Preventing Brinkmanship

Lurching from crisis to crisis has become the norm in Washington. The radical Republicans cannot accept that they lost and that they can no longer dictate how the government will run. So they will continue to use every opportunity to manufacture deadlines that keep us constantly teetering on the edge of economic doom. The Republican message is simple: “If you won’t let us be in charge, we’ll wreck things until you do.” They’ve been playing this game since Obama got elected and there’s no sign of them letting up.

Sooner or later, probably in the next three years, we’re going to go over the edge and find out exactly what happens when the U.S. defaults on its debt. It probably won’t be Armageddon, and I’m sure lawmakers will scurry to patch the holes, but it will cause damage world-wide and the people most hurt, as usual, will be those who have the least.

It’s our responsibility as voters and citizens to stop this. The people inflicting this on us are people we voted for. They will only stop if we make it clear that they will lose their office if they don’t start behaving responsibly.

That means we voters have to act responsibly, too. We have to stop treating politics like it’s religion. Politics is the art of compromise, not deadlock. Like it or not, in a Democracy, we all get a say, so no one is ever likely to be completely happy with what happens. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.

We also have to listen to the views of the opposition. Sometimes they have perfectly reasonable ideas. It would help if we admit it when that happens. This isn’t a game. Every one of these decisions affects people. Sometimes these decisions determine who lives and who dies. Think about that the next time you’re discussing politics and start resorting to talking points instead of your own reason.

What we are arguing over isn’t even particularly important. We have to pay our bills, so it’s a no-brainer that we have to raise the debt ceiling. Obama care is the law of the land. It’s been passed by Congress, signed by the President and declared Constitutional by the most conservative Supreme Court in recent memory. The sequester is an open wound in our economy that makes our enemies chortle with glee, since it continues to put a drag on our recovery.

And that’s the real problem, lack of growth. We need jobs. We need an economy that’s chugging away in order to generate those jobs, which will generate tax revenues, which will allow us to pay down our debt.

So what is this whole crisis about? It’s about pride, spite, and envy. It’s about a party that was riding high, nearly destroyed the economy, and now can’t accept that it’s no longer the darling of most of the voters. It’s about people who put their own political ambitions above the good of the country. It’s about paper-patriots who wear flag pins but care for no one but themselves.

To paraphrase a furloughed government employee, “Only you can prevent brinkmanship.”

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Why the Debt Ceiling is a Dumb Idea

Our Constitution, so beloved of the political right, gives the power of the purse to Congress. The Senate and the House have the responsibility of writing and passing the appropriation bills that keep our government funded. The President can only lobby for the funds he/she thinks are needed for various agencies and projects, and then can either sign or veto the bill that Congress passes. The President has no direct power over spending.

It used to be that Congress would do a budget for the whole year and give it to the President. Lately, it seems the Republican minority won’t stand for that, so the government has been funded by a series of Continuing Resolutions. This allows the Speaker of The House, John Boener, to shut down the whole government by refusing to let the latest Continuing Resolution come to a vote.

At present, we have to borrow money in order to pay for all the things we’ve decided we want government to do. Those range from running the world’s largest military, to providing nutritional assistance to those people at the bottom rungs of our economic scale. About 250 billion dollars of that money is spent each year just on paying interest on our borrowing.

So it might seem like a great idea to just stop the spending. Except we can’t do that without defaulting on our creditors, which will make them less likely to lend money to us. Rather than give us money at rock bottom interest rates, they might double the rates, which would increase our interest payments each year to $500 billion.

The only real purpose of the debt ceiling is to provide a minority in Congress with a lever to use to try to get concessions from the other party in exchange for not bankrupting the government. Since the price of doing so is so high, we might be a lot better off without a debt ceiling in the first place.

What’s really needed is a strong economic stimulus program and good governing that reassures Wall Street so we can get people back to work. The more people we have working, the more tax revenue we get. The more tax revenue we get, the faster we can start paying down the monstrous debt left over from 8 years of irresponsible spending by the Bush Administration and and the bail out of the banking system when our economy came close to imploding.

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See What You Made Us Do!

So, now that the government is shut down, the Tea Party Republicans want us to believe that it’s the intransigence of the Democrats that’s caused all the problems. This, after eighty Republicans signed a letter outlining a strategy to refuse to fund the government if they didn’t get their demands. This is the new reality of government. If one house of one branch of government decides they want something done, they’ll shut down the government until they get what they want.

Let’s suppose that the Tea Party Republicans get their way and Obama care is postponed for a year. Do you think that will be the end of it? If Obama gives in to this kind of extortion, you can be sure that the Tea Party will use it’s new found super-weapon to turn the Constitution on it’s head. We’ll be in a country run by 80 conservatives who care more about personal power than doing their job. We’ll be a giant step closer to a dictatorship.

Once you have a sure-fire way to force the other party to submit, why should you stop at anything? Why not rewrite all the campaign laws to favor your party? Why not allow international funding of our campaigns. Why not force a rewrite of the Constitution?

Our democracy has endured because of the checks and balances, not in spite of them. When a law is passed, that’s it. It’s not the job of Congress to defund the law, it’s their job to fund it. If they don’t like the law, they can try to repeal it, which requires both houses of Congress and the signature of the President.

What we’re seeing isn’t just a dispute of Obama care, it’s a naked grab for power. If it succeeds, out Democracy will never be the same. If you want to destroy American power, this is exactly how you do it.

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Why Not Opt Out of Obama Care?

I’m probably one of the best examples of why you should opt in to Obama Care, no matter how healthy you believe you are. I was only twenty years-old when I started having symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis. I had no idea what was going on, just that I was sick. I didn’t go to the doctor, because I had no insurance. I just got worse and worse, until I wound up in the ER so ill that the doctors told my mother that it was unlikely I’d survive.

I was in the hospital for fourteen days. The bill was over twenty thousand dollars. (This was back in 1982, when that was a lot of money.) Had I gone to the doctor, been properly diagnosed, and been referred to a specialist, I would never have wound up in the hospital. My disease could have been well controlled by a medication that cost less than $20 a month.

The fact is, you can never know when you might get sick or have an accident. If you have insurance, which Obama care now makes both available and affordable, you no longer run the risk of being impoverished by your medical bills.

Signing up isn’t just good for you, it’s good for everyone in the system. It’s also smart in terms of keeping overall medical costs down for everyone. Early diagnosis and treatment is far more cost effective than having people show up at the local ER. One way or another, we all wind up paying the bill, might as well do what we can to keep those costs down.

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Tempest in a Tea Party

The Tea Party continues it’s multi-year long temper tantrum over Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Now, since they can’t have their way, they’re going to hold the country’s breath until we all turn blue and vote to defund the health care law. This after they’ve already tried, and failed, 37 times, to get rid of the law.

The coming expansion of Obama care can’t do nearly as much damage to our economy as a protracted shutdown to the government will do. And, as usual, it will be the poorest and sickest who will suffer, while the GOP leadership retire to their mansions and country clubs, congratulating themselves on a job well done.

Much of the political nastiness the GOP has engaged in has been ignored by the American public. I don’t think this tactic can be ignored. The longer this goes on, the more people it will effect, and the more it will damage the Republicans.

That’s too bad, actually, because not all the Republicans are so short sited that they can’t see past their own ambitions. I’m sure that many of them want this country to flourish. Lets hope they figure out that being a good law maker starts with independent thinking.

It would be a refreshing change if some of the Republicans would realize that governing a nation of three hundred million individuals is something that’s more complicated than the plot of an Ayn Rand novel.

There is plenty wrong with government, lots of places where it could be improved. It’s tragic that the GOP has spent so much time trying to simply tear everything down, rather than making constructive changes.

I hope everyone remembers what happened this fall when the next election comes around, after they’ve had a chance to see that the Affordable Care act isn’t the bogey man they’ve been told it is.

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