Debt Negotiations: Get Over Yourselves

Funny.  Not “ha-ha” funny, but  …. “surprisingly” …. funny.  Ever since John Boehner took his position as Speaker of the House, I got the sense that perhaps he was demonstrating an inkling of altruistic behavior rather than just partisan politics as usual.  This feeling, which at first I chalked up to his laziness as the party leader, has grown over the last couple of weeks during his debt-ceiling talks with President Obama.  Call me naive and sucker-punched, but I do now believe that Boehner is aspiring to the loftier ideal of country first over Republicans first.

Last week,  Boehner and President Obama actually came to an agreement on $4 trillion in cuts over a long-term period.  That was an amazing coup for the GOP to have negotiated.  Yet, when Boehner took the proposal, including compromises on reversing some tax loopholes and raising the tax rate for our very wealthiest Americans, back to his leadership, it was voted down in the blink of an eye.  Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader has always stuck to his firm and immoveable promise to deny the Democrats everything, as the GOP’s first and foremost goal is to remove that Barack Obama from the White House.  If our nation goes down in flames, McConnell is fine with that, as that scenario would certainly drive Obama from office.  In McConnell’s mind, the existence, faith and full credit of the U.S. is perfectly fine to be used as a sacrificial lamb to his political power-playing.  McConnell has been true to this mantra since day one of the President’s tenure.

Boehner also could not get the votes from his younger leadership, i.e. Paul Ryan.  Somewhat on the other side of the spectrum from McConnell, Ryan is a brash, younger GOP member who is trying to make a name for himself and establish a strong position within his party.  His refusal to compromise is a clear example of self-interest taking precedence over the public good.

Members of the GOP typically start every public address with the question: “Where are the jobs?”  They specify though, that they are not referring to government jobs, which would only serve to increase our spending of funds that are not there.  However, last week, the overwhelming majority of House Republicans voted to increase defense spending OVER $17 billion more than the President had requested.  A new type of plane was on that agenda and Boeing, although a non-government agency, would be the beneficiary.  Republicans flaunted the “huge”number of jobs this defense increase would produce.  Last time I checked my sanity, jobs created by government funding, even though under the auspices of a private company, were government jobs, resulting from government spending.  They would not exist without government funding.  Therefore, the GOP stalwarts like McConnell and Ryan are blatantly playing quite a deceitful game.

Boehner, on the other hand, is trying to establish a legacy of accomplishment that will get this country back on course.  For some reason, he has seen the light and IS considering the well-being of our nation.   As described in the above linked New York Times article, Boehner is showing some sense of reason, reality and pangs of altruism, demonstrated by perhaps a change of heart  (and “heart” is definitively what is missing from the GOP), in considering our countries problems:

At a private meeting about deficit reduction at the White House last week, Speaker John A. Boehner told his fellow Congressional leaders and President Obama that he did not spend 20 years working his way up to the top job on Capitol Hill just for the cachet of the title — he wanted to accomplish something big.

At first I thought he had no balls in standing up to his own GOP colleagues, McConnell and Ryan.  Then, I came to think that he is holding out for a long-term, significant budget fix, rather than the previous short-term, delaying-the-inevitable measures that need to be enacted.  President Obama, if you believe him, is adamant about reaching a long-term solution for our budgetary dilemmas as well.  Our government, both sides of the aisle, has kicked the can down the road for too many decades now.  The hell with electability; our leaders need to legislate, take political risks and look down the road farther than the next election.  Barack Obama is willing to do that.  Is the GOP?

Economic experts all agree that the debt-ceiling must be raised.  Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner, FDIC head Sheila Bair, new chief of the IMF Christine Lagarde and such titans of industry as Warren Buffet have all spoken to the risks to our own country, not to mention the world’s financial balance, if we do not raise this ceiling.  Come August 2, our interest payments to foreign lenders will not stop.  Rather, before we succumb to those obligations, we will cut off Social Security checks to our seniors.  Other domestic cuts will follow.  However, it will not take long before the treasury runs dry, and then the international consequences will kick in.  Damn it: raise the debt ceiling AND institute the necessary austerity measures.  We are talking about the future, not just the next election cycle.  Idiots.

Quite frankly, I resent all the worry and fear that I have been experiencing over these negotiations.  Last time I checked, I was not on the payroll of the United States government.  Why, then, does it appear that I am more concerned over these matters than our lawmakers, who ARE on the government’s payroll for generous salaries and incredible benefits.  The viability of our country is at stake.  Our leaders need to get over themselves and get on with earning their compensation and fulfilling their job descriptions.

I am impressed with both President Obama’s willingness to commit political hari-kari with factions of his own party to accomplish larger goals for our country.  I am even more taken by Boehner’s pragmatism in these debt negotiations.  It remains to be seen if he can exert the power he will need to convince his party members to do what is correct.  The Economist had a great article delving into the folly of the American GOP.  Their political gamesmanship might just bring down not only a nation, but the world.

I hope President Obama, John Boehner, the Democrats and the Republicans do not disappoint our nation.  We do need a long-term, lasting plan for bringing our spending and debt under control.  Included in that agenda must be an increase in revenues.  Our citizens know all of this, our elected leaders know it and the world knows it.  Now the “knowing” must be translated into “doing.”

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