Here’s my first problem. After disciplining myself to stay clear of the absurd partial government shutdown issue, the most recent pronouncement by former bar back, family saloon mop-jockey, Tea Party Bitch and Speaker of the House John Boehner, has forced my hand. I can’t just watch the threatened House refusal to raise the debt ceiling march by unabated.
Here’s my second problem, oft-stated in these quarters. A large part of the nation’s population that bows at the altar of political extremism is, to be charitable, politically dumber than a box of rocks, naïve as a tiny-town blond on her first day in the big city and lazy as hell. That pretty much shuts the door to reasonable discourse with someone who is devoid of actual facts and whose opinions are molded by media Benedict Arnolds with but one goal in mind; millions upon millions of dollars in their bank accounts. And if a country must be reduced to relative ruin to fill those coffers, who gives a s**t. Certainly not Limbaugh or O’Reilly, two snake-oil social carnival barkers with bottom lines exceeding their groupies by a factor of thousands, sometimes, millions.
So I’m swimming upstream against a tide of possibly the most ill-informed public in modern times, all the more incredible given the endless sources of legitimate information. But let me plow this non-fertile intellectual ground nonetheless with inevitable duplications girding my efforts.
Let’s start at the beginning; Boehner’s arrogant, tea-driven pronouncement that there will be no house vote on boosting U.S. borrowing authority absent “concessions” from President Obama. Of course, “concessions” simply mean paths (you’ve already seen a few) to the total destruction of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, hereafter known as ACA for our purposes. Exactly how much camouflaged brown-envelope money, back-room deals, slit-skirted ladies, endless free dinners, scholarships for the kids, admissions to Fancy Schmancy U for the not-quite-smart-enough Congressional son or daughter, trips to exotic locales, and après-term million dollar per year jobs and assorted other political catnip must be dangling in front of House members to rid the country of ACA? I know I’m going “House of Cards” on you, but nothing short of variations of the above could drive elected officials to vote 42 times to repeal ACA when chances for such a repeal were zero!
The same ACA blackmail exists with the partial government shutdown, but the stakes are much lower and the country can theoretically survive a few more weeks of that nonsense though a further extension would push us back into a deep recession. The government cannot survive refusal to raise the debt ceiling. That’s a generational and international economic predicament of the highest order.
The U.S. has been debt-free exactly one time, back in 1835 under Andrew Jackson (sad to say, the first Democrat elected president). PolitiFact says it’s mostly true that there was only one day of no debt, though this has been the subject of historical debate. However short the absence of debt was, it was followed by a horrific economic crisis, mostly landing in the lap of Jackson’s successor, Martin Van Buren. An April 2011 NPR story by Robert Smith backgrounds the path to debt freedom by Jackson who, though a Democrat, would have been very comfortable snuggled up to the modern-day House Tea Party Caucus. It’s worthwhile on background to visit this site. Pay special attention to the role of the states and the ultimate outcome of the Jacksonian strategy. The similarities to our current desperate situation are striking and those with open minds could learn a lot from the Jackson experience.
So we’re clear, the definition of debt is quite simple: Money owed creditors by any level of government as accumulated deficits, plus interest. There’s Net and Gross dept. Included in gross debt are bonds, currency swaps and the most dangerous and irresponsible financial instrument in the world, Credit Default Swaps. What percentage of debt is represented by largely unregulated CDSs is unknown. It’s estimated there are some 60 TRILLION in Credit Default Swaps out there. Net debt is simply the difference between gross debt and government fiscal assets. I’ve written on this specific subject before. The Jackson blip notwithstanding, we’ve always been in debt from the very birth of our great nation when the founding fathers inherited $75 million in Revolutionary War debt. Wars have been great contributors to our debt. We’re currently hovering around $16.7 trillion that the fed owes its creditors who hold U.S. government debt securities.
The real measure of concern is government debt to Gross Domestic Product. Among industrialized nations, we’re on the high side at 101.6. Japan is a whooping 211.70, troubled Greece 156.90, Italy 127.00, Portugal 123.60, Ireland 117.60, the United Kingdom 90.70 and Germany 81.90.
I’ve written about the easy fix for this alleged debt “problem” before. Collect taxes from the cheap corporate bastards that go to the ends of the earth (literally) to avoid paying them. Why do you think Mitt Romney took such a shine to the likes of Bermuda and the Cayman Islands and numerous other tax-dodging destinations? Because their corporate tax rates were ZERO. Granted, you really have to manipulate the books to escape paying your fair share to the country where you make most of your money, but by golly the offshore whores have mastered the art of cheating America out of trillions over time.
The conservative estimate is that major corporations escape paying well over $100 billion per year in taxes. Look ‘em up. They’re listed on a lot of sites. Add individual tax cheats and you probably double that number. Collect what these tax traitors owe. The U.S. corporate tax rate is supposedly 35%. No corporations pay it. The effective tax rate is about 12%. A huge percentage of Fortune 500 companies don’t pay a dime.
Regulate and go through these cooked corporate books with the equivalent of an accountant Palomar telescope. Legislate hiding of profits to the junk pile. Regulate Credit Default Swaps down to the last penny. Regulation, in fact, is one key reason some progressives have placed a woman named Warren at about the same level (if not higher) as a woman named Clinton when considering the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate.
Just the thoughts of an old guy in Upstate South Carolina.