1. There Is No Debt Ceiling Crisis
No, seriously, this is entirely made up. This is cynical opportunism at it's worst on the part of the Republican party and specifically the Tea Party. In case you hadn't come across these numbers before, here are the numbers to support this claim.
- We have raised the debt ceiling 70 times since 1960
- We raised the debt ceiling 18 times during Reagan's presidency
- Republicans voted to raise the debt ceiling 7 times during George W. Bush's presidency
- This is the best number of all, 130 of the current Republicans in congress voted to raise the debt ceiling during Bush's presidency
2. The Deficit Problem Is Largely A Republican Problem
Economists almost unanimously agree that cutting spending during a recession is, to put it mildly, an extremely bad idea. However, if you believe in spite of the experts that we must reduce the deficit, perhaps you would like some numbers to go along with that opinion.
Here are the primary contributors to the deficit:
Here are the deficits for George W. Bush vs. Barrack Obama
Here is the surplus we would have if not for the Bush Policies
Note that the deficit is almost entirely comprised of Republican policies enacted under the Bush administration. It's darkly cynical and historically hypocritical for the Republicans to look at the deficit of their own doing and pretend that they are serious about deficit reduction.
The most critical points of note from the charts above are the cost of wars and the cost of tax cuts. First, these are costs that continue to contribute to the deficit long into the future. Second, defying reason, logic, and any measure of fiscal conservatism, the Bush administration chose not only to keep the wars off the books and so therefore not have them be reflected in the budget, they also chose to lower taxes while we fought two wars. Throughout our history, we have always raised taxes to pay for the costs of our wars. George W. Bush on the other hand launched two of the longest wars we have every fought and made no effort to pay for those wars, instead he went against historical precedent and lowered taxes.
Related to these issues, I’m sure you’ve heard voices on the right argue that President Obama has increased the federal deficit faster than any president in our history. This is a lie. What President Obama did was put the cost of the wars that George W. Bush started into the budget. What President Obama did was the fiscally conserative thing, he decided to acknowledge the things that we are spending our money on. In fact, the last two charts demonstrate this fact. The last chart is particularly good, because it shows that if you were to remove the first 2 green bars from our deficit (all Bush policies) even with the spending President Obama has sponsored, we would have a $47 billion surplus. Yes, a surplus.
3. Ideological Prey
Now that the Republcians and the Tea Party have manufactured a false crisis and used the deficit of their creation as the excuse, the Republicans seek to use this as an opportunity to go after ideological targets they've been wishing to destroy for decades, medicare and social security.
The Republicans and their talking points would have you believe that anyone who brings this up is demagoging these issues. But I'm sure you noticed in the charts above, the absence of either medicare or social security. Discussions of the financial future of these programs is beyond this particular post, but suffice it to say that trying to address problems not contributing to the deficit as a means of deficit reduction is poor logic at best. These issues do need to be addressed, but not in the ways the Republicans are currently arguing and not in the heat of the moment just before our nation defaults on it’s financial obligations.
4. Our Current Batch Of Conservatives, Aren't Conservative At All
Merriam-Webster supplies the following definition of "conservative"
a: tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions : traditional
b : marked by moderation or caution <a conservative estimate>
We know that the debt ceiling has historically been a straight forward simple vote. We know that this vote has happened dozens of times. If our current batch of conservatives "tended to maintaining existing views" they would simply vote to raise the debt ceiling.
We also know that every economist, every newspaper, the ratings agencies and business in general are warning that default could lead to collapse of economies worldwide. If our current batch of conservatives were "marked by moderation or caution" they would heed these warnings and raise the debt ceiling.
We also know that if we default, in addition to the global financial meltdown, we also get the added benefit of increased interest rates. What makes this so interesting is that this means that instantaneously the deficit they claim to be so worried about will sky-rocket because the cost of paying our debt will go up as the interest rate at which we can borrow money will have gone up. Again, our current batch of conservatives can't be considered fiscal conservatives either.
5. We Have Real Problems
Republicans and the Tea Party may not have noticed, but as a nation we are struggling. Unemployment is high, economic growth is very slow, insert the issue of your choosing here. But rather than address these real issues, rather than do the work of the American people, the Republican party has chosen to pick a fake fight, over a fake issue, while ignoring everything else.
They have lied about the crisis. They have lied about the deficit. They have lied about the solution they propose. And frankly they lie every time they claim to be conservative.
The Democrats share their portion of the blame. President Obama and some Democrats seem to think that we care about compromise. In the name of compromise, while the Republicans have thrown off the gloves, they kick, they punch below the belt, they scratch, they bite, they pull hair, the President and the Democrats have been standing in their corner, gloves on still waiting for someone to ring the bell.
While I agree that compromise is a noble concept, it only applies when you are dealing with reasonable people who offer reasonable compromises. The Republicans, according to an increasing number of conservatives, are not offering rational compromise, they are instead fanatics.
They are betting that just like in the midterms, we won't raise a finger. They are betting that we won't remember or pay attention to the facts. But sooner or later we'll have to make a stand, and if the Democrats won't fight for us, we'll have to do it ourselves.
The bell has rung and from the factual perspective, we are the heavyweights in this fight. We can easily crush our so called “conservative” flyweight opponents, we can keep the gloves on, but we will need to swing occassionally.