August 22nd, 2011 ~ I am ANGRY with the GOP. All my life, I've held that a balance between Democrats and Republicans was a GOOD thing for our nation. I think many Americans would agree. We don't want ALL one or ALL the other. We want BOTH getting together in the middle; crafting legislation which serves ALL Americans. Not "ideologically pure" legislation; pragmatic sausage-making legislation EVERYONE can (grudgingly) live with. Operative words: "LIVE with".
Then, Dick Armey, Judson Phillips, Grover Norquist, the Koch brothers, and a host of anonymous uber-rich created the astroturf "Tea Party" movement WITHIN the GOP. They didn't establish a third party, but usurped the GOP "brand" and political machinery. Thanks to S.C. Justices Roberts, Alito, and Scalia, Tea Party candidates were flush with untraceable campaign cash and got elected to our Congress. Today, the Republican and Tea parties are indistinguishable. That's WHY I'm angry.
As an Independent, I didn't want to be pushed THIS far into the Democrat's camp. But, when I see ONE of two political parties actively working to destroy America's Middle Class and to render the most vulnerable Americans invisible (or worse), I can't just stand by and say "I'm neutral". I'm NOT neutral. I don't think any American is neutral about OUR "Social Contract", with OUR government, being tossed into the uber-rich's fireplaces by their Congressional Tea Party meat-puppets.
I sincerely WANT a bipartisan government. I think that's a healthy thing for our body politic. We don't have that now. We have the Democrats trying to protect us from a flesh-eating bacteria and we have... the flesh-eating bacteria. As long as that threat exists, I'll cast my lot with the imperfect, but well-intentioned folks preserving the America so many generations fought for to create. As an American, at this time, it's the ONLY choice I can make.
August 2nd, 2011 ~ As I write this, the 11th hour plan, cobbled together with the help of our President and Vice President to break the Tea Party's debt ceiling hostage crisis, passed the House 269 to 161 and now goes to the Senate and ultimately the President's desk. Never before has our nation been forced this close to the brink of default on our debt obligations. Never before has our President been forced to negotiate with radicals pretending to be Statesmen and Stateswomen to protect America's economy from flat-lining.
The "plan" has been roundly excoriated by both extreme wings of the Republican and Democratic parties. One progressive referred to it as a "satan sandwich". Is this bill REALLY a monstrous sellout as some claim it to be? Let's take a look...
First and foremost, it extends the debt ceiling such that another extension vote will not be required until 2013. This removes at least one hostage from the 2012 election cycle and provides some level of certainty to markets roiled by the controversy.
The bill cuts an initial $900 Billion through "capping" discretionary spending below the Congressional Budget Office's "baseline". Since BOTH parties had already agreed to about $750 Billion of these cuts during negotiations and the other $150 Billion comes from SAVINGS on interest payments; the net result is NOTHING is being cut right now. It actually INCREASES Pell grants.
It creates a new bipartisan/bicameral "Super Committee" made up of members of BOTH parties and both chambers, charged with actively finding ways to cut $2.8 Trillion from our national debt over the next ten years. Tax reforms and entitlement reforms are BOTH included in this committee's pervue. Revenue increases could actually be included in that committee's fast-track bill submissions to BOTH chambers AND neither chamber may filibuster those bills. They can vote, up or down, yea or nay, but they may NOT prevent the super-committee's bills from coming to either chamber's floor.
In the short term, our Congress is required to pass at least $1.2 trillion in debt (not spending) reductions coming out of the committee, within the next year, or automatic cuts are triggered in that same amount, across all domestic and defense spending. PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO WHAT I'M ABOUT TO TELL YOU NEXT. Social Security, Medicaid, low-income assistance programs, and Medicare benefits are ALL EXEMPT from those triggers. Providers of services associated with those programs may see "restructuring" of their payments, but citizen recipients of direct benefits won't see a penny removed from those benefits.
Finally, a "balanced budget amendment" to our Constitution is guaranteed a vote; NOT as a condition for extending the debt ceiling; just a guaranteed vote, at some point, in both chambers. There is no requirement that vote passes in either chamber, nor is our President compelled to sign anything should it actually pass both chambers and land on his desk.
So... is this a terrible capitulation or craftsmanship of the highest order? My inclination is toward the latter. I think our President AND Vice President have done a masterful job of steering our ship of state through the jagged shoals of obdurate zealots and craven political opportunists to a safe harbor where we may start to make necessary repairs.