Look at the faces in the above picture. These men are so proud of themselves. The House Republicans are so pleased because they successfully and overwhelmingly defeated a piece of legislation last night. They emerged victorious in a battle with…themselves? Yes, the Republican leaders in the House put forward a straight up or down vote on raising the debt ceiling, then voted it down, with vigor. Welcome to this year’s season of Washington political theater. Last night’s performance was entitled, “Dealing with the Debt Ceiling, a farce in two acts.”
Our nation is struggling to recover from a devastating recession, millions of Americans are still out of work and our nation’s ability to pay the bills that we currently owe is in jeopardy, so what do our elected officials on the Right decide to do, prepare campaign ad material from the floor of the Capital building. The Republican leaders stated that the reason they were putting forward a bill that they fully intended to vote down was that the President and Congressional Democrats were asking for a straight up or down vote on raising the debt ceiling with no strings attached and they wanted to show that the American people reject the Democrats ideas. They went as far as reassuring Wall Street that this vote was merely for show and assured the financial markets that they had nothing to worry about.
This is outrageous! We did not elect these folks to be actors, we elected them to do the people’s business. Regardless of what you think should be done about the debt ceiling, we can all agree that our leaders should be actually working on meaningful legislation and not trying to score political points.
What is maddening about this whole debate is that the Republicans have been successful in clouding this issue, and creating a narrative that ignores the reality of what actually is going on. I agree with my Republican friends that Washington needs to tighten its belt, needs to cut spending and we have approximately 6 months to create a leaner, more cost-effective federal budget. Between now and Oct. when the new fiscal year starts, there is plenty of time to wrangle with how to find the trillions of dollars we need to cut, how to reduce entitlement spending while still maintaining efficient programs. I welcome a hearty, even fierce fight over how Washington moves forward with spending our money. I would even favor legislation that requires a budget be completed by Sept. 15th or personal consequences occur for our legislators.
The debt ceiling debate is actually not about spending in the future. It is not about whether Medicare should become a voucher program in 10 years. It is not about whether in fiscal year 2012, the federal government stops funding Planned Parenthood, the National Endowment of the Arts and PBS. The debt ceiling debate is really about one thing, does the federal government pay its bills. See, our elected officials voted, this year, last years and so on, to spend certain amounts on money on all kinds of things from salaries of our enlisted men and women to funds to enforce the Clean Air Act of 1990. The federal government, as a direct result of the voting of the men and women in Congress has agreed to spend trillions of dollars. Now, we have not only run out of money, but we have reached the arbitrary borrowing limit Congress imposed on itself a year ago. If the debt ceiling is not raised, the obligations we have from paying the interest on our debts to sending social security checks to our seniors is in jeopardy. Some of our politicians like to compare this debate to raising your credit card limit so you can buy more junk, which is not an accurate analogy. What our friends with the elephant pins are suggesting is that we refuse to pay our mortgage, car payment and credit card bills while we figure out what expenses we should cut out and how best to pay the outstanding bills. We could do that, of course, we lose the house and the car and ruin our credit. Problem with that approach is that even Dave Ramsey would advise to make certain you make your mortgage and car payment, while getting a second job and looking for way to sell everything you don’t need.
This is what we must say to Congress, Republicans and Democrats, “Pay the bills and then change your spending habits. “ Raise the debt ceiling to the level necessary to cover all our current obligations and not a penny more. Then send the next 6 months changing our spending habits and finding ways to increase revenue. Stop campaigning and start legislating!