Posted on 03-01-2013
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

“Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events.” – Abraham Lincoln February 27, 1860

Lincoln could have been talking about the current members of the so called Party of Lincoln.

The fiscal cliff has been averted for now. But in two months the Republicans in Congress will hold the world economy hostage when it is time to raise the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling itself has nothing to do with government spending. It is a product of spending decisions made when Congress passes the budget and apportions money. For years it has provided an opportunity for Congressmen to pontificate on the deficit by symbolically voting to oppose raising the ceiling.

Things changed dramatically in the last two years when the nihilists controlling the Republican Party threatened to make a symbolic vote a reality. The result was the first ever downgrade of America’s credit rating.

Now smarting after losing yet another election and having to concede the tax issue to President Obama, the Republicans are threatening to blow up the economy if they don’t have their way. It is one thing to have a showdown when the budget is passed. However, the Republican posturing over the debt ceiling is akin to playing Russian roulette with the economy.  Every serious economist, including Republican policymakers and economists not held hostage to the tea party wing for electoral or financial reasons, acknowledge that the debt ceiling must be raised. The Republican politicians promising a hostage crisis have themselves done so in the past.

For now President Obama has indicated that he will not negotiate on this issue. Hopefully he will deviate from his past practice and hold to that pledge. After all America supposedly does not negotiate with terrorists. And make no mistake this is a terrorist threat by a bunch of irresponsible petulant politicians.

And yet the Republicans while proclaiming their desire for a dollar for dollar spending reduction for the debt ceiling increase have not actually identified these spending cuts. The Paul Ryan budget last year had a similar oversight. In the fiscal cliff negotiations the Republicans tried to put the onus on Democrats to come up with the specific spending cuts to satisfy the Republican desire for recession inducing austerity. Why? Because the entitlement cuts Republicans want are deeply unpopular. While Republicans want to shred the social safety net they also want to attack the Democrats for making the cuts, i.e. have their cake and eat it too.

America sorely needs a responsible opposition party. Instead it has a party that abandons its positions the moment the Democrats embrace them – e.g. cap & trade, health care reform. The Republicans are focused on protecting the wealthy while suggesting cruel and foolish “solutions” to cut entitlement spending like raising the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare which do little to reduce the deficit and may actually increase health care costs.

If the Republicans continue in their intransigence it is time to consider the constitutional option or the coin minting option to raise the debt ceiling. America and the world economy cannot continue to be held hostage every time when the debt ceiling needs to be raised. This is not a legitimate political bargaining chip and the Republican Party should not be allowed to pretend that agreeing not to damage the economy constitutes some sort of sacrifice on their part. That is the conduct of terrorists. It is time to end this hostage crisis.

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