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Negotiating With Mad Men – Republicans And The Debt Ceiling

As a life long optimist (yes, I have been called a Polly Anna or Ann of Green Gables more than once) I tend to see the sunny side of things and focus on the positive. After all if there is going to be a bad outcome, why focus on it? Why not focus on how to avoid and go down fighting the good fight?

But today I see a lot of black clouds on the horizon. The way that the budget fight played out makes me very concerned for the next big issue, the debt ceiling. As important as not shutting down the government was and is, putting the United States in a position where we even look like there is a question of defaulting on our debt is incredibly dangerous.

We owe a lot of money in the form or Treasury bonds. Right now we pay a very, very low rate of interest on that debt. Part of the reason that we do so is that everyone in the world is confident that the U.S. is not going to default on that debt.

The reason that we must raise the debt ceiling is that we just passed a budget that will spend more than we take in this year. That combined with the maturing of previously sold bonds means that we must borrow more money in the form of bonds to meet these obligations. The problem is that the amount we can borrow is limited by law and would have to be raised by Congress.

If they do not raise that limit then someone, somewhere is not going to be paid the money they are owed by the United States. That brings up the question of how safe any of those bonds are. When that happens the amount of interest that bond buyers require to loan us money will go up and everything the government does becomes more expensive. That is before we get into the follow on problems for the global economy where the United States represents 40% of the total.

All of this is so serious that you would think there would be no doubt that our politicians would just do what is necessary and move on. Unfortunately we have a Republican Party who has gotten a taste for hostage taking and seems to be totally callus about the damage that something like defaulting on the debt or even looking like it is possible will do.

For years I have been calling the Republicans the “Know-nothings” and decrying their totally lack of understanding and their abject rejection of expertise. It has been a problem but it has not been a devastating problem. Now it is beginning to look like they are so ideological and so stupid that they would play with matches in methane filled fireworks factory.

Already we are hearing form Majority Leader Cantor (Jethro-VA) that they will insist on massive spending cuts and probably the regressive, draconian and bluntly harmful social riders that were stripped from the CR (at the cost of billions in extra cuts) for their votes for increasing the debt ceiling.

Any politician who would take such a dangerous stance just for advancing their ideological point of view should be voted out of office. Sadly we can only do that in 2012 and by then any damage that is going to happen will be done.

This is a real rock and a hard place for anyone that cares about this nation or its people, or, hell, even their own personal well being. It is clear that a failure to stand strong on this issue will just continue to reinforce the hostage taking mentality of the Republicans. Make no mistake, this is just the same as if someone kidnapped your wife or dog or grandmother and told you that if you did not do what they said, they would kill them.

The only way to deal with hostage takers is not to negotiate. The problem here is that we can’t send in the SWAT team to rescue the hostage. We have to rely on the idea that the Republicans in Congress are really not so nihilistic that they really would bring down the world economy and, perhaps, through the world into another Depression over social and spending priorities.

The problem there is this is a party who 80% of which are not sure the president was born in the United States. It is a party that thinks that tax cuts for the wealthy create jobs, even though during the Bush administration we lost a net of 600,000 private sector jobs. This is a political party that rejects the idea of Global Climate Change and makes it very hard for any candidate who accepts the overwhelming evidence of evolution to become its presidential nominee.

When the leading lights of a party don’t know where Concord and Lexington are, when they have people like Sen. Jon Kyle who are willing to go on record in the Senate with an easily disprovable lie that Planned Parenthood’s abortion services account for 90% of their health activities, when the House Majority Leader helps pass a bill that proclaims that Congress can enact a law by itself, is there really any hope of sanity?

I just don’t know what to advise in this situation. The costs are so high if the Republicans really are crazy enough to burn down the economy. However to cave again would just mean they will continue to take hostages. Worse it means that we will have to endure cuts that will come directly from programs for the middle class and poor, people already suffering from the madness of Republican policy.

In the end I think the President and the Democrats have to draw the line. They have been backed into a corner by a bunch of ethically and socially stunted bullies, but there is just no way to sustain more appeasement. We face a disaster either way, what has been done up to now has not worked. It is time to stand up and say “No” even if the consequences are dire.

Sometimes all of your choices in the short term are bad. This is one of those times. When that happens, all you can do is look to what things might be like in the long run and make the choice that sets you up for that future. If the Republicans really will burn it all down, then it will happen sooner or later. If the Democrats make their stand on this issue and the Republicans do light that match, the one positive thing about it will be to show, in an incontrovertible way that the Republican Party can not be allowed any real roll in government as it is today.

It will be small solace for all the people who will suffer from it, but it will at least be some silver lining and a glimmer for optimism.

The floor is yours.

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Bill Egnor

Bill Egnor

I am a life long Democrat from a political family. Work wise I am a Six Sigma Black Belt (process improvement project manager) and Freelance reporter for Govtrak.org

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