power and giddily basking in the media spotlight. Cantor openly taunted Obama in Wednesday's talks, and, being the spoiled frat brat he is, boasted about raising the President's ire.

The question remained whether Boehner, even with whipping, could muster the thirty or forty votes he'd need to get McConnell's scheme through the House. Perhaps if he used real whips. Cat-o-nine-tails. Barbed wire flails. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) looked amenable to McConnell's plan, clearing the way for something on the order of her 193 Democratic votes. "What leader McConnell put on the table recognizes we must... lift the debt ceiling. So, it has that merit..."

But, Cantor and his lunatic House Tea Party zealots remained intransigent.

"It's time for tough love!" Michele Bachmann (R-MN) grandstanded before cheering sycophants. Bachmann declared she wouldn't vote to raise the debt ceiling and wasn't worried about the nation defaulting on its obligations, possibly because she was rich and figured any global fiscal meltdown wouldn't include her.

"Now is not the time to retreat! Now is the time to reload!" cackled Sarah Palin on Fox News, meaning in her characteristic hillbillyesque way that she too, wouldn't vote to raise the debt ceiling, had she been entrusted with any sort of elected office, which she wasn't. "So this plan of McConnell's, I think, makes no sense!"

Obama determined he and congressional leaders must decide by Friday, July 15 what direction they should take, probably meaning everyone will posture and pose and rant and rave of a couple more days before attempting McConnell's version of Operation Valkyrie. Whether McConnell's plan works remains to be seen, although ancient Mayan astrologers apparently gave the plan a disappointing 16-1 against and scheduled the end of the Age of Humanity eighteen months hence.

And, of course, in 1944, Colonel Von Stauffenberg himself ended up standing in front of a bullet-pocked wall with a blindfold and a cigarette. On July 21.

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