Did you feel that?
No, it wasn’t the beginning of the apocalypse. That’s not supposed to happen until Saturday, May 21st at 6:00pm.
We have hit the debt ceiling.
I don’t know why. Weren’t all of the union-busts, public-sector firings, and cuts in funding to Planned Parenthood supposed to resolve our debt issues?
Apparently, it wasn’t enough, and so plans are unfolding to reduce our debt.
Rep. Paul Ryan has already offered up a plan, even though the “extreme” cuts in spending are nullified by the even more “extreme” cuts in taxes (don’t get so excited; you probably don’t earn enough to receive any benefit). The plan would “reform” Medicare into a voucher system that would remain consistent with inflation (even though Healthcare inflation is about 5-7% higher). The plan would also turn Medicaid into a block grant program for states (which likely means, more flexibility and less coverage). A recent article by the Associated Press found that,
The House Republican budget would leave up to 44 million more low-income people uninsured as the federal government cuts states’ Medicaid funding by about one-third over the next 10 years…
So any part of this is what Rep. Paul Ryan would like to see attached as a string to the agreement to raise the debt ceiling.
Speaker Boehner would like to see cuts amounting to $2 Trillion attached to the agreement to raise the debt ceiling.
And the Democrats… have they even said anything yet? Are they still sticking to the idea that they want a clean vote only on the motion to raise the debt ceiling? I think they’re still rounding up the votes from the folks already receiving or about to receive Medicare… good political work.
But what has been forgotten or concealed by this entire debate is the issue of jobs.
Our national unemployment rate is back up to 9% (and that does not include the underemployed or those who have stopped seeking employment). That amount of people unemployed or underemployed for this amount of time has created a huge stress on our safety net programs that has helped increase our debt that much faster. As Paul Krugman illustrates:
Please note that the majority of our debt comes from tax-cuts, wars, medicare d, and two recessions caused by lack of regulation and enforcement; not from excessive spending on education, foreign aid, or NPR.
Good, well-paying jobs would increase the revenue and allow the un and underemployed to step back up out of government programs and help reduce the debt. And if we had jobs that not only afforded people the ability to bounce back from the safety net but to climb on to that economic ladder and move up, there would be even less expenditures for programs and more revenue to balance the books.
Imagine if people had jobs that paid them enough that they could actually afford health care. Imagine if people had jobs that paid them enough that they could actually save for retirement. Imagine if people had jobs that paid them enough to send their kids to college so they were prepared to enter the job market without thousands of student loan debt.
This shouldn’t be a fantasy.
This should be the priority of those in power – jobs; jobs with dignity, a living wage, and benefits.
And as this past decade has demonstrated, jobs aren’t created and wages don’t rise just by cutting taxes (at least, not for the bottom 90%).
I would expect that wages and jobs would fare even worse if government programs that so heavily subsidize the private sector by filling the needs of their employees are cut. How are Ireland, Greece, and the UK doing with all of those austerity measures???
Perhaps we could look at the trade agreements we have and make amendments or enforce the labor and environmental standards so we need not compete by withdrawing our standards. We could look at allocating capital for small businesses and new businesses. We could look at raising the minimum wage (shouldn’t the minimum wage for someone who works 40 hours a week place them above the poverty line?). We could ask states and localities to stop poaching jobs from other areas by offering low or no taxes. We could stop loaning corporations and banks tons of money at low interest rates for them only to refinance their debt – we could require that this nice little perk that is unavailable to every real person go to job-creation. Or, we could make this opportunity available to everyone! (I would love to refinance my mortgage, car, and student loans at these rates!!!)
There are lots of very smart people with excellent ideas that we should be trying!
But I guess that these very smart people with excellent ideas must not have enough cash to donate to their elected official’s re-election campaigns. Or, at least, these very smart people with the excellent ideas don’t have more cash to donate than the very rich people that seem to have most of the bad ideas.
Fortunately (I guess), the very rich people with the big donations want to see the debt ceiling raised. Unless the Tea Party and other “principled” folks unite, it will be raised. But what strings are attached and who will pay for it has yet to be determined.
If it continues to go the way it has since the crisis began, it looks like we in the lower 98% can expect to sacrifice future benefits in entitlement programs along with embracing the “broadening of the tax base,” which is just a convenient way to say – “make the poor pay more.”
Here’s hoping that person with all of the great ideas inherits a huge sum of money soon. After all, it’s tax-free this year up to $5,000,000…