We’ve already hit the official debt ceiling, although accounting tricks can keep the default at bay for at least a few more weeks. But with Republicans walking out of the talks in a huff, it’s hard to see how a deal can be reached before the economic disaster truly strikes.
A new problem being added into the fold? Republican leadership no longer agrees on what it is they actually want to gain out of the talks themselves, and what they will count as a “victory” in order to get a vote passed. The newest issue? House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has removed himself from the negotiation, no doubt hoping that he can oppose whatever compromise Speaker of the House John Boehner agrees to, setting himself up to challenge Boehner for his leadership spot. Slate actually refers to this hissy fit “impasse” as progress, as that means Republicans might be ready to set someone up to take the fall when it comes to reaching an actual, workable compromise. Minority Leader Pelosi laid out some of those potential “sticking points” that Cantor is balking on: ““Yes, we do want to remove tax subsidies for big oil, we want to remove tax breaks for corporations that send jobs overseas, that list goes on. I don’t know that’s a reason to walk away from the table when we’re trying to find a balanced approach.”
Meanwhile, a coalition of Republicans, lead by South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, is throwing an even bigger wrench into the negotiations, adding a new demand to an already endless list of do’s and don’ts (do cut social programs and the safety net, don’t rescind tax cuts for rich people or corporations, etc). DeMint and his colleagues are now requiring “cap, cut and balance,” a three fold plan to cap spending on a variety of programs like Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, etc, cut spending, mostly in regards to those previously mentioned programs, and force the budget to be balanced each year. It’s this new push that Cantor appears to be throwing himself behind, stating a balanced budget amendment will be voted on in the House next month. Should the balanced budget amendment pass, it would require a super majority vote to allow the government to spend more than it takes in, a somewhat terrifying idea when one considers how little legislation has been passed in the last decade thanks to the newer, simpler filibuster rules and secret holds. The amendment would also require ratification by 3/4ths of the states, a great boost for the Republican presidential race in 2012 should it get to that stage.
As the final stage of the talks are hopefully being entered, we are still assuming that both sides are negotiating in good faith. But what if Republicans don’t actually want to balance the budget? After all, according to the Congressional Budget Office, there is one very simple way to put the country back on the path to paying off the debt — end the Bush era tax cuts. Yet Republicans are balking, calling it a tax increase and saying that is completely off the table. They still argue that allowing the rich to have more money in their pockets will spur economic growth, despite that fact that we have been in the worst recession in decades every since these cuts were implemented, and every dollar that is provided to lower income people, either by welfare, subsidies or unemployment payments, goes almost immediately back into the economy in the form of groceries, housing and consumer spending. As Sen. Jeff Sessions argued in a recent piece on The Hill, “A punishing tax increase would not only threaten needed growth, it would also give a free pass to the egregious overspending in Washington—a behavior that is both morally and economically culpable for our current crisis.”
Republican are taking money from those who actually spend it to protect those who have done nothing but hoard it. And, of course, make financial contributions to the GOP. No wonder the negotiations don’t seem to be going anywhere.
Photo credit: Photo: http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html via Wikimedia Commons