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This Week: Republican's Fiscal Recklessness. PLUS: The Nation on Sports | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

This Week: Republican's Fiscal Recklessness. PLUS: The Nation on Sports

DEBT-CEILING MADNESS. Throughout the on-going debt-ceiling negotiations, the GOP has proved that they are more than just the party of "no." Ensnared by the reckless fanaticism of the Tea Party, House Republican extremists are determined to hold the economy hostage for political gain. As I told MSNBC's Ed Schultz on Wednesday, this game of brinksmanship is just the latest installment of what Republicans have been about from the start: running against Obama in 2012. It's the American people that ultimately pay the price.

But even John Boehner's plan to temporarily raise the debt ceiling in return for deep spending cuts was not enough to sway his own caucus. Thursday's failure to garner enough GOP votes on Boehner's plan shows that "chaos caucus" will stop at nothing to tank the economy and inch us closer to calamitous default. As John Nichols points out, House Republicans find themselves faced with a choice: falling in line with Boehner's plan or "the sweet sound of the base cheering for absolutism--and chaos." As I pointed out weeks ago in the Washington Post, by standing firm on their pledge to never to raise taxes, cut defense spending or pass meaningful progressive tax reform, they starve the US economy of much needed revenue that could actually put Americans back to work -- the most effective way to reduce the deficit -- and help to boost the stagnating US economy. But you won't hear that in Washington. Inside the beltway, the crisis of the hour is the deficit. And yet poll after poll shows that Americans are more concerned about jobs. As I told MSNBC's Joe Scarborough on Monday, while Washington is besieged by deficit hysteria and a president all too willing to sell out, Americans are fighting a familiar fight for basic income. There is way too much "kumbaya" in this President for the moment we are living in. Real leadership does demand compromise, but real leadership cannot be defined by it.

By not pushing for revenues in any debt-ceiling compromise, President Obama and Democrats have moved this debate even further to the right. In "The Rise of the Austerity Hawk Democrats," Contributing Writer Ari Berman rightly points out that by not insisting on a "clean bill" to raise the debt-ceiling and pushing for ludicrous spending cuts and changes to entitlements, President Obama has completely undermined the case for progressive governance.

As the August 2nd deadline nears, and if Congress is unable to cut a deal, President Obama will be faced with only one option: invoke Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which says that “the validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.” This option is one that the president alone may exercise. As I argued in the Washington Post, this is not just a constitutional option, but a constitutional obligation.

THE NATION ON SPORTS: VIEWS FROM LEFT FIELD. Sick of debt-ceiling madness? We've got just the thing. The new double-issue of The Nation takes a close look at the central areas in which sports culture intersects with the pursuit of social and economic justice in its special sports issue this week -- only the second in its 146-year history. In what is both a critique and celebration of sports culture, Nation Sports reporter Dave Zirin joins an eclectic group of contributors, including veteran New York Times sports columnist Robert Lipsyte, Deadspin founding editor Will Leitch, former Denver Broncos wide receiver and tight end Nate Jackson, Sports Scholar Mary Jo Kane, and labor reporter Ari Paul. I spoke to Dave Zirin about the special issue in our latest Nation Conversation, available here.

In a powerful personal essay by Robert Lipsyte, "Jocks vs. Pukes" examines how the increasing dominance of the "male power" myth and the "jock culture" as well as the pursuit to win at all costs distort sports and sets unhealthy examples for society as a whole. In "Why Do Mayors Love Sports Stadiums," stadium expert Neil deMause pulls back the curtain on public subsidization of sports facilities -- a boon for everyone but the public. Former Denver Bronco's wide receiver Nate Jackson tackles the NFL's "concussion culture" for an important look at why NFL players from the 1980's and 1990's are turning up dead. Will Leitch hails "The Wired World of Sports," arguing that the general public is a lot more knowledgeable about matters of sports labor issues and everything else, than it was a decade ago. And in "America's Deepest Closest", LGBT activist and scholar Sherry Wolf explores why the sports world remains fiercely hostile to open participation by LGBT athletes and why this may soon change.

Embodying the celebratory nature of the issue, is a forum composed of a distinguished group of writers, thinkers and advocates paying tribute to their sports heroes growing up. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Eagan on Monica Seles, Jane Mayer on Arthur Ashe, Bob Herbert on Bobby Thomson and Hank Thompson, Dan Rather on Rube Walker, Marc Cuban on Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell, Ralph Nader on Lou Gehrig, Dennis Kucinich on Jim Thorpe and others discuss their sports heros in a package of moving mini-essays all expressing, in their own way, a feeling many of us share: pure love of the game. Be sure to take a look at this forum visualized in our slideshow this week.

EUROPE'S HOMEGROWN TERRORISTS. The horrific killings in Oslo last week threw into stark relief the prejudice and paranoia that has entered the European and US mainstream. With commentators on both continents too quick to point a finger at Muslim extremism as the likely perpetrators of the attack, the revelation that the killer was a white, Christian extremist and neo-Nazi quickly turned the conversation around leaving commentators grappling for a new narrative. In his inimitable way, Gary Younge this week brought reason and perspective to the debates that have emerged in the wake of the tragedy. In a 2007 article, republished this week TheNation.com, Younge sounded a warning that “the primary threat to democracy in Europe isn’t ‘Islamofascism’…but plain old fascism”. Since then, the rise of hard-right anti-nationalist and anti-immigrant parties across Europe has borne out Younge’s warning. On the European continent, fascism has once again become a mainstream ideology. He revisits this theme in his latest article, showing that the “single greatest obstacle to integration in most of Europe is not Islam or multiculturalism but racism and the economic and academic disadvantage that comes with it”. It’s economic depravation and uncertainty that fascists feed on, Younge points out. This time around we would do well to better heed Younge’s warning.

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