Thursday, July 14, 2011
The Debt Ceiling and American Politics
Viewing the current "debate" on the debt ceiling I can't help but wonder if any of these politicians have read books like David Graeber's Debt: the First 5,000 Years or T.H. Breen's very insightful The Marketplace of Revolution. Debt has a long standing history. Graeber says you can go back to the early agrarian empires and find elaborate credit systems. Yet, Americans still seem deluded by this notion of the "self made farmer," which they so often use to characterize Colonial Americans. Breen shoots this argument clear out of the water in his well researched book.
Once again, the Republicans have boxed themselves into a very tight corner. As a way out of this impasse, McConnell has offered to extend greater executive powers to the President, so that Obama will take the heat for the domestic cuts that are being proposed, and not the Republicans. A debate on the budget has turned into a power play, as both sides jockey for the "high road" in the 2012 elections.
The Washington Post reports that no budget plan in recent decades offers more domestic cuts with fewer tax increases than the current White House plan. The eye-catching bar graph drives home the point most effectively, yet the Congressional Republicans still say no. McConnell appears too afraid that any "increase" in taxes will only come back to haunt them in the 2012 elections, and he has explicitly stated that his main aim is to defeat Obama. This may very well be a case where the Republicans end up shooting themselves in the foot.