Jul 30th 2011

Enough! Pass A Clean Debt Ceiling Increase

by Robert Creamer

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book: "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win," available on amazon.com.
Enough already. Time for Congress to pass a clean debt ceiling increase in order to avoid default - the same way it did repeatedly during the Reagan and Bush years.

It's time for Congress to act simply and responsibly to avoid the prospect that millions of American families won't get their Social Security checks, or their veterans' benefits, or their military pay. It's time to end the prospect that interests rates on credit cards and car loans and mortgages will rise and take hundreds of millions of additional dollars out of consumer's pockets.
It's time for Congress to end the three-ring circus that the Republicans created by electing to hold the debt-ceiling hostage in order to promote their right wing ideological agenda.

And if the Republicans in Congress are too reckless and irresponsible to do it, the President should seriously consider using his powers under the 14
thAmendment to avoid default and borrow the money we need in order to honor the obligations that Congress has already authorized.

As the debt ceiling saga builds to a conclusion Tuesday there are three facts you should remember:

Fact #1. The Democratic Reid Bill to raise the debt ceiling meets exactly the conditions the Republicans originally elaborated when they set this off this crisis by demanding that any increase in the debt ceiling be accompanied by a comparable reduction of spending over the next ten years. Reid increases the debt ceiling by $2.4 billion and identifies reduced spending of $2.7 billion. And - to the consternation of most Democrats- his bill meets another Republican condition. It doesn't reduce the deficit by increasing revenue from the wealthy.
You'd think that would be enough for the Republicans since they originally set those two requirements as benchmarks. But the Republicans have so far said no.

Why you ask? Two reasons.

In fact the Republicans want to precipitate another debt-ceiling crisis between now and the election because they think it will cause political problems for the President (in this, by the way, I think they are wrong).

Second, they want to use another debt ceiling crisis to force passage of their proposals to eliminate Medicare and replace it with a voucher for private insurance companies, to slash Social Security - and to lock in tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires by changing the Constitution to require a two-thirds vote to raise any tax.

The Republicans are like hostage takers who agree to release the hostage now if you pay part of the ransom, as long as you agree that they can take the hostage back into captivity in three months so they can demand more.

If they get their way, business and investor confidence will drop - which will cost even more jobs. And their antics would gobble up all the political oxygen in Washington and prevent a serious debate over the number one concern of the American people: job creation.

Fact #2: This is a manufactured economic crisis. Up until today investors around the world have been happy to loan money to the United States Treasury at record low interest rates because they think it is the safest investment around. America is not Greece on the brink of bankruptcy. That is sheer fantasy.

If we default on America's obligations it will be because the Republicans in Congress irresponsibly refused to pay our bills - not that we don't have the ability to do so. People who don't pay their bills because they are broke create problems for their creditors - but they aren't bad people. People who refuse to pay their bills even though they have the ability to pay are completely different.

That would go for people like Republican Congressman Joe Walsh who has been the leader of the Tea Party faction of the Republican Caucus - demanding "fiscal responsibility." But it turns out he himself hasn't been so responsible. While fathers who fall behind in their child support payments because they have no job create a huge problem for their former wives and children -- fathers who owe huge sums in back child support and make Congressional salaries of $175,000 a year have very little business lecturing anyone on fiscal responsibility.
Fact#3: The Republicans should remember that they have the most to lose politically if this crisis is not resolved.

They caused the crisis. They will wear the jacket if Social Security checks don't go out, the government shuts down, and interest rates on credit cards rise. Their major base, Wall Street, will be furious if their portfolios plummet in value. In fact, the polling shows the most Americans side with President Obama in the debt ceiling impasse. Wait until default actually happens.

You'd think Democrats would be gleeful at the prospect that the Republicans will damage their brand beyond hope as early as next week. In reality, President Obama and the Democrats have bent over backwards to try to compromise with Republicans and avoid economic catastrophe. And in fact, that's a good thing for Democrats, because whatever the short-term political benefits, over the long haul responsible, good government actually is still good politics.

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on
Amazon.com. He is a partner in the firm Democracy Partners. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.

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