Sunday, August 7, 2011

On the Debt Ceiling and Its Attendant Fuckery

The debt ceiling situation broke my soul a little, so I haven't been talking about it in this space much.  It actually got so bad at one point that I wound up making an agreement with my primary talking-about-politics friend to not talk about politics for several days because even though we usually agree, we were creating this stressful echo chamber of rage every time the debt ceiling came up.  However, a couple of my friends have asked about my thoughts on the matter, and it's important to talk about this stuff so people know what's going on and what should be going on.  I responded to a request for my thoughts on Facebook, and I'll flesh it out here (though not too much, since I got on a tear and the comment wound up being almost 1000 words).

1. No fucking way should this ever have been the clusterfuck it was. The debt ceiling is a self-imposed mechanism that deals with the Treasury's ability to pay what Congress tells it to. Congress has a say in what we pay for via the budget process. When it gets to an issue of needing to raise the debt ceiling, the time to fight about what comprises our debt is long since over - the money has been spent and it's a matter of letting the Treasury pay the bill. This should have been a clean raise and I think Obama should have used the 14th Amendment to at least demand that it be that way, even if he wasn't comfortable addressing the additional budget considerations that (stupidly) got rolled into the debate by allowing the GOP to frame the discussion early on. Coming out swinging and using the 14th Amendment to frame the debt ceiling raise as a narrow discussion would have made everything a lot clearer and less stupid for everyone.

2. Anyone who didn't come away from this realizing that the Tea Party members of Congress are a dangerous group of privileged assholes with the GOP's nuts in a vise is a fucking moron. They have twice now demonstrated that they do not understand how government works, as evidenced by the budget shit they tacked on to this debate and the policy riders they tacked onto the budget discussions, which you may remember as "the last time they almost shut the government down." They are a bunch of childish, ignorant, selfish assholes and I am done pretending otherwise. If they were truly about the objectivist, libertarian ideology they say they are, they would join up with the incredibly rich, nuanced and energetic libertarian community in this country. But they aren't. They care about draconian social conservatism and don't give a shit about liberty in any way shape or form. I understand that there are Tea Party members who do genuinely care about liberty and want to deny this reality of the Tea Party, but they are wrong, and I am sorry. Those people who don't want to be called racist, sexist, xenophobic ignoramouses need to get the fuck out of the Tea Party because that is what these Tea Party candidates and representatives are bringing to the table.

2a. I believe that everyone's voice is worth hearing in American politics.  That doesn't mean I think everyone's voice needs to be acted on, but I think they all need to be heard, not only because democracy runs on dissent but also because an idea that cannot stand up to challenges is a bad one to act on.  Establishing certain ideas as status quo and expecting them to stay that way forever dooms any polity to failure; continual challenges to them keep them vibrant, adaptable and relevant.  However, lying to the people you're ostensibly in a discussion with is not acceptable and represents a forfeit of your legitimacy in the debate.  Speaker John Boehner got up in front of the American public and lied to their faces about what was at stake, where the debt had come from, the need for budget cuts to be appended to the debt ceiling, and his own interactions.  That is shitty at best and treasonous at worst.  John Boehner has been in Congress much longer than the Tea Party has existed.  That he was willing to set aside his institutional knowledge to advance a foul and dangerous Tea Party plan is incredibly disturbing.

3. I am disappointed in Obama's choices, but I am MOST disappointed in the way he handled the negotiations and who apparently attended them. Nancy Pelosi never should have been third man in on those discussions and it sounds like she was.  There has been a lot of theorizing that this is part of a larger play to the middle on Obama's part.  If that is the case, it's a huge mistake.

3a. I probably would have invoked the 14th Amendment and drafted an Executive Order for a clean raise. The problem with this is that out debt's stability resonates through our markets and the world economy, and markets are a game of confidence. [Insert con game pun here as necessary] The deadline was met. We made it. Yay. I guess. Except there will be doubt about the stability of our bonds for years to come, and that is a dangerous thing for both our economy and the world's. Markets were dipping well ahead of the deadline, and S&P basically had to be talked out of downgrading out AAA rating during the process, and has now gone ahead and done it.  Markets don't make autonomous decisions - the numbers don't decide whether to go up or down. They are chaotic systems and they operate on peoples and groups' whims and fears. This has been damaging for us already, and pretending otherwise is fucking foolish.

I think Obama resisted using the 14th Amendment because he understands that entering into negotiations like this and then acting unilaterally would have an effect on our governance and political system that would outlast even the economic costs of a default, and that it would be worse. No matter what these ignorant motherfuckers tell you, that man understands and respects the Constitution, and he understands that American democracy is contingent on compromise in the service of a communal project of governance. I respect the shit out of that even if I would have made a different decision.

4. All that said, everyone needs to calm the fuck down. I'm already twat-deep in people getting all hysterical about about we need to recall Obama and how he's betrayed us and 2012 we're all voting for Ralph Shut the fuck up and sit the fuck down. You have two options in 2012, and those options are Barack Obama and whatever the shit the GOP comes up with, and you bet your ass there's a chance it could be Michele "Crazy Pants" Bachmann. The deal is not one I like, and I would have liked to see either a.) a clean raise or if budget shit just HAD to be involved, b.) one with a tax increase for the rich and dramatic military cuts [Note: the plan as passed includes $350B in cuts to the base military budget with potential for more.  The People's View has a great overview of what's going on and why everyone should calm down.]. As it is, the debt ceiling is good through 2013, so we don't have to go through this fuckery again until after the election which I assure you benefits everyone. In the agreement, Obama managed to preserve Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security while also securing big time military cuts, which fucking NO ONE has been talking about since ever and which we desperately need to be talking about. I also think that this can be parlayed into a solid smackdown of the Bush Tax Cuts when they come up again soon, because the Tea Party and GOP just spent 6 months showing what a bunch of priviledged corporocrats they are and how wrong they are about fiscal policy. People are already tired of these motherfuckers telling them how business should get off scott free while everyone else sucks it up. That shit is not going to fly again.

5. My main concern is with this special committee, which entrenches the two party system and is unconstitutional. We have a group to figure out cuts to the budget. It's called FUCKING CONGRESS and we ELECT IT.

TL:DR: That shit was exhausting and stupid and never should have happened, but the deal isn't as bad as all the pearl clutchers are making it out to be.

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