With the government on the verge of default, President Obama and House Speaker, Republican John Boehner are engaged in a high stakes game of “chicken,” waiting to see who will blink first before the August 2 deadline. Beyond the political theatrics, we are witnessing a seminal moment in modern American politics. The ballooning federal deficit has forced a question that has been decades in the making – What are the priorities of our nation and how do we pay for them, and whose interests shall be served?
We are being taught a valuable lesson that the federal budget is more than numbers posted on a spreadsheet. It has flesh and blood consequences, as it represents those things political leadership purports to be national priorities. It is no different than your household budget – the numbers are just much bigger. You spend your money on necessities such as food, shelter and housing and things that improve your quality of life. When money is scarce, you stop spending on items that are not central to your household maintenance or personal welfare. The trick is how to make cuts without significantly impacting your lifestyle.
What we are witnessing is a higher stakes version of household budgeting unfolding in our nation’s capital and the solutions proposed for tackling the federal deficit will inflict real pain on those who are already hurting. While both the President and House Republicans are pushing cuts to entitlement programs, the GOP is resisting President Obama’s call to raise taxes on higher wage earners. By drawing a line in the sand on taxes, Republicans are essentially handing working families and the poor the bill. To add insult to injury, key programs that preserve a modicum of dignity for our nation’s most vulnerable citizens are targeted for cuts. So, those with the least are being asked to shoulder most of the burden for our nation’s deficit.
Keep in mind how we got in this mess; how political decisions inflated the federal deficit. The Bush administration pushed through a tax cut that was not needed and only served to dig a hole which consumed our country. That hole got significantly deeper when President Bush led us into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but failed to create a mechanism to pay for them, spending trillions of dollars that we did not have but has now contributed to the deficit. Republicans seem to have amnesia when this point is raised; choosing to engage in tired “no new taxes” rhetoric but ignoring the obvious shortfall in revenue driven by their willingness to let those who can and should pay, off the hook.
It’s all rather insulting and maddening. The silliness and vindictiveness of political leadership has reached epidemic proportion. We have politicians hiding behind the American flag, evoking a twisted notion of patriotism, and doing everything within their power to crush average Americans, including those that sent them to office. After wealthy interests fed their greed by pillaging Wall Street and triggering a financial and housing crisis, Republicans on Capitol Hill are shielding the very people who are responsible for our nation’s economic meltdown from any responsibility to fix this mess. Republicans like House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Eric Cantor are prepared to cut Medicare and Medicaid, and Social Security benefits, rather than force those who have lined their pockets unethically, and perhaps illegally, from paying their fair share.
It’s sick, as is the sight of these scoundrels pontificating in Congress, posturing on television and radio, and lounging in the back seat of chauffeur driven, taxpayer paid vehicles while seniors who have paid their dues worry about whether they can afford to eat, and Americans who have worked hard but due to no fault of their own are out of work fight to save their homes, and the poor, already struggling simply to live, are just written off in a cold and calculated manner. These Republicans are shameless and the American public, including those who profess to be aligned with the GOP, are about to be screwed so a small band of political hacks can align themselves with wealthy interests.
If nothing else, the jig is up. This episode has revealed the true character of many of our so-called leadership on Capitol Hill. Americans, and Blacks and Latinos in particular, need to wake up and smell the tea. It is high noon and we had better be prepared to stare these folks in the eye and fire back. It’s that simple. It’s us against them, and we need to stop being polite. Our labor has been exploited, our freedom and liberty suppressed, access to economic opportunity denied by imprisonment in dying neighborhoods and failing schools, and our removal from society through mass incarceration based upon deliberately subjective and disproportionate sentencing accommodated by public policy, and death by gun violence allowed by lax firearm enforcement. Our status is clear – we are disposable in the eyes of those flag waving, fist pumping demagogues and it’s time we did everything within our power, and our God-given rights, to fight back.
Walter Fields is Executive Editor of NorthStarNews.com.