The big mess in Washington this week is over the controversy of whether to raise the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is a limit set by Congress limiting how much they can spend over what tax revenues and fees bring in. Of course, in reality it’s nothing more than a joke, since they have voted EVERY year for the past 10 years to raise it whenever they’ve needed to. So setting a limit might make them feel like they are being fiscally responsible, but the fact that they can vote to ignore that limit makes it meaningless anyway.
What’s different this year is that the Republicans, in their sudden conversion to being worried about the deficit, control the House of Representatives and have stated they will not vote to increase it, thus possibly causing a default on Federal obligations and an economic crisis, unless severe cuts in spending are attached to the vote.
But it’s really not about fiscal sanity. Believe me, I am a fiscal conservative and I believe the Federal government has to stop spending beyond its means. But what the Republicans are all about is political gain, and what will hurt President Obama. They couldn’t care less about the plight of the taxpayer, unless it’s their rich friends and campaign-contributing corporate donors, whom they’ve graced with tax cut after tax cut, regardless of the consequences of those cuts on the deficit.
Why do I say that? Because their hypocrisy is going way over the top. The four Republicans in congressional leadership positions; Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, are attempting to hold the increase hostage now, but the fact is they combined to vote for a debt limit increase 19 times during the presidency of George W. Bush. In doing so, they increased the debt limit by nearly $4 trillion.
So apparently it’s okay to raise the debt limit, as long as it’s a Republican in the White House. By the end of the Bush presidency, they had almost doubled the debt. So they weren’t against the debt limit when it served their party’s purpose.
Have Democrats engaged in this behavior as well? Yes, although not quite as drastically. And the Democrats at least tried to raise revenues to help alleviate the deficit. The Republicans raised hell and threatened to shut down the government if they didn’t get an agreement from the President to get tax cuts for the wealthy extended. These are the same tax cuts that accounted for approximately half of the exploding deficits during the Bush years. And that will add $4 trillion to the debt over the next decade, of which $700 billion will go to the richest two percent of Americans.
In fact, they propose cutting Medicare and assistance to the poor in order to allow for those tax cuts for the rich. I am in favor of lower taxes, but right now we can’t afford them. We need to get our fiscal house in order and then look at that idea.
Republicans just don’t get it. Poll after poll shows that Americans, even Tea Party members, are in favor of providing basic health care for our elderly through Medicare. They like Social Security as a safety net so that old people don’t end up living in poverty or begging on the street. And that they are willing to have the extremely wealthy pay the amount of taxes they paid in the ‘80s and ‘90s, before President Bush pushed through those tax cuts to help pay for those things.
When George W. Bush was President, Republicans voted to fight two wars whose ultimate cost will top $3 trillion. But raise the money to pay for them? Now way! They pushed through tax cuts. For the first time in modern American history, a U.S. President cut taxes during wartime. To help in his re-election campaign, the GOP enacted the $550 billion Medicare prescription drug benefit. Again, it just increased the deficit. There was no sign of any attempt to pay for that cost.
And our illustrious hypocrite friend John Boehner voted for all of it, as did most of the Republicans who are now claiming they are trying to save us by preventing an increase in the debt ceiling. If Boehner, or even just one of the Republicans now clamoring for fiscal sanity, had spoken up during the Bush years and protested what was being done, I might have some modicum of respect for their position. But they deserve no respect. They deserve only contempt.
When they put politics above governing, above helping friends with tax cuts, above putting the poor and elderly at risk, they cease to command respect. Of course, “We the people” have elected them, so we share in the blame. But they have so rigged the system that it’s nearly impossible to vote them out.
Polls also show that while the President has a somewhat low approval rating of 46 percent, Speaker Boehner has an approval rating of 32 percent. Yet he and his Republican cohorts only serve the party and the wealthy, and pay no mind to doing what’s right, let alone what the vast majority of Americans believe in.
Meanwhile, while our fearless leaders play these political games, there are real issues that go untouched. Gas prices are going through the roof, stymieing progress on economic recovery. American kids are dying in Afghanistan. Unemployment is at 9 percent. And yes, the deficit… how about coming up with a real plan, including tax increases, cuts and adjustments to entitlement programs, to deal with it seriously. Boehner previously stated it was time top have “an adult conversation” about the problem. Having the Republicans walk lockstep in arms with each other because there’s a Democrat in the White House is not serious problem solving.