Deadlines come and go, meetings and photo-ops occur on a daily basis, and lawmakers make the round of television talk shows, but there seems to be little progress in reaching a deal to begin solving the nation’s long-term debt crisis. With an August 2 drop-dead date approaching before the United States government defaults on its financial obligations, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are playing around as if it is their money. Meanwhile, the public is growing sick of the partisan gamesmanship and voicing frustration over the inability of our so-called leaders to act like adults and get the job done. While both President Obama and Congress are facing public criticism, members of Congress are bearing the brunt of anger over the debacle on Capitol Hill.
Raising the debt limit should be a fairly simple exercise; after all it has been done over 70 times before in the past fifty years. What distinguishes this period from others is that partisan politics has been injected during a year that is the run-up to a presidential election. In our eyes, Republicans deserve much of the blame. The party that pretends to be guardians of sound fiscal management and dresses in the clothing of budget austerity has pulled a switch and is now baiting the President into an artificial debate by refusing outright to consider revenue as a part of a long-term plan to reduce the deficit. Instead, Republicans insist that the only way to bring the nation’s debt under control is to take a machete to programs that support the poor, elderly and largely working-class people of color. It is a sham that is simply meant to undermine a Democratic President and reveals the degree to which extremism is now entrenched in Republican politics.
We don’t suggest that President Obama has got it completely right. We would like to see greater cuts in defense spending and a quicker termination of our military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, we are concerned that cuts to Social Security benefits will put many already distressed seniors on the brink. There is room to cut some domestic spending on programs where there is no statistical evidence of their success. Any long-term plan must examine the effectiveness of some of these programs. We do agree with the President that any long-term plan to reduce the deficit must also address a tax code that allows high-earners to evade paying their fair share through a relatively low rate of taxation and generous loopholes. One of the things that helped create the deficit crater is the tax cuts under President George W. Bush, done on multiple occasions during the budget reconciliation process; a practice that Congressional rules have since disallowed. It is utter nonsense that the wealthy in this country should not be expected to reciprocate for the privilege of amassing their fortunes, a benefit that is derived by the laws of this country. Republicans have essentially sided with wealthy interests, telling the overwhelming number of Americans, including their own constituents, to go to hell. We hate to be so blunt but when elderly citizens whose sweat propped up this nation face retirement benefit cuts and programs for the poor is deemed a culprit for our fiscal ills, we have reached a moral crisis.
Contrary to the assertions coming from Republicans in Congress, government spending per se is not the problem. The problem is our nation’s priorities. If we have reached a point in our history when our government is telling its citizens that they must fend for themselves, we are witnessing the beginning of the demise of our nation. While other countries invest heavily in education, work to improve their infrastructure, seek to address their citizens’ health problems, and understand the need for government subsidies to grow their economies, we have lawmakers who are advocating the abandonment of the United States government from its moral compact with its citizenry.
The 2012 presidential election will be a nasty affair. We have known that since the first elected Black President put his hand on a Bible and took the oath of office, a monumental moment that was bungled by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. No doubt, the Obama administration sees what’s down the road. Tragically, some on Capitol Hill are using the negotiations over the debt ceiling to get an early jump on the presidential race. Instead of acting responsibly, Republicans are engaging in sound-bite driven rhetoric that we will certainly see in their political commercials. Enough already. Save the “tax and spend” rhetoric for the campaign, and raise the debt limit already. Every day that passes with no action lessens our nation’s stock in the world community and exposes just how far we have fallen as a global leader.