Posts tagged ‘debt ceiling’...
Aug 1, 2011 @ 5:44 PM
As I sit down to type, a bunch of incredibly irritating people in power suits are crowding inside a large, neoclassical building in a very humid city to vote on something that I’ve talked about a few times on here. If you’ve been reading, you know what I’m referring to. If you live not under a rock, you know what I’m referring to. This is — or at least appears to be — the final act of one of the worst displays of political theatre in recent history: the great debt ceiling debate.
In my first post on this topic, I introduced some historical context for readers who happened to be unfamiliar with the debt and deficit situation, and I also doled out a generous helping of criticism to both Democrats and Republicans for their senseless political posturing around this issue. I extended these criticisms in my second post, but this time I came down harder on the GOP and, specifically, their orange-faced pack leader John Bo[eh]ner. As this ridiculous affair winds down to its final moments I can say that I still stand by these opinions, but I was wrong about one major thing:
None of it actually matters.
This realization was the product of time, a fair amount of Paul Krugman columns and conversations with enlightened friends, but it really is true. I was duped along with the rest of the country into thinking that the debt ceiling was a crisis of biblical proportions, and that the very survival of our nation depended upon its expedient resolution. But this just isn’t the case. As I’ve read and watched more coverage — coverage that, of course, has only intensified with the approach of the August 2 “deadline” — it dawned on me that this was and is nothing more than a skillfully executed manipulation of the American people. The purpose of it? To ignite a fear-driven media storm and achieve a desired political outcome, obviously. After years of paying attention to Washington, I should have seen this coming a mile away but, alas, I was fooled. I feel cheap. And a little cold.
Another factor worth acknowledging is the utterly inane predictability with which this whole debacle has played out. Not to toot my own horn (now you know I’m going to toot it), but I alluded to this idea in an earlier writing on the subject. Basically what I said is that the assholes in D.C. would bicker back and forth until the very last minute, and then all of a sudden POW!, we would have a deal. And that’s exactly what happened. The difference, though, is that I no longer hold the matter in such high regard. I see now that the debt ceiling was always going to be raised, and that even if it wasn’t, it never represented a real problem. The real problems, as Krugman and an alarmingly small group of others have pointed out, are things like mass unemployment, an anemic economic recovery, the faltering real estate market and a crumbling national infrastructure, to name just a few. Yeah, we’re in over our heads financially, but we have been since the Mayflower. I agree that spending should be reduced, but not now. We never should have spent so much money in the first place but, like idiots, we did, and now with the new debt ceiling bill and its associated cuts we run the risk of making a bad fiscal situation even worse.
The part that’s really going to chafe my knickers will be the inevitable declarations of victory on both sides of the aisle once this sideshow finally does conclude. Whereas yesterday there were cries of unbridled panic, tomorrow there will be jingoistic, “make no mistake” speeches that affirm the resolve of our great nation and its highly capable leaders. President Wet Noodle Obama will once again stand at the podium in the White House Hall of Mirrors & Dreams or whatever it’s called and say that we accomplished the impossible, rising above petty politics to do what’s right for future generations. Boehner and his cronies will head to the nearest spray tan emporium and toast each other with gin fizzes. Hillary will mutter grudgingly under her breath at 35,000 feet somewhere over sub-Saharan Africa. Biden, as usual, will be in the throes of an intense catnap and have to be briefed on the whole thing in the morning.
The truth, though, is that not a single member of the U.S. government deserves credit for this farce, and I couldn’t be more bewildered by or ashamed of the antics that now seem to spring from our nation’s capital like Athena from the head of Zeus. The parameters of the bill that is in the process of passage remain appropriately nebulous, but some things are clear: it’s a coup for the intransigent Republicans and a gigantic step backward for this very sad land. As a handful of seemingly rogue economists and other scholars have predicted, this piece of legislation threatens to turn back the clock on our recovery much more so than a default would have. By dawn, world markets will have spiked and many Americans will again sing hymns of god and country, but there’s nothing to be proud of in the wake of all this silliness. While I may have been wrong about the scope of the debt debate, it was still a major test of our leaders’ priorities and their willingness to actively transcend personal interests in pursuit of a greater good.
And make no mistake — they failed.
Jul 22, 2011 @ 11:38 PM
With only ten days left until the Treasury deadline of August 2, the clown car that is Washington continues to speed us all toward financial oblivion. Recent negotiations on the debt ceiling, already imperiled by bipartisan posturing, were dealt a major blow today as Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) decided to excuse himself from talks and cut out the middleman. The problem here is that the middleman is the president of the United States. And then of course there’s the other problem, which is that we’re completely screwed unless these fools can come up with a workable plan in the next week or so.
And yes — in the end they probably will figure something out. I’ve been following this ridiculous story for months, and I’ve only been confident of two things all along: 1) That it was going to become a last-minute problem, even though both parties had ample time to find a solution & 2) That, ultimately, after lots of unnecessary panic and blame-hurling, the government would get it together at the very last minute and pass some sort of feeble legislation to bypass fiscal Armageddon. Blah blah blah.
I’m less miffed by the potential outcome of debt default than I am by the fact that eleventh hour solutions have become the norm in this country. We saw this silliness with the near government shutdown a few months ago, and everybody was panicking then, too. At the end of that harrowing day, Uncle Sam’s general store stayed open for business, and now the whole debacle is nothing more than a distant memory (for most of us). There’s a good chance that this debt brouhaha will go the same way. Of course, there’s always the chance, however small, that it won’t. That would be a very, very bad situation.
For me, though, the truly interesting part of this debate has been the insider’s look it’s provided into modern American politics — the key players, their respective personalities and, above all, how our government has effectively ceased to function. It goes without saying that the history of our bipartisan system has always been tainted with caustic disagreements, threats and ideological stalemates, but we’ve now reached something of an event horizon. If you happened to read my earlier post about the debt debate, you might remember that I levied a relatively equal amount of blame on both parties. The Democrats have, in my opinion, engaged in a fair amount of excessive and unnecessary spending matched only by their whining. And the Republican Party, despite being somewhat interesting back in the mid-19th century, has evolved into a group that pretty much has all the wrong ideas about everything. You add to this polarized circus a hot issue that demands immediate attention, and suddenly nobody gets anywhere. It’s both hilarious and terrifying.
As I watched a visibly angry President Obama deliver an evening press brief about Speaker Boehner’s decision to abandon debt negotiations, my “both sides are equally to blame for different reasons” stance began to shift a bit. I’ve been critical of Obama’s leadership since 2008, but for the first time it really dawned on me how intractable the Republicans have become, and how frustrating it must be to try and deal with a party whose ethos has become one of complete pigheadedness (that’s a real word, btw).
At the helm of this porcine ship of doom is a man whose demeanor and rhetoric offend me more and more each day. John Boehner, whose last name can’t possibly be pronounced “BAY-NER,” is, in my view, a very powerful and dangerous person who might just end up destroying America. At a time when we need creative, flexible leadership more than anything else — the kind of leadership that I believe Obama is at least trying to pursue — Boehner delivers exactly the opposite. In a letter to colleagues on Capitol Hill today, he mentioned that Republicans and Democrats maintain “different visions for our country,” and cited this as a principal reason behind the breakdown of their recent meetings.
Assuming that’s true, I’d actually love to know what his vision is. Is it one where elderly people who depend on their Social Security checks suddenly don’t have access to them? Or maybe it’s one where veterans who have risked their lives for this country lose their hard-earned benefits. Oh no, wait — I remember now. It must be one where the richest 1% of Americans gets away scot-free while the rest of us have to shoulder the burden of years of financial irresponsibility. This is what he must have been referring to when he erroneously declared that “tax increases destroy jobs.” Since when does that corollary hold? That’s like saying, “My name is pronounced ‘BAY-NER,’” and we all know that’s just another one of his vicious lies.
Clearly I’m a liberal, but I’ve been disillusioned with the dirty farce of politics for so long that I no longer know which party label to assign myself, or if I’m even comfortable having a label in the first place. What I do know is that obstinate, antiquated policies — the likes of which we’re seeing from Speaker Boehner and his Republican cohorts — simply cannot work at this critical juncture in U.S. history. The Democrats are no saints, but I do believe that they are trying, against all odds, to drive this ailing nation forward. Finger pointing, senseless pandering and childish disagreements will not solve this or any national problem, particularly one as egregious in scope as the debt ceiling. This is a time for acceptance of our past mistakes, which even the best of deals wouldn’t solve overnight, as well as a fresh and balanced approach to legislation that aims to get it right the next time around. It’s also a time for our generation to recognize that while we are doing the best we can to go about our lives amid challenging circumstances, our leadership continues to fail us. How long will we sit idly by and watch them place our futures in jeopardy?
Boehner gave his own press conference today (watch the video below), during which he spouted all manner of nonsensical bollox. Some of my favorite excerpts follow, with comments in brackets:
I wanna be entirely clear. No one wants to default on the full faith and credit of the United States government. [Hmm, so how come we're on the brink of doing exactly that?]
I’ve got the same responsibilities as the president of the United States. [This was especially enlightening because I had previously thought that there was only one American president at a time, but apparently this is not true. Thank you, Boehner.]
If the White House won’t get serious, we will. [Which is exactly what I said to your mother down by the wharf last night.]
Sometimes it’s good to back away from the tree and take a look at the forest. [...]
Dealing with the White House is like dealing with a bowl of Jell-O. [And you know what? Your last name is Boehner.]