By now, most people are familiar with Albert Einstein’s statement that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” and by his definition Republicans are truly insane. As the next debt ceiling crisis looms in less than a month, Republicans are once again threatening to hold the debt limit hostage in return for a ransom payment that is, beyond belief, the height of insanity. Or is it really a calculated move to put America on a course for an economic catastrophe unless the President pays the hostage demands that will be catastrophic? Thus far, Republicans have proposed letting the nation default on its debt and initiate an economic disaster in America and around the world unless President Obama does what they call the “responsible thing.” When they say responsible thing, they want the President to allow them to impose ruinous damage on the economy, kill millions of jobs, gut social safety nets, and hand the Koch brothers billions in dirty energy profits for a foreign corporation’s catastrophic project.
On Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell followed teabag leader Ted Cruz by demanding two unreasonable, and potentially calamitous concessions from President Obama before Republicans raise the debt limit to pay for Bush-Republicans’ two unfunded wars, unfunded tax cuts for the rich, and an unfunded and botched roll-out of their Medicare prescription plan. There is nothing insane about the Republican demand for a ransom payment for doing the job they were elected to do, because their intent is deliberately decimating the economy in the same manner as the debt ceiling crisis of 2011 while exacerbating the income inequality strangling the economic life out of the great majority of Americans. McConnell said there is no way Republicans will fulfill their job requirement unless the President approves the KeystoneXL pipeline, and agreed with Ted Cruz that the debt limit must be tied to a structural mechanism like the Budget Control Act that fostered the austerity measures included in the sequester.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said the debt limit must be raised by late February to avoid a credit default; an outcome that all economic analysts agree would be catastrophic for the U.S. economy. President Obama has made his position perfectly clear that he will not negotiate on raising the debt limit, but McConnell is sticking to his guns like Republicans did in 2011 that gave the nation austerity madness (the sequester) that will have devastating effects on the economy for nine more years. McConnell said, “I think for the president to ask for a clean debt ceiling when we have a debt the size of our economy is irresponsible. So we ought to discuss adding something to his request to raise the debt ceiling that does something about the debt or produces at least something positive for our country.”
Ted Cruz agreed with McConnell and said, “Of course we should do something. We shouldn’t just write a blank check.” Raising the debt limit is not writing a blank check, it is Congress doing its job and paying the bills they racked up over the past 12 years. Cruz said the President should make concessions along the lines of “structural reforms” like the Budget Control Act Republicans championed that created the across-the-board domestic cuts to kill more jobs, slow GDP growth, and eliminate safety nets. Cruz parroted a favorite Sarah Palin line that raising the debt limit “is irresponsible to our kids and grandkids to stick that debt on them because we can’t live within our means.” The deficit is falling at its fastest level since World War II (37% in 2013) , and the sequester is killing jobs, domestic programs, and retarding GDP growth in the process, but that was the Republican plan all along and what they hope to repeat again.
McConnell also tied approval of the KeystoneXL pipeline to raising the debt limit and after another reported catastrophe at the hands of TransCanada, the foreign entity responsible for building the export pipeline, it is obvious that one way or the other, Republicans are Hell-bent and duty-bound to see Americans suffer either an economic or environmental catastrophe. It is likely that Republicans would rather see an environmental catastrophe than an economic one because the Koch brothers and the oil industry will profit from sending refined Canadian tar to Europe and China; none of the oil refined from the Keystone pipeline will stay in America after TransCanada builds another substandard pipeline and decimates America’s environment.
On Saturday in Manitoba province in Canada, a natural gas pipeline operated by TransCanada exploded and caught fire shutting off gas supplies for over 4,000 Canadians in sub-zero temperatures. TransCanada’s record for accidents, shoddy workmanship, and slow repairs is what McConnell is demanding from President Obama in exchange for raising the debt limit. Although TransCanada claimed the pipeline fire was extinguished by Saturday afternoon more than 12 hours after it started, they had to shut off the natural gas supply to several municipalities that Manitoba Hydro said will last from 24 hours to several days as the temperatures plummeted to -20 Celsius overnight. The power company asked residents to turn thermostats down and restrict the use of electric heaters because TransCanada cannot maintain a safe delivery system. Natural gas is not nearly as corrosive and dangerous as bitumen tar sand Republicans are anxious to send across America’s agricultural heartland.
TransCanada has been using its legislative arm, the Republican Party, to push approval of its Keystone pipeline to transport Canadian tar the Gulf Coast that TransCanada CEO Russ Girling called “the safest oil pipeline built in America to date.” However, TransCanada already had to repair 125 sags and dents in the southern leg of the pipeline, and while Girling told reporters on this week’s conference call that the company had “voluntarily agreed” to 57 conditions with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), Jeffrey Weise, the agency’s head of pipeline safety said his agency “has very few tools to work with.” Weise said what most Americans already know; the regulatory process is “kind of dying” due to repeated Republican cuts to neuter regulatory oversight.
This week the Wall Street Journal released analysis that found people discover pipeline spills far more often than the leak-detection technology touted by TransCanada. According to PHMSA, data for 251 pipeline incidents over four years revealed that nearby residents or company employees were nearly three times as likely to detect a pipeline leak that software, special alarms, and 24/7 control room monitoring only discover 19% percent of the time. Republicans like John Boehner who owns stock in seven Canadian tar sand companies have, like Mitch McConnell, lied and claimed building the pipeline will be a jobs bonanza for Americans, but with only less than 2,000 temporary jobs, and 15 permanent jobs, constructing the pipeline is nothing more than a gift to the Koch brothers and oil export industry as well as an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen on American soil.
McConnell, Cruz, and several House Republicans are threatening to put America on another course toward a catastrophe in exchange for not creating an economic catastrophe by not raising the debt limit. Ted Cruz’s contention that “structural reform” such as another round of mandatory sequester cuts is guaranteed to kill millions of jobs, drastically retard GDP growth, and eliminate what is left of safety nets after the first sequester began doing its well-planned damage to the people. Approving construction of the KeystoneXL pipeline is an environmental disaster waiting to happen due to TransCanada’s deplorable safety record, and the recent natural gas explosion, coupled with the foreign company’s poor construction and maintenance record is an abomination the American people should not tolerate; particularly because the pipeline only profits the Koch brothers and oil export industry.
If Republicans like McConnell and Cruz are so intent on reducing the deficit faster than it is being cut, they can pass tax reform that closes loopholes the rich and corporations enjoy and use the revenue to pay down the debt. If, as they contend, they are concerned about creating jobs, they can fund infrastructure improvements and pass any of the President’s job proposals that will create real long-lasting and living wage jobs the KeystoneXL pipeline will never achieve. However, their primary concern is causing damage to the economy; either through a catastrophic credit default or enacting another round of harsh sequester cuts, and if they can enrich the Koch brothers by building the Keystone pipeline that has a deplorable safety record then they assure themselves of a steady flow of campaign money throughout their political lifetimes. President Obama has promised that whatever catastrophe Republicans have planned for America, they will not achieve it through negotiating a ransom in exchange for raising the debt ceiling because as insane as it may seem to Republicans, their job is paying the bills they racked up whether they like it or not.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.