Will Republicans set aside their political agenda and do what’s right for America?
There is nothing more infuriating than watching a bunch of middle-aged politicians bicker, pander, and exploit an otherwise routine vote to raise the debt limit for petty political gains at the expense of the long-term financial well-being of the United States.
If Congress fails to raise the debt limit before Aug. 2, the United States will be forced to default on its existing obligations for the first time in history. The consequences will be dire and widespread. It would mark the beginning of the end of the global respect and economic credibility commanded by the United States of America.
Given these ominous realities, one would hope members of Congress would act responsibly and in the best interest of their country, even if their actions are not politically popular with their anti-government-anti-tax supporters.
Although every Senator and member of the United States House of Representatives have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, many on the Republican side seem to have conveniently forgotten or skipped Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which stipulates that “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law…shall not be questioned.”
The purpose of raising the debt limit is to authorize the cash flow the Treasury needs to pay for the debt incurred by laws passed by Congress. This has been a routine procedure that have been approved by Congress 78 times since 1960: 49 times under Republican presidents and 29 times under Democratic presidents. So when Congressional Republicans balk at paying for what they have already authorized to spend, it paints a very clear picture of the type of irresponsibility, ignorance, and unprofessionalism that plague America’s political system today.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters last week that Republicans are “united in opposing any effort to raise the debt ceiling.” McConnell’s comment was made with the understanding that failure to raise the debt ceiling would mean the U.S. will be forced to default on its obligations, including halting payments to military servicemen, veterans, seniors, and the various local businesses that perform important contract work for the United States government.
McConnell’s comment reveals a callous willingness to put politics before people and the economic well-being of the country. Republicans are using the debt limit vote to set up President Barack Obama for failure so they can improve their chances of winning more seats in 2012. The fact that Republicans are willing to exploit the debt limit for their political agenda should worry all Americans, regardless of their political affiliations.
Despite months of negotiations, the Republicans have maintained their unreasonable and uncompromising stance on tax revenues. “Our stand on the debt limit has been clear. There can be no tax hikes because tax hikes destroy jobs,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). For dramatic effect, Republican leaders have repeatedly walked out of debt limit negotiations to avoid addressing tax revenues:
- House Speaker John Boehner walked out of the White House talks earlier in July;
- Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) walked out debt talks led by Vice President Joe Biden in June,
- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) walked out of the Senate “Gang of Six” talks in May.
“Walking away from reality is a weakness we cannot afford. It’s a weakness that our economy and our middle-class cannot afford,” said Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV).
The increasing political rancor over the debt limit weeks before the Aug. 2 default deadline has worried the financial markets. Last week, credit rating firms Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have placed the AAA bond rating of United States under review for possible downgrade “given the rising possibility that the statutory debt limit will not be raised on a timely basis, leading to a default on US Treasury debt obligations.”
If the US credit rating is downgraded, it would significantly raise the cost of borrowing – for the federal, state, and local governments, for businesses, and for families. That would have a detrimental effect on the overall economy and sink the United States back to another long and deep economic recession.
The stakes are high. Republicans need to grown up and own up to shared sacrifices and shared responsibilities. The GOP’s selective memory conveniently ignores the fact that Obama has inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit from the Bush administration and the Republican-controlled Congress. Not only have the Bush/Republican policies resulted in the greatest economic recession since the Great Depression, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined with generous tax breaks for millionaires continue to add trillions to the national debt. In short, the Republicans need to accept responsibility for their costly legacies, particularly the Bush tax breaks for the wealthy that would add a projected $3.3 trillion to the national debt in 10 years.
This means Republicans will have to accept that a balanced approach must include raising tax revenues – including closing corporate tax loopholes and eliminating gratuitous tax breaks – as well as reasonable savings to ensure the long-term health of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs.
“Simply put, it will take a balanced approach, shared sacrifice, and a willingness to make unpopular choices on all our parts,” Obama said during his weekly address. “The truth is, you can’t solve our deficit without cutting spending. But you also can’t solve it without asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share – or without taking on loopholes that give special interests and big corporations tax breaks that middle-class Americans don’t get.”
The question begs: Will Republicans put aside their politics and desire to sabotage Obama and Democrats and do what’s right for the country? Americans will find out by Aug. 2.
- WhiteHouse.gov: Weekly Address: Securing our fiscal future
- Cornell Law School: United States Constitution: 14th Amendment
- WhatTheFolly.com: Facts about the debt limit
- WashingtonPost.com: McConnell: Debt ceiling will not get a ‘single Republican vote’
- WhatTheFolly.com: Reid scolds Republicans for walking out on debt limit talks
- FireDogLake.com: Debt limit negotiation walkout was planned, Republicans say
- Reuters.com: Republicans walk out of budget talks over taxes
- MoneyNews.com: Coburn: Why I walked out on “Gang of Six”
- Moodys.com: Moody’s Places US Aaa Government Bond Rating and Related Ratings on Review for Possible Downgrade
- StandardandPoors.com: United States of America AAA/A-1+ ratings placed on CreditWatch negative on rising risk of policy stalemate
- WhatTheFolly.com: Obama warns Social Security checks could be delayed if lawmakers don’t reach debt limit agreement soon
- Pews Trust: The Fiscal Effects of Extending the 2001 and 2003 Tax Cuts (PDF)
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