Today’s output from Blogistan Polytechnic Institute’s state-of-the-art HEMMED (High-Energy Meta Mojo Elucidation Detector) machine is a light bulb going on, or less subtly, a two by four upside the head.
I have been closely following the news accounts of the crisis over the debt limit being reached and the Republican party’s 2012 Budget which privatized Medicare.
I was startled last night to read that the GOP 2012 Budget is still being called “courageous”, “bold” and “honest” and, even worse, to find out that some Democrats are seriously considering putting Medicare cuts “on the table” in negotiations over the debt ceiling.
The beltway echo chamber is now such a tightly closed loop that polls which are literally screaming “Hands off my Medicare!” are being ignored. There is confusion about the national debt ceiling, about needed changes in how Medicare is funded (not how it “needs” to be cut), and about budgets and budget deficits. It is difficult to sort out honest debate from repackaged trickle down economics.
Then it struck me. Like a light bulb turning on or that two by four upside the head.
Confusion is exactly what the Republicans want.
If there are no clear answers, then any answer can be spun as the correct answer. So let’s stop and look at the pieces.
First. The Debt Ceiling.
The debt ceiling is the amount of money that the federal government can borrow to pay our obligations. It is not new spending. It has not always been passed unanimously and it has been pointed to as an example of bad spending habits but we have always raised the statutory debt limit so our government does not default.
The debt ceiling is $14.3 trillion and it needs to be raised without the demogoguery.
Second. The Debt.
Debt is incurred by borrowing. We borrow to meet our obligations. The national debt was incurred by borrowing to meet the obligations of spending bills passed by Congress. The obligations are paid by tax revenues or by borrowing money. There is no magic unicorn pooping funds that can be used to pay our obligations so when there are not enough tax revenues, we borrow.
Third. The Budget and Deficits.
The Budget is a list of our obligations, our new expenditures and our revenue. We have long-term obligations from previous committments and new spending for planned improvements or new obligations. We have income in the form of taxes and borrowing. When we have emergencies and we have no income, we borrow. That’s pretty straightforward.
Between a rock and a hard place …
Let’s take a look at how our country got stuck between the rock of ideology and the hard place of our moral and financial obligations.
Revenues are from taxes and fees. Republican ideology demands that the federal government can never increase taxes. Period.
Expenditures are obligations we have from laws passed by previous Congresses. The cost of some of those obligations have increased in part because the cost of delivering the services involved has increased and in part because there are more people needing those services.
There are two ways to balance a budget:
1. Increase revenues
2. Decrease expenditures
If you cannot increase revenues then you have to decrease expenditures. Confronted with limited options for what they consider accepaible decreases in expenditures, the Republicans have chosen to repeal the Medicare Act of 1965 and replace it with vouchers.
This is pleasing to them because popular government programs make government more popular and that is a Bad Thing in GOP-speak.
It is also pleasing to them because it allows them to avoid the most obvious solution to the budget imbalance: increasing revenues by raising taxes.
You cannot have an adult conversation with people who insist that you can only talk about the expenditure side of the equation. There is nothing bold or courageous about refusing to talk about what is really causing the debt and the deficit: unnecessary tax cuts for the wealthy and the refusal to pay for our obligations with taxes.
In the year 2000, a Democratic president turned over a budget that had a surplus and was projected to yield surpluses of $2 trillion over the next 10 years, money that could have paid down the national debt.
Instead of paying down the debt, the Republican president took the surplus and used it to cut taxes on the top 2% and then chose to engage our country in a war that has so far added $2 trillion more to the debt.
The Big Lie
To cover up their own complicity in racking up this huge debt, the Republicans are left with making stuff up or as I prefer to call it, lying.
The Republicans are not “Saving Medicare” when they talk about privatizing it and issuing vouchers. They are talking about “Protecting Their Ideology” by refusing to admit that the only way to save Medicare, or Medicaid or any of the things that ordinary Americans depend on, is to raise taxes.
Grover Norquist famously said that he wanted to reduce government to the size where he could “drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”. As long as we have a government, he and those those who took his No Taxes Pledge will have one purpose: to drown government.
You cannot work with people whose fear of Grover Norquist overrides their fear of facing the voters.
Do not deal with the Republicans on raising the statutory debt limit. Make them raise it like every other Congress since 1791 has done.
Do not deal with the Republicans by compromising our core values and defaulting on our moral obligations: caring for the elderly and the disabled and those unable to take care of themselves.
Do not fall into the trap of thinking that this has anything to do with “hard choices”. It has to do with the Republicans being unwilling to choose our country over their party.
“Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society”.
– Oliver Wendell Holmes
We either pay our debts, our financial and moral obligations, or we default. We either choose a civilized society or we choose to throw our society into penury and the resulting chaos.
It really does not get much simpler than that.
Happy Thursday to everyone and fist bumps!
The BPI Campus Progressive agenda:
1. People matter more than profits.
2. The earth is our home, not our trash can.
3. We need good government for both #1 and #2.
Return to HEMMED In three days a week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for more output from BPI’s state-of-the-art HEMMED (High-Energy Meta Mojo Elucidation Detector) machine.
You can follow HEMMED In on twitter at JanF at BPICampus.