Republicans Return to the Scene of the Crime and Threaten to Hold The Debt Limit Hostage

McConnell Hostage

It is not often, if ever, that law enforcement knows in advance of future crimes, and if they did it is safe to say the deterrent value alone would make the crime rate plummet. Without futuristic technology and foretellers of future events, pre-crime knowledge would be entirely dependent on criminals broadcasting their intended crime, victim, motive, and location that informs they were confident they would never face justice. Two years ago, Republicans in Congress told the American people they would hold the full faith and credit of the United States hostage, and despite foreknowledge of their intended crime, they held the debt limit hostage for a ransom of devastating spending cuts with impunity, and after celebrating their success, announced their intention to hold the debt ceiling hostage again when raising it became necessary. True to their word, Republicans are threatening to hold the debt limit increase hostage and they can hardly wait to present their ransom demands to President Obama.

One of the reasons Paul Ryan’s budget passed in the House was a pledge by Republican leadership to eliminate the federal deficit within a decade, and besides being absurd on its face, ultra-conservative deficit hawks in the House are serious and warned leadership they will not tolerate anything less than follow-up legislation to implement the budget’s job and economy-destroying reforms. On Wednesday, Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said “It’s not just passing the Ryan budget. It’s actually implementing and passing legislation that gets us to balance in 10 years. Some people believe the plan is just to pass the Paul Ryan budget and once we pass the Ryan budget, then we have met … all of our goals. If this is something where they’re trying to placate the base, then no-one here is going to support the raising of the debt ceiling. My goal is not to pass a meaningless document by itself.”

The Republican leadership, Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor, held fast to the hostage terms during the 2011 debt ceiling fiasco that any debt limit increase be accompanied by equivalent spending cuts and reforms, and although they were successful causing a credit downgrade, gained $2.1 trillion in cuts, and imposed another $1.2 trillion in sequester cuts, it was an insufficient ransom for conservatives. Another Republican, Thomas Massie of Kentucky criticized Ryan’s budget and said he expected the leadership to find “a bright shiny object” (dollar-for-dollar spending cuts) to attach to the debt limit to attract conservative support, but they are not going to be fooled this time around and demand real entitlement reforms on top of Ryan’s Medicare privatization scam and domestic programs cuts.

When Republicans say entitlement reforms, they mean using the debt ceiling as a ransom for privatizing Medicare, drastically slashing Social Security, and repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and as Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) says “Any increase in the debt ceiling needs to be tied with a solution to stop us from spending money we don’t have.” When they talk about “money we don’t have,” Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), means “addressing the mandatory side of the spending equation, and I think we would probably do that in the debt ceiling debate.” Subsequently, the two largest mandatory spending programs are Medicare and Social Security and they will be part of the payment for raising the debt limit despite the damage to seniors, the poor, and the economy.

Republicans have been passionate for a big battle over the debt ceiling, and as if their last victory in 2011 was not severe enough, they are panting to hold the debt limit hostage again to slash Social Security that does not affect the deficit whatsoever. Some of the other mandatory spending programs Republicans intend on cutting are Departments of Education and Veterans Affairs, SNAP (food stamps), unemployment compensation, and earned income and child tax credits; all programs that affect most Americans, but especially the working poor and poverty level Americans. Republicans have long dreamt of eliminating the Department of Education to keep Americans stupid, and what better way than cutting more from education spending through holding the debt ceiling hostage.  Cutting food stamps, unemployment benefits, earned income credits, and child tax credits will affect nearly all families that do not belong to the one-percent club who benefit from Ryan’s Draconian budget with a 15% tax cut while the middle class and working poor will see their taxes increase; it is criminal.

Holding the debt limit hostage is criminal, especially when Republicans raised it at least nine times for George W. Bush who with Republican support own the lion’s share of the debt for two wars, tax cuts for the rich, and the GOP’s prescription plan which were all unfunded and still increasing the deficit. The cuts in Ryan’s plan will not eliminate the deficit in ten years, but they will eliminate millions of jobs, and the mandatory spending cuts Republicans want will decimate seniors, Veterans, and the poor. However, the American people, both Republicans and Democrats, overwhelmingly support increased government spending for domestic programs and infrastructure improvements to create jobs according to a very recent poll. In fact, 77% of Democrats and Republicans believe federal jobs creation plans are necessary and should be mandatory spending, and yet another recent poll reveals the American people oppose nearly every spending cut in Ryan’s plan and side with the President on practically every issue. The mandatory spending cuts Republicans will hold the debt ceiling increase hostage for, and Paul Ryan’s budget proposals, are opposed by large majorities and they particularly cited  strong opposition to Medicare, safety net, and education cuts Republicans will use as a ransom for a debt limit increase.

Republicans are criminals, and like criminals, their intention to impose the most severe austerity possible is far outside the mainstream morality. In 2011, after causing a credit downgrade and nearly a credit default, Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell promised Republicans would definitely hold the debt limit hostage again, and his cohort intend to keep his word. As drastic as major cuts to mandatory spending on Social Security and privatizing Medicare are, Republicans are also calling for deeper cuts to safety nets than Ryan proposes plus ending the ACA as part of their ransom, and although one cannot imagine the President repealing his signature health law, the full faith and credit of the United States is too high a price to pay to prove he can prevail over criminals in the Republican party.

The tragic aspect of another debt ceiling standoff is Republicans will succeed in winning cuts to Medicare and Social Security because the President showed willingness to put so-called entitlements on the block in meetings with Republicans last week. It is too bad, and too sad, that the GOP convinced the President Social Security affects the deficit, but that is the price one pays for consorting with criminals who yearn for a fight over the debt ceiling and have nothing whatsoever to lose. For the American people though, whether Republicans win cuts that kill jobs and people, or send the nation into a credit default that bankrupts the government, there is nothing in America’s future that looks rosy and it is what happens when criminals are given ultimate power with nothing to lose and no-one to stop them; even when they know what’s coming.