This is the first posting in my Weekly Issue section of my blog. Every Saturday I plan on writing a piece giving my take on the largest or most pertinent issue in domestic politics. In each weekly posting I plan to give a general overview of the issue at large and then my take on the subject. At the end of every post I will include links to sites which I used when informing myself on the issues and from which I formed my opinion.
The most talked about issue in domestic politics this week is that of the federal debt ceiling and potential default of the USA. The basic facts of this issue are as such:
1) The US government has surpassed the present debt ceiling as of May this year and thus need to raise it in order to avoid default.
2) If we default, in addition to losing our AAA credit rating, we will see a rise in interest rates which will increase all of our debts (even a 1% rise = many billions of dollars). A default would also cause catastrophic cuts to vital services such as military salaries and entitlement programs.
3) In the past, debt ceiling votes have been largely symbolic because in reality it is simply a statement that we will pay for the things which we have already bought. 4) The unbelievable level of dysfunction in the federal government, particularly in the legislative branch has led to a stalemate and thus a lack of progress on the debt ceiling debate.
4) The final due date for the debt ceiling extension is August 2nd but legislation must be prepared earlier in order to be brought through the House, Senate, and White house.
My opinion on the debt ceiling issue is very simple; raise the damn debt ceiling before you create a completely engineered crisis and deal immense harm to the entire world economy. In my opinion, this entire debate should be moot because the debt ceiling is both unnecessary and completely illogical. The House holds the purse-strings of the federal government and such is able to decide funding for programs, but the debt ceiling exists independantly of the budget as an artificial cap on what the governement can spend. If you think about it in terms of the real world, the debt ceiling debate is akin to a group of people going to a resteraunt, eating a lot of food, and then refusing to pay the full bill because it costs more than they wanted to spend when the entered the resteraunt. The economics of running a government simply doesn't work in a manner consistant with such arbitrary spending limits. If the government "buys" something then it simply must pay for it even if it puts us over the debt ceiling. Even if you believe that there is wast in the system, you cannot simply not pay because you believe there is too much spending. I believe that there is waste in the government that can be cut, but pushing the country into default and destroying the full faith in credit of the USA is not the way to go about cutting.
In addition to the policy aspect of the debt ceiling there is a massive partisan politics component to the debt ceiling negotiations. Put plainly: What the hell has happened to the Washington politicians; the Republicans are going Kamikaze with the entire world economy stirring up a tempest out of nothing, and the Democrats are showing the spine of the average jellyfish. Even the most modest and moderate Republicans in Washington are making the John Birch society look well adjusted. House Republicans manufactured a crisis in order to push an agenda, but then the tea baggers got a deathgrip on the dept debate and the "mainstream" Republicans lost control of the issue. What began as an exercise to embarrass Obama and gain some right wing goodies for their votes has snowballed into a world economic crisis. Even John Boehner's right wing proposal required three tries to get out of the House where he is supposedly in control. Any bill extreme enough in the House is DOA in the Senate and would be vetoed by Obama anyway but similarly, any bill without extreme right wing provisions in it cannot pass the house. This situation is similar to those irritating bamboo finger cuffs where the herder you pull to either side, the tighter it gets in holding you. As with the cuffs, the only way to get out of them is to stop pulling to the sides and instead push towards the middle.
In my opinion the Ideal way to get out of the debate morass would be to pass a clean one sentence bill extending the debt limit (or abolishing it in the future, but suggesting that publicly would have the Republicans bringing the tar and the Democrats the feather and dunce cap). While the Republicans are wholly at fault for the creation of the debt crisis both in spending and in politics, the Democrats couldn't possibly have handled the situation worse.
The Democratic response to the Republican insanity in the debt crisis has been worse than if they just did nothing. Both by compromising on debt ceiling negotiations and not standing up and yelling "your policies and wars created the debt and now you want to skip out on the check". The Democrats should have come to the table and said on the first day "Whatever we agree to will not cut entitlement s because they have nothing to do with the debt, and tax increases for the rich and corporations will be matching any cuts we make". By gradually edging towards the Republicans, who refuse to budge, Democrats will always end up on the wrong side of the bargain. Ironically, polls show that the Democratic proposals have massive (>60%) support by the public but this is drowned out by the D.C. echo chamber. In addition to the policy debate, Democrats have utterly failed to pin the debt on the Republicans. Republican policy created the debt and Republicans still constantly blame Obama with no response from the other side. Taking the high road only works when the population isn't composed of sheeple who actually believe what Fox news spews out. Unless the Democrats fight back, the Republicans will always control the agenda.
Obama is either the worst negotiator in the history of politics or has a very intelligent agenda, but only after the final bell will we be able to figure out which is the truth. Throughout the debate, Obama has been taking the high road and refusing the involve himself in the animal-house that the negotiations have become. His proposal or "grand bargain" cut $4 trillion and included both tax cuts and entitlement cuts. In many ways his proposal was completely centrist, earning ire from just about everybody, but the plan could be a genius political ploy. By acting as the grownup and offering a balanced plan, Obama gets credit from the independents, and by offering the trillions in debt reduction, he attacks the Republicans from the right. If Obama predicted that the Republicans would shoot down the plan due to its tax aspect, he could project himself as more of a deficit cutter then the Republicans, willing to make a deal, and without actually having to cut any entitlements. In the coming election Obama can now say "I wanted to cut $4 trillion out of the deficit but the Republicans wanted to protect tax breaks for the jet owners and they wouldn't let me" every time the Republicans say that he is a big spender. Because the plan was never enacted Obama wouldn't suffer the political damage of being the one to cut social security or medicare while at the same time appearing to be a deficit cutter.
In the end, I predict one of two things will happen; either the Reid plan will be amended to include some Republican goodies and thus will pass the house and fix the debt crisis, or Obama will pull the 14th amendment card in the 11th hour thus evading the issue entirely. While I hope that Obama simply declares the debt ceiling unconstitutional and disposes of the entire issue without tying cutting spending to the debate, it would undoubtedly lead to a massive court case and possible impeachment. The legal challenges would probably die in the corporately controlled supreme court and a successful impeachment is unlikely because of the 14th amendment's wording, but the issue would be a huge distraction and likely would eat up time that we could use to work on our failing job market.
The Sarcastic Liberal