Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
In the melodrama that is consuming Washington this hot summer, featuring the spectacle of how much Tea Party Republicans will be able to extort for agreeing not to blow up the economy, the values and priorities of most Americans were early casualties. That reality will drive—no matter what the resolution this week—new, independent citizen mobilizations challenging both Republican zealotry and Democratic cravenness.
The debt-ceiling debate has lasted long enough for most Americans to start paying attention and to realize just how divorced both parties are from basic common sense. With the economy faltering and 25 million people in need of full-time work, most Americans want Washington focused on how to create jobs and get the economy going, not on slashing spending for the rising number of poor children while sheltering tax havens for millionaires.
Equally inexplicable is the president’s apparent eagerness to negotiate with a legislative faction willing to hold the entire economy hostage—and one prepared to extort concessions in backroom deals that it could not achieve in any normal legislative process. Negotiating with fiscal terrorists only encourages them.
On National Public Radio last week, Representative Tom Cole, a Republican deputy whip, was giddy about the potential for calamity. Asked if it was a mistake to try to cut spending by threatening the US economy, Cole replied: “No, I don’t think so. Frankly, I think it’s one of the good things that’s come out of this. We’ll never have a debt-ceiling increase again without serious efforts to deal with the long-term spending.”
Whatever the terms of the eventual agreement, we know they will be remarkably cruel. As Robert Greenstein, the respected director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, noted last week that every plan on the table now is far worse—cutting more from programs for the poor, exacting pain on the most vulnerable in our society—than anything Jim DeMint, the most extreme right-wing senator of all, was demanding last year.
The emerging compromise plans cut around $1 trillion over ten years from programs such as schools, clean water, mass transit, clean energy and public health with no—zero—contributions from the wealthy or corporations through increased taxes or the closing of loopholes. They set up a Congressional super-committee armed with expedited voting powers and with the explicit mandate to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Editor’s Note: Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.