The debt? What debt?
Washington is awash in congratulations and claims of noble compromise. House Republicans are bragging about becoming fiscally responsible while maintaining a morally responsible budget. There’s just one problem. It’s not true. The only thing they should feel good about now is their vote to keep the United States from a catastrophic default.
The national debt is a staggering $14.3 trillion. The debt ceiling deal they struck with Republican tea partiers (who the very conservative Wall Street Journal called “tea-party Hobbits”) will only reduce the yearly deficits. It will not vigorously take on the debt. That’s like paying the new monthly bills on your credit card each month without significantly reducing the overall balance. And most importantly, it will hurt the already struggling middle class and the poor, and drastically reduce the city and state government services our citizens need and rely on. It also won’t create jobs; rather, it will eliminate jobs.
In order to properly function, this country must raise revenue. And Republicans in Congress have made it perfectly clear they would have let this great nation crash into default and ruin our credit rather than raise revenue. They would not ask their campaign benefactors to do what the overburdened middle class has been doing for years – pay up. Republicans refused to close tax loopholes for oil companies and other corporations. They refused to take subsidies away. They refused to give up the Bush-era tax cuts. Just last year, they convinced the president and Congress to extend them as part of a deal to continue long-term unemployment benefits, even though, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities demonstrated, the rise in debt would stop if they simply let the Bush tax cuts expire. They know the top 1 percent doesn’t need those tax cuts since they already receive almost 25 percent of all income and control more than 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, but Republicans refuse to reclaim that much-needed revenue that could help the debt problem. Republicans also refused to change the tax code, which, as the General Accountability Office warned us back in February of 2009, allowed 67 percent of U.S. corporations and 68 percent of foreign corporations to pay zero income taxes. That’s right. Zero. Republicans simply would not raise any revenue. This is equivalent to the head of a family simply refusing to earn income, telling the family to instead just stop spending on essentials.
The Republicans refused to raise a single dime to pay down the debt, and President Barack Obama could not get them to compromise at all. They refused to listen to Ronald Reagan’s former director of the Office of Management and Budget, who warned them last summer, “If there were such a thing as Chapter 11 for politicians, the Republican push to extend the unaffordable Bush tax cuts would amount to a bankruptcy filing.” They refused to listen to any plea for more revenue, but this country needs everyone, not just small businesses and the middle class, to pay their fair share if we are to reduce our debt.
Both New Hampshire members of the House of Representatives played follow the leader and took that tea-party/partisan stance, refusing to raise any revenue anywhere on anyone or anything, even if we cut Social Security and Medicare, even if we cut health care, even if we did not repair bridges, even if we cut jobs. These two members have the Republican problem – they have all signed a pledge, not to their constituents, but to Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, and they would be severely punished if they violated “the pledge.” They would be targeted and attacked on TV, radio, and by mail if they dared to even consider raising revenue from the dodgers.
So here we are, saddled with a Republican majority so beholden to a pledge to protect corporations and the top 1 percent that they can’t and won’t defend the middle class or work to protect essential programs. We have a president who is surrounded by these partisans who threaten to bring down the economy if their demands are not met. And we have an exhausted and all too frequently unemployed middle class that is left wondering why corporations don’t have to pay taxes, why the top 1 percent aren’t included in the “shared sacrifice” formula and why this nation can’t pay its debts. But they don’t have to look far for an answer. With this debt-ceiling fight, their Republican leaders just showed the people who they actually work for.
Former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter represented New Hampshire’s First District from 2007-11. She wrote the proposal for and established a non-profit, social service agency, which continues to serve all ages. She taught politics and history and is a strong supporter of Medicare and Social Security.