Monday, July 18, 2011

To Whom We Are Indebted

Those who stand up in Congress as representatives of the individual states in the United States of America take an oath, to support and defend the Constitution. That vow is taken to impress upon the legislator, in the most solemn terms possible, the import of the task ahead of them. That oath binds them to the desire of the Founding Fathers, that the people should pick representatives that not only could convey their feelings on matters pertaining to the whole country as they related to the states, but could do what was best for the nation above the mandate of the people.

While politicking has always been an unfortunate by-product of government, any government, it was hoped that The People would monitor their legislators, and take the necessary steps to ensure the smooth functioning of Federal government, by removing those who were more interested in self-promotion than promotion of the general welfare. Unfortunately, the electorate has abdicated its responsibility, to the point that legislators now lead their constituents around by the nose, and embroil them in the same charades and shenanigans that impede the course of governance. The independent voice of the citizen has been replaced by the toadying of many to the obfuscatory exhortations of a malevolent few, and by a wholesale complaisance with the course of government, writing it off as a waste of a vote.

Given this backdrop, it is no wonder that the nation's prestige and honor is being threatened by partisanship of the highest order, as Republicans and Democrats lock horns over the Federal budget deficit, all the while holding the raising of the nation debt ceiling hostage to the negotiations. Each side is well-armed, rhetoric sharpened, talking points in order, prepared to push the nation to the brink of catastrophe unseen since the thirteen days of The Cuban Missile Crisis, though now, no nuclear war is imminent, only the further destitution and dismemberment of our economy, as our debts become so much paper and our creditors fend off assurances that they "will be paid."

The premise is simple: in order for the Federal government to be able to borrow more money, the nation's credit limit must be raised. Only by doing this, can we pad our current debt to load to keep from defaulting on the outstanding debt we currently have. In the past, this has been no trouble, Congress seemingly willing to raise it at a whim previously. Now, however, Republican elements in Congress seek concessions from the White House of Federal spending, wanting deep cuts in social programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, education funds, family planning, and the like, while refusing to even consider the possibility of raising taxes on the wealthiest two percent of Americans, parroting the ludicrous idea that this would "kill jobs."

The Republicans are steadfast in their denial of any method to raise revenue for the Federal government, even though that has proven to be a wise solution to past recessions. Budget cuts alone will not pare down future debt sufficiently to eradicate the budget deficit, especially where such cuts are not proportional to the line item. The Department of Defense will see little of the budget ax compared to its overall size, while social programs will be dealt crippling blows that, rather than causing deficit reduction, will lead to its eventual increase when the damage done by the initial cuts spreads through a citizenry already rocked by economic downturn and massive unemployment.

President Obama, for his part, has agreed that there must be some cuts in social programs, but only if they are accompanied by tax increases to pump up revenue, to avoid having to do wholesale damage to those programs that the vast majority of Americans are forced to depend on. He has made it clear, though, that he will not sign on to budget cuts without tax increases, and the Republicans have made it clear that they will not endorse tax increase to go along with budget cuts. This has created an impasse that must be broken by August 2nd, a date picked by the Treasury Department as the last day they will be able to cover the national debts through bookkeeping and shifting assets.

It is safe to say that we would not be in this position if Congress had done a far better job shepherding the nation after the Clinton Administration, when President Clinton fought for concessions from a Republican Congress that led to cuts in Federal spending along with the lowering of some taxes which contributed to increased revenue and more importantly, budget surpluses. One could excuse excess by the events of September 11th, wherein the United States found itself "at war" with a terrorist organization, but even the unfunded wars that brought about were not enough, alone, to bankrupt a nation. Deep tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, a prescription drug benefit unsupported by revenue offsets, and the constant exportation of high-paying jobs overseas, led to a slow and inevitable drain on the surpluses, followed by the running-up of a tremendous tab, which was then enhanced by the necessity of preventing a total national economic collapse due to the short-sightedness of a Federal government that thought it could let the "free" market regulate itself.

None of that matters now. What matters is the Republican partisanship that threatens the stolidity of the nation. On the one hand, they seem to deny any knowledge of having a hand in creating the economic crises in this country, and on the other hand, refuse to give the President the necessary tools to put the situation right. Their rhetoric now, as it was in 2008, is predicated on taking every advantage they have to try and deny President Obama a second term. They are not interested in governing. They are lacking in empathy. Their dislike of the President is palpable. They show no consideration for Americans, especially those who do not float in circles of power. They denigrate the very positions they hold.

Once this crisis is averted, it will be time for we, The People, to take a better measure of just who we want leading us. Do we want legislators who are responsive, earnest, deft, able to compromise, and willing to do what must be done for the good of all? Or do we want this current crop of Republican deadbeats, who are looking more to their own careers, are more interested in defeating a sitting President than governing a struggling nation, and in the hip pocket of The Monied Powers who seek to run the nation as a de facto government? We can no longer afford to avert our gaze from the goings-on in Washington, D.C., or accept as gospel the words that fall from the lips of people in Congress. We must reassert control, and we can start by eliminating the Republican roadblock that bars our progress.

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