By Joan Trossman Bien
Ringside Seats for Everyone
In this corner we have the undefeated champion, President Barack “No More Mr. Nice Guy” Obama. In the other corner is House Speaker John “I’ll Pull Your House Down Around Your Ears” Boehner.
Is this a fair fight? Not even a little. That’s because the Republicans are walking into the ring holding a knife to the neck of America. It’s the only way they know how to “negotiate.”
Republicans believe they are in a position of power and they could be right. Last time the titans battled in 2011, Obama conceded a future across-the-board ten percent cut of everything if no compromise could be reached. That translates to $1.2 trillion in civilian and defense budget cuts. Even though the cuts hurt nearly everyone, Republicans act as if the only ones who will suffer are Democrats.
Boehner: (referring to the threat of automatic cuts) “I got that in my back pocket… (that’s) about as much leverage as we’re going to get…I need this job like a hole in the head.”
Agreed. So leave.
Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ): “I campaigned on getting rid of the Departments of Education, Commerce, and Energy and this is the opportunity for conservatives to take up a battle that should have been fought long ago.”
Disgraced former politician Newt Gingrich: (boasting of his greatest moments during his glory days as House Speaker) “I helped close the government twice. It actually worked.”
The Making of an Artificial Crisis
What issue are these Republicans rallying around? They know the debt ceiling needs to be raised and they know that Democrats can’t do it alone. What would be so bad if the debt ceiling were not raised before the Treasury runs out of money?
In a letter to the president, twenty Democrats spoke of the consequences.
“Threatening default on our nation’s debt is an economic weapon of mass destruction that will have immediate and catastrophic consequences for the economy as well as America’s standing in the world,” the letter said.
Tying the debt ceiling to spending cuts shows a mind-boggling lack of understanding of both since a default would result in about a 40 percent cut in government services, according to The Atlantic, January 8, 2013. Spending cuts would not only be unnecessary, but impossible.
Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) said, “If there is the ultimate act of congressional irresponsibility by having the United States default on its obligations, we encourage the president to rescue the country.”
How would that be possible? Democrats pointed to a phrase in the 14th Amendment stating, “the validity of the public debt of the United States…shall not be questioned.”
Democrats believe that, in a crisis such as the one being created by the Republicans, the president would have the executive power to raise the debt limit by himself. The courts can sort it all out later.
This faux fight is pushing Congress to extreme remedies so as to avoid an extreme financial free fall. That’s why you should really care about this battle and whether the Republicans will try to make good on their threat to get their way or else shut down the government.
Historically, raising the debt ceiling has been a routine device. A few meetings, a couple of votes, and it was done. In fact, the debt ceiling has been raised 79 times since 1960, regardless of the political party in power. Obama was exactly right when he said “One thing I will not compromise over is whether or not Congress should pay the tab for a bill they’ve already racked up.”
Let me repeat that. The debt ceiling needs to be raised to pay for money Congress has already spent. The spending cuts address the future. Two different things. Without that understanding, and clearly the Tea Party doesn’t give a fig for the relevant facts or the consequences of their ignorance, most Americans could be looking at personal financial disaster.
Of course, members of Congress are offering to personally give up sweet nothing in this fight. Instead, they are volunteering the American public to sacrifice the very things that make freedom and life here so special. Some will even be forced into poverty. But the members of Congress? Not one thing will be taken from them. Tin soldiers like the Tea Party and their prisoners of war, the Republicans, are very brave when it comes to having someone else serve as wartime collateral.
Time to speak out, people. Crank it up even louder than the Tea Party. There are a lot more of us than there are of them. Become an expert in all things constitutional as well as the meaning and purpose of national debt, as opposed to the national deficit. Two. Different. Things.
Now you know a lot more than everyone in the Tea Party put together times one hundred.
Just in case the Democrats fail to overcome this mass stupidity and institutionalized extortion, I know exactly where to find the money to make the government smaller, just like the Republicans are demanding. Retroactive to 2011 when the deal with the devil was sealed, we take all of the income, all of the health insurance, restaurant discounts, free travel, free tickets to sports and theater, free parking, travel allowances, housing allowances, travel allowances, and tax breaks from every politician who votes to reduce the entitlement programs in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. It’s a start.
Additionally, for every day that the lawmakers fail to produce a compromise and agreement, everyone in Congress will forfeit one month’s salary. If they are delinquent for more than three days, they would lose their lifetime health club privileges.
Now that would get their attention.
Joan Trossman Bien has been writing news most of her professional life. She started writing as an intern at KNX Newsradio and wrote as a freelancer at nearly every television station in Los Angeles. She graduated from law school in 2004. At present, she is a regular writer for cover features at the Ventura County Reporter and Pasadena Weekly. She enjoys writing about an array of topics including health care, politics, women’s issues, and social justice. Bien lives with her journalist husband in Ventura County. They have one grown daughter who is also a journalist. Bien hales from Glencoe, Ill., a small suburb outside Chicago.