In Honor of the End of the Stupidest Debate in American History

This entire debt ceiling debate has been ludicrous at best. Nearly everyone in Congress knew – and agreed – that the debt ceiling must be raised. And somehow the GOP had the gumption to say “In order for us all to do what we know is necessary, I want you to give me something in return.” And everyone else somehow bought into it. And that was how the most useless “debate” was born. Early in the discussion I began to tune out. It was such a charade of government, and everything that I felt was important to our government was being hacked to shreds. And that’s just about the limit to the amount of my own thought I want to put to this. However, a number of people have said things that I either agree with or find informative. For your reading pleasure…

Raising the Debt Ceiling, by the Numbers:

The GOP is taking the burden of the majority – raising the debt ceiling – and putting it on the Democrats.

You shouldn’t be surprised at who voted for the increase in 2003 and who want compromises for it now? Hint – a lot of them are the same.

And who voted for this extension, covering the nation until after the next election cycle? In the House, Eric Cantor was one of 216 members to vote to raise the debt ceiling. In the Senate, 53 Republicans approved the same move, 20 of whom who are still in the chamber, including Mitch McConnell, Jon Kyl, John Cornyn, John McCain, Orrin Hatch, and Dick Lugar. In fact,every Republican senator who was serving then and still serving now voted for this increase to raise the limit beyond the 2004 race.

This week, however, Republican leaders — in many instances, literally the same individuals — are insisting that there be two separate votes, andaccusing anyone who says otherwise of caring more about campaign politics than national stability.

Did federal spending really go up under Obama? Not if you look at any statistics other than percentage of GDP.

The Republican presidency has been notorious for raising the debt ceiling, far outpacing Democrats.

President Ronald Reagan outstrips all other executives to date, increasing the debt ceiling by 199.5 percent during his eight years in office. He is followed by President George W. Bush, Jr. at a 90.2 percent increase over eight years and by President George H. Bush, Sr. at a 48.0 percent increase over only four years in office.

Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, on the other hand, have only raised the debt ceiling by 43.6 and 26.3 percent, respectively. It remains to be seen whether or not Congress will reach a compromise and pass legislation to increase the statutory limit again by the Aug. 2 deadline issued by the U.S. Treasury. Even if Congress does pass the proposed $2.4-trillion increase, Obama will still be looking at a total increase of 47.5 percent over his first term — less than half of the increase that Reagan oversaw during his first four years.

On What’s Wrong with this Debate:

Jeffrey Sachs says that “every part of the budget debate in the U.S. is built on a tissue of willful deceit”, and provides a few thorough examples, with this as a wrap-up:

Who runs America today? The rich and the multinational corporations. Who runs the White House? David Plouffe, whose job it is to make sure that ever word, every action of the president is calculated for electoral gain rather than the country’s needs. Who runs the Congress, on both sides of the aisle? The lobbyists, who win in every negotiation. And who loses? The American people, who have said repeatedly that they want a budget that sharply cuts the military, ends the wars, raises taxes on the rich, protects the poor and the middle class, and invests in America’s future not just in Obama’s speeches but in fact.

Timothy Burke explains how The Tea Party isn’t looking for a compromise:

In a nutshell, what’s going on is something that hasn’t happened in American politics for 50 years: an ideologically coherent social movement with clear political aspirations has taken shape out of murkier antecedents and disparate tributaries and at least for the moment, it has a very tight hold on the political officials that it has elected. The movement is not interested in the spoils system, its representatives can’t be quickly seduced into playing the usual games. And the movement’s primary objective is to demolish existing governmental and civic institutions. They’ve grown tired of waiting for government to be small enough to drown in a bathtub, so they’re setting out with battleaxes and dynamite instead.

Social movements that aren’t just setting out to secure legal protection and resources for their constituency, but are instead driven to pursue profound sociopolitical transformations are unfamiliar enough. What makes this moment even more difficult to grasp in terms of the conventional wisdom of pundits is that this isn’t a movement that speaks a language of inclusion, hope, reform, innovation or progress. It speaks instead about restoration of power to those who once held it, the tearing down of existing structures, about undoing what’s been done. This movement is at war with its social and institutional enemies: it has nothing to offer them except to inflict upon them the marginalization that the members of the movement imagine they themselves have suffered.

Even the left, whatever that might be, is having a hard time bending its head around the situation, because for decades it has been accustomed to thinking of organizations on the right as fringes or cults that need to be monitored or controlled, or watched for their infiltration of legitimate politics. It’s very true that the Tea Party and its cognate organizations are not by any means a majority of the electorate, but the point is that they’re a very coherent plurality that can win majorities in enough districts and localities to block votes and prevent business as usual, and that preventing business as usual is a political objective in its own right for them, not just a means to some other end.

Why you shouldn’t compare a nation’s budget to that of a family– hint they’re not the same. Also with a theory on wealth redistribution versus deficit spending as the cure for economic woes.

For one thing, within most families, communism prevails: the rule governing money is, From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs. For better or worse, this doesn’t happen to be the rule governing money in America at large. Also, within most families, money is not exchanged for labor. In a pedagogical, largely symbolic way, Jimmy may be given $2 a week in exchange for taking out the garbage. But the person who cooks and cleans does not clock his hours; the children do not buy their dinners. The exchange of labor and goods within a family is for the most part unmeasured and invisible, and it makes more sense to understand a family as a group of people functioning a single economic agent. If the sort of thing that brings a family from debt to prosperity also helps a nation, it’s logical coincidence.

What’s in the Deal, Anyways?

The New York Times has a graphic on how the debt plan will work.

The Washington Post has highlights, including who-gave-what.

One thing that’s come out of the deal, is that taking the economy hostage has become a viable negotiating tactic.

And of course Mitch McConnell proves this.

How is Everyone Responding?

For starters, there’s nothing to celebrate anyways.

Glenn Greenwald on how Democrats think they can mistreat liberals and still win, and also rub it in the Left’s face. The point behind this post is what has been making me so angry with the Party.

Timothy Burke (again!) explains why he compared Obama to Buchanan.

Juan Cole is pretty convinced that this debt crisis has been in the works for years, and he explains it here:

The budget was being balanced by Clinton in the late 1990s, and the Republicans were the ones who created long-term structural deficits by slashing taxes on the wealthiest Americans (even Bush argued with Cheney over the second cut), by an unfunded prescription drug give-away to get votes from the medicare crowd, and by two unfunded wars, one of them illegal in international law.

The reason that the Republicans deliberately destroyed the balanced budget and created unprecedented government debt was precisely in hopes that at some point they could use the debt as an excuse to destroy social security, medicare, and myriads of educational and health programs. They represent rich people, and the rich don’t want to be having to bear their fair share of the national burden. What better way to get out of having to pay those pesky taxes than making sure the government doesn’t do anything for anyone but the rich.

So everything unfolding in Washington was planned out in a room in 2001, and is going according to plan.

This plan is the clearest example of the new, austerity-obsessed Democratic Party full of politicians who are trying to outdo fiscal conservatives at the game.

“Our plan includes more cuts,” Chuck Schumer bragged at a news conference on Capitol Hill yesterday when comparing Harry Reid’s debt plan to John Boehner’s.

The fact that Senate Democrats are trying to out-cut the cut-obsessed Republicans pretty much sums up the current political debate in Washington. “Harry Reid’s plan wins the austerity sweepstakes,” Adam Serwer wrote yesterday. “It’s the austerity party vs. the austerity party,” blogger Atrios tweeted.

President Obama has actively shifted the debt debate to the right, both substantively and rhetorically. Substantively by not insisting on a “clean bill” to raise the debt ceiling at the outset and actively pushing for drastic spending cuts and changes to entitlement programs as part of any deal. And rhetorically by mimicking right-wing arguments about the economy, such as the canard that reducing spending will create jobs (it won’t), or that the government’s budget is like a family’s budget (it isn’t), or that major spending cuts will return confidence to the market and spur the economy recovery we’ve all been waiting for (Paul Krugman calls it “the confidence fairy”).

Labor economists agree – this deal won’t help unemployment.

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