Monday, July 11, 2011

In Debt Ceiling Debacle, Heads Or Tails, Republicans Win And America Loses

It is crunch time in the struggle to raise the nation's debt ceiling, and President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats have for weeks been desperately trying to save the nation as gleeful Republicans watched and taunted.

Whatever the outcome, the Republicans' unconscionable holding of the nation's debt ceiling hostage to their demands for ever greater tax subsidies for the wealthy has already won them history's greatest victory of evil over good.

Where Hitler and Hirohito failed, Republicans prevailed. What Bin Laden only dreamed, Republicans achieved.

If Republicans block raising the debt ceiling, America will collapse into dysfunction and financial ruin. If Republicans permit raising the debt ceiling, the multi-trillion dollar cost of their tax subsidies for the ultra wealthy will strangle the nation and transform it into a devastated plutocracy whose impoverished masses roam a toxic wasteland without health care, food, education or hope for the future.

To secure a debt ceiling agreement, Obama and the Democrats have desperately sacrificed every program vital to the needs of the American people, but Republicans have gleefully obstructed the most modest revenue reforms needed to close the gap. Republicans will not countenance even adjusting the depreciation rates of the wealthy's corporate jets.

"Part of what the Republican caucus needs to recognize is that American democracy works when people listen to each other," Obama said Monday. "We assume the patriotism and good intentions of the other side, and we're willing to make some sensible compromises to solve big problems. And I think there are members of that caucus who haven't fully arrived at that realization yet."

Paul O'Neill, President George W. Bush's Treasury Secretary and no tie-dye wearing new-age tofu-eater, was not so sanguine. He described those refusing to raise the debt ceiling as, "a form of Al-Qaeda terrorists."

As Republicans doubtless snickered at Obama's credulity, their guru Grover Norquist, who'd vowed to drown America in a bathtub, was running the taps and rummaging for the Mr. Bubble.

Republicans know unless the federal government's debt ceiling is raised, the United States will be unable to fund its operations, send out Social Security or Medicare checks, or pay its existing obligations. If the debt ceiling isn't raised by the Aug. 2 deadline announced by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the government will not be able to pay 44% of its bills, according to an exhaustive report from the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center, an outfit founded by the likes of Republicans Howard Baker and Bob Dole, and Democrats Tom Daschle and George Mitchell.

But, even if Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) somehow come to an agreement and raise the debt ceiling, catastrophe will not be averted.

To assuage Republican greed, Obama has offered anywhere from $2 trillion to $3 trillion in spending cuts at a time when the American economy has been on life-support, and the American government has been the consumer of last resort.

Any agreement to raise the debt ceiling will come at the expense of all but the richest, most privileged transnational plutocrats, for whom the trillions in spending cuts is, effectively, a tax subsidy. Any agreement to raise the debt ceiling will choke off any semblance of an economic recovery, curtail oversight and regulation of banks and financial institutions, eliminate protections for clean air and water, kill disaster preparedness, scientific research and new technologies, virtually eliminate funding for education, and dismantle health care for the poor, infirm, children, and veterans.

No wonder Republicans are giddy with joy.

Should the debt ceiling not be raised by Aug. 2, the government will likely have only $12 billion on hand to cover the $23 billion worth of Social Security checks and $9 billion worth of other bills due Aug. 3.

Should the debt ceiling not be raised by Aug. 2, the prospect of a government default would certainly precipitate a catastrophic cascade failure throughout the global financial markets, crashing the world economy.

But, even if the debt ceiling is raised, the ensuing choking off of federal funding would slowly, inexorably grind the American economy into the depths of a decades-long recessionary malaise and leave the American people without safety nets, services or even the rule of law. Even if the debt ceiling is raised, the slow collapse of the world's largest economy will plunge the world into an economic depression and catastrophic cascade failure of banks and markets worldwide.

After the Republican-engineered economic meltdown and global credit crunch of 2008, Republicans hamstrung the Obama Administration's economic stimulus. As prominent economists warned at the time, the stimulus was insufficient to meet the challenge of the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression. Republicans would not permit enough spending to kick-start the recovery. Much of the so-called stimulus was in the form of tax cuts much-loved by Republicans, and Democrats managed to scrape together only paltry aid to impoverished families and a few dollars to state and local governments already reeling from decades of Republican parsimony. The rest of the stimulus was in the form of loans to mega-corporations and jiggering interest transactions.

Now, the effects of that meager stimulus are tailing off, and Republicans gloat that the effort, which they strangled from its birth, hadn't worked. The mild economic expansion, mostly enjoyed by those mega-corporations who took advantage of loans, tax breaks, and tax-free oversees profiteering, is petering out.

All the while, Republicans have screamed and harassed Americans for ever greater tax breaks for the rich, and ever greater subsidies for their cronies.

"The American people will not accept, and the House cannot pass, a bill that raises taxes on job creators," Boehner said Monday. Despite Republican lies, the mega-corporations that apparently comprise the totality of Boehner's "American people" are already sitting on a $2 trillion cash horde and aren't planning on hiring anyone not named Rajeev any time soon. Despite Republican lies, more tax breaks for mega-corporations have not created American jobs in thirty years, and will not create American jobs now.

The real America people, whose existence Boehner and Capitol Hill Republicans completely discount, overwhelmingly support raising taxes on the rich to confront the nation's critical revenue crisis. Polling has revealed that 72% of Americans believed that, to reduce the nation's debt, taxes should be raised on those making more than $250,000 a year.

Republicans have screamed and harassed Americans for ever greater spending cuts in the name of balancing budgets and reducing deficits. Despite Republican lies, Republicans have never cared about balancing budgets or cutting waste. Republicans blithely started two wars just to hand billions of taxpayer dollars every month to Dick Cheney's Halliburton Corporation, and created today's trillions of dollars of debt with tax giveaways to themselves and their wealthy cronies. Despite Tea Party lies, Tea Party legislators devour millions of dollars in pork barrel spending while demanding the elimination of health care for veterans, the elderly, the poor and the infirm.

Tea Party frontrunner Michele Bachmann (R-MN) wanted $700 million for a bridge to nowhere through the middle of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway; Tea Party denizen Allen West (R-FL) gobbled up $21 million for a second runway at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood airport to accommodate projectile-vomiting frat boys and topless co-eds; Tea Party minion Stephen Fincher (R-TN) extorted $13 million for a new Mississippi River port so far out in the boonies it was 28 miles to the nearest rail line.

Some Republicans doubtless want to avenge the South's defeat in the Civil War: Neo-Confederates, an important Republican constituency, crow that "Appomattox was half time." Some Republicans doubtless want to subjugate and brutalize people of color, and need to curtail federal authority so they can expand racist laws like those they've enacted in Arizona, Georgia and Alabama: President Jimmy Carter called the Tea Party "racists."

And, some Republicans are doubtlessly just short-sighted snake oil salesmen who'd do anything for a buck and the patronage of a wealthy sponsor.

As for the patriotism of today's Republican pols, Paul O'Neill's pragmatism doubtless strikes closer to the mark than Obama's idealism.

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