Most politicians have made it clear that their eye isn’t on the debt-ceiling deadline of Aug. 2, 2011; it’s on Nov. 6, 2012 — Election Day. You know who’s going to come out ahead in this debt-ceiling debate? Nobody.
You know who’s going to come out ahead in this debt-ceiling debate?
Nobody. Not the Democrats, not the Republicans, not the president, not the people who want his job, not you, not me — nobody.
It’s politics as self-destructive theater and, trust me, this member of the audience would walk out if he could. As for getting my money back, well ... that’s the problem, isn’t it?
Quick background: The federal government has run out of money and is moving around what little it has to meet obligations. If Congress doesn’t extend the nation’s credit line –– aka its debt ceiling –– to allow additional borrowing, the government will begin to default on its financial obligations as of Aug. 2.
Most economists and bipartisan observers say this would cause global economic calamity. Most House Republicans don’t care.
President Obama has been trying to negotiate in his best “What-do-you-want? I’ll-give-you-what-you-want-and-then-I’ll-give-you-a-little-more” manner. He’s just not a very good poker player.
(Mr. President, the expression is, “I’m not bluffing” –– it’s not “Don’t call my bluff.” The No. 1 rule of bluffing: The other side isn’t supposed to know it’s a bluff.)
Negotiations at the White House last week went nowhere. Somebody had the bright idea of inviting House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. He’s House Speaker John Boehner’s younger, more partisan job-coveter. Cantor seems to have monopolized the discussion the way a precocious middle-schooler takes over the conversation at a dinner party when someone lets him prattle on too long.
Cantor was, by most reports, the wedge that got between Obama and Boehner on talks of a large-scale agreement to raise the debt limit, cut spending and (make the sign of the Cross here) raise taxes.
A few words about taxes
As a share of the overall economy, federal taxes are at their lowest level since 1950, writes Charles Babington of the Associated Press.
“A return,” he continues, “to the higher income tax rates of the Clinton presidency — when many Americans prospered and calls for tax cuts were fairly muted — would wipe out most of the deficit.”
Smart Republicans have approved tax increases –– think Ronald Reagan. So there is room in the discussion for the topic of taxes, if one is to consider the problem responsibly and sanely.
Unfortunately, attention seems to be focused not on solving the problem but on benefiting from it.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear in a radio interview last week that his eye isn’t on Aug. 2, 2011. Instead, it’s on Nov. 6, 2012: Election Day.
“I refuse to help Barack Obama get re-elected by marching Republicans into a position where we have co-ownership of a bad economy,” McConnell told one of the thousands of conservatives who host radio shows. “That’s a very bad positioning going into an election.”
So he has his priorities in order.
On the left, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is “oh, no, he dint-in” to Obama’s suggestion that cuts to entitlement programs like Medicare are on the table. (Shhhh! Don’t worry, Nancy, he’s just bluffing!)
And presidential candidate (no — really!) Newt Gingrich, who hasn’t uttered a constructive sentence since announcing his resignation as House speaker back in 1999, weighed in: “(Republicans) should pass a spending cut, a savings bill and a balanced budget amendment and dare President Obama to veto them.”
It’s a cluster, is what it is. We’re about to default on our loans and fumble away the faith and credit of the United States as we bump up against our federal debt ceiling.
Meanwhile, there is unfortunately nothing to prevent the posturing, partisanship and political pandering in Washington from going straight through the roof.
Kevin Frisch’s column, Funny Thing ..., appears each Sunday in the Canandaigua Daily Messenger in New York. Contact him at (585) 394-0770, ext. 257, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.