Raising the Ceiling

I have been overly mum on this whole debt-ceiling crisis.  The main reason… I was hoping against all hope that the parties involved could get something worked out and that this wouldn’t really be necessary.  But as we are now less than a week away from defaulting, no one seems to want to work together, and it would seem that we are heading down a very dark and bleak path.  I’ve heard those blaming the Democrats for this current mess; I’ve heard those blaming Republicans; and I’ve heard those blaming the Tea-Party branch of the Republican Party.  As for me, I’m blaming them all since they all seem to be wanting to play politics instead of getting things done.  It’s all about winning the 2012 election rather than making sure that the reputation and stability of the United States is sustained.

So let’s start at an overlying question that the media is failing to ask, so I had to go find the answer for it.  We are in need of raising the debt ceiling (or how much the federal government can borrow) so we can keep ourselves up and running and not default on our current loans.  So how many times has the debt ceiling been raised?  Since March of 1962, the debt ceiling has been raised 74 times.  It has been raised 10 times since 2001… 3 times under President Obama and 7 times under President Bush.   That’s right… under President George W. Bush (Republican), and in which Republicans had control over at least once house in Congress for 6 of the 8 years, the debt ceiling was raised 7 times without any call for a cut in spending.  In fact, President Bush had us involved in two wars while cutting taxes to all… especially the wealthiest 2-percent.  He is the only President in US history to cut taxes during wartime.  Apparently, someone forgot to inform him that wars had to be paid for.  I’m like anyone else, I like getting a tax cut, but if the government is still spending it as if they still have it, then what difference does it make?  I just have to, technically, pay it back later… except with interest added on.  So despite the fact that Republicans raised the debt ceiling 7-times under President Bush without any call for a cut in spending, why are they now insistent upon it?  Simple politics and the 2012 elections.  (and it would be the same if the roles were reversed.)

I do firmly agree that there must be cuts across the board… and that does include the defense department.  The government is spending money like it grows on trees, and if it does, then I’d like to know where that tree is so I can grab some for myself.  In these times, with less money rolling in, the government must learn to do with smaller funds.  Yes, there might a slight deficit with spending as we can’t plan for all contingencies, but nothing to the extreme that we have been doing over the past 10-years.  The government has gotten big, and spending must be roped in and put in check.  This is something quite delicate to do.  We need to keep programs that work (whether they are liberal or conservative-backed programs), and get rid of (or even make more efficient) those that don’t work.  This is what takes time… and though it needs to be done, the debt ceiling (and our nation’s economy and financial status) should not be held hostage while we do this.  I believe it all needs to be part of a larger package… but we need to get the ceiling raised so that we can avoid a default, and then we need to start cutting spending everywhere (especially wasteful spending), so that we don’t have to do this again.

I do agree with the Republican party on something.  There is going to have to be changes to the way Social Security and Medicare operate.  As a young man, I expect both of these things to change long before I ever get to retirement… otherwise, both might not be around when I retire.  For those that are currently on either (or both) of these things, and for those close to using them, I don’t think their coverage should be affected in any way.  It’s my generation coming up behind that has to get these restructured for us so they we are able to use them, too.   For the Democrats, this is blasphemy… something they have enshrined, but I’m not talking about completely getting rid of either programs.  I’m simply saying that they need to be tweaked (or reworked)  so that they are more financially stable and sustainable over the generations.

I do also agree with the Democrats on something, as well.  There needs to be additional revenue raised.  Some of this can come from raising taxes (or ending the Bush-era tax cuts) on the top 2% of wealthiest Americans.  (At this point, I’d even settle on the compromise of the top 1%.)  People like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Ted Turner have all said many times that their taxes should be raised since they can afford it.  It’s time others of their stature (and yes, there are still plenty others)  stand up with them and say the same thing.  Maybe the Republicans might actually hear them then.  Tax loopholes need to be closed, as well.  This all just forms a much needed base.  Without an increase, more just has to be cut.  Republicans (and especially Tea Party Republicans) just want to cut, cut, cut.  And cutting is a good thing, but we also need to be thinking about how to raise additional money, as well.  And this shouldn’t just come from raising taxes on the top 2% or with closing tax loopholes.  Congress needs to find some creative ways for new sources of revenue.  Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) wrote a piece recently in the Wall Street Journal outlining 4-new sources of revenue.  (Click Here to read the report.)  It might not be perfect, but at least the Congressman was willing to think outside the box and come up with some creative ideas.  I haven’t heard or seen anything from any other member.  They all just seem to like the talking points.   Congressman Polis has also introduced a bill that would reform the Presidential Dollar Coin after reports came out that the demand for them is down and the government is having to store them because no one wants them.  It’s spending a lot of money to make money no one wants… and then having to shell out more money to ship and store them.  So Congressman Polis brought about a bill that would curtain that wasteful spending.  (Click Here.)  Congressman Polis has shown what can happen if we were to stop the partisan bullshit and start working together on an actual solution to this mess… once we get passed the current crisis which we are creating ourselves.  He has come up with new sources of revenue, found an area of wasteful spending to cut out… and this all without still raising taxes on the top 2% of wealthiest Americans.  See… it can be done, and he has proven it.  (Disclaimer:  I do not work for Congressman Polis nor have I ever contributed money to his campaign or office.  I do not live in his Congressional district or even in his state.)

We also need to remember that this is a self-made problem.  We have brought this on ourselves.  We set our own debt-ceiling, and we are the only western industrialized country that even has a debt ceiling.  Is that a good idea or a bad idea?  Depends on the point of view.  In terms of trying to keep spending in check, it’s a good concept.  But in terms of what we are going through now, it’s a bad one.  If you have happen to see the news over the past few months, we’ve heard a lot from the country of Greece, who has had to make a lot of spending cuts as a result of overspending and having to borrow money from the European Union to even stay afloat.  What we see happening over there, could be coming here if we default.  Defaulting could mean sliding back into recession, more jobs lost, and even more cutbacks than if we had dealt with this problem efficiently from the beginning.

Compromise has become a dirty word in Washington since the 2010 midterm elections and the Tea Party portion of the Republican Party came about.  Politics is all about given and take.  Neither side is 100% correct, so you talk it out and get something together that is better than the other two plans individually.  (The final bill is still not perfect either.)  But to the Tea Party, they are always right and they dig their heals in and refuse to compromise or negotiate no matter what.  And that’s just not the way to run any type of government.  It cannot function when sides dig in their heals and refuse to work together.  If you want the other side to come your way on some parts, you have to be willing to move their way on other parts.  Again… give and take.  I think most people belonging to the Tea Party need to take a basic college course on the subject of government to learn how a government (more especially, our government) actually works.  I honestly do believe that we would not be sitting here with this current situation if the Tea Party legislators hadn’t been elected.  I think a deal would have been reached prior to this point.

Congress has currently come up with two different plans.  One in the Republican-controlled House (which might not even escape the chamber due to lack of Tea Party backing) and one in the Democratic-controlled Senate.  Neither bill has any hope really of making it through both chambers of Congress because the opposing side wasn’t consulted in writing them up… nor would they even allowed to advise or have any input.  So why are they wasting time with these bills then?  Simple politics… gesturing for the 2012 elections, and to try to make the American people blame the other side for the situation.  Well, as I said before, I’m going to rise above the finger pointing and blame them all for the current situation since they have all let us down, when they could have rose the occasion and shown us that they can work together in the hopes of our national interest.  And to make my point even more clear, I will make this vow that I will not support any candidate seeking reelection in the 2012 campaign.  The incumbents will have proven that they cannot work above that of a child on the playground and thus don’t deserve to be serving within the highest offices of our government.  They are holding our nation hostage on the grounds of partisan politics, so I’m going to hold my vote as a hostage to them and their inability to get anything done.  Perhaps some words of Thomas Jefferson are best suited for this moment in history that when the current form of government isn’t working, it then becomes time to abolish it and form a new one.  Is history really at that particular moment or is their still a tiny bit of a chance that we can still rise to the challenge?

(CNN Money, Fortune magazine, and Money magazine helped with some numbers and additional information for this article.)

SIDENOTE:  And for those wanting to source the economic stimulus package, the bailouts, or TARP, I suggest reading the following article beforehand… http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2011/07/08/surprise-the-big-bad-bailout-is-paying-off/


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