Residing somewhere in the gauzy ether of mirages, hallucinations and CG-generated effects is the congressional debt ceiling. Contrived in legislation passed in 1917 it is a law of no functional use, more a vaporous legislative paradox than real proscription.
The law’s ethereality was built in from the very start, a law with no statutory power to prevent the treasury from issuing actual debt, but rather a requirement of legislation to actually pay the debt. As grand theatrical political demagoguery, politicians passed the law to provide the appearance of some commitment to self-imposed restraints on spending, though again, in reality it is the equivalent of computer-generated landscape.
Nothing is required to raise the debt limit other than a simple yes or no vote. No actions must be taken in the real world in order to raise the limit, no criteria exist that must be met. In other words, there is no connection whatsoever between the debt ceiling or the budget of the United States or further spending, or the American economy at all.
The original debt ceiling number was entirely arbitrary, eleven billion or so, and naturally it needs to be increased as the country and the economy grow larger, just as the borrowing needs of businesses and corporations increase as companies expand, growing larger and larger. This is why of course it has been raised without controversy 74 times since 1962, five times during the Bush administration. In other words, prior to now raising it was merely a formality.
It should come as no, and really does not come as any great shock to anyone at this point, that our well around-the-bend contemporary Republicans would seize this, as they have other congressional responsibilities, to provide a scenery-chewing demonstration of their new radicalism and abiding hypocrisy. If that means threatening the full faith and credit of the United States of America for the first time in history in an attempt to gain through extortion, changes in government policy only a small minority of citizens favor and Republicans cannot effectuate through the normal democratic political process, so be it. In fairness, other Americans and somewhat astonished persons of other nations have begun to grow used to this crazy and juvenile bunch of fanatical ideological zealots acting out.
The press refer to what is going on in Washington now as “negotiations,” when in reality Obama and Democratic congressional leaders are the government’s version of a hostage negotiation team attempting to talk the mentally unstable hostage-taker, in this case congressional Republicans, into releasing the hostage, Americans, unharmed.
The money already has been spent, the debt already has been issued, the loans have been taken, so the only effect of a vote against raising the debt limit is that America isn’t going to meet its obligations. It would be as though nothing were standing in the way of your family paying its bills…plenty of money is in the bank…and the family took a vote and rejected paying them anyhow.
There was a time in history, until very recently in fact, when such a stunt as the Republicans are pulling now would be fully condemnable in the minds of the public at large, an outrage and a source of enormous shame for the irresponsibility of pulling such a stunt. And in fact, to some extent that may be happening now. But in the post-factual era we now inhabit, when any informational source is as good as good as any other, and midgets of veracity like Andrew Breitbart or Fox News, sources of misinformation and manipulation, look to some as tall as anyone, the picture conveyed to the public isn’t quite as sharp or as clear. This era of fuzzed out factuality is one of modern conservatism’s most profoundly successful long term endeavors.
The Republican hissy fit of course is part of the well-established pattern of the last thirty years. When Republicans retain power the word “deficit” never passes through Republican lips, nor does the word “spending”. If the former is heard it is in the vein of Dick Cheney’s declaration “deficits don’t matter,” It is a measure of the distance conservative posturing has traveled, Cheney being a right- wing patron saint then, making declarations such as that one, to now, when deficits, like the massive one that a Republican president for the third time in succession handed off to his Democratic successor, is the equivalent threat to the nation as a colliding asteroid.
The exact figure by the way, for the deficit this latest Republican president who inherited the 250 billion dollar surplus left, was 1.3 trillion dollars. Were there some truth in advertising agency empowered to require political rhetoric to conform to factual reality, Republican slogans and alarms now would be along the lines of: “Obama has failed…to clean up the horrendous mess we made:” or, “Our job is to make the messes, Democrats’ to clean them up,;” or, “We managed to fuck up the economy beyond all recognition in eight years, by god Obama should fix it in two, with us impeding him every step of the way”
Of course, if reality, honesty and decency were enforceable, the current Republican Party some time ago would have been put down with other rabid dogs. One needs to take Rush Limbaugh and Mitch McConnell and other Republicans at their very word, when they say that Obama’s failure is their ultimate goal. They don’t add “by any means necessary,” or “at whatever expense, or no matter the toll for the American republic or the American people.”
But the debt ceiling itself: only summer haze