A Prelude to Armageddon

Matthew Cooper of the National Journal has it right, I think, in his piece entitled The Budget Skirmish Ends, The War Begins noting that "we’ve just seen is a phony war in Washington, a quibble over a few billion that presages the fight over trillions." With the ink on the budget agreement not yet dry and with a vote scheduled for next week finalizing its approval, conservatives have already moved on the bigger battle looming now in two weeks time, the vote to raise the debt ceiling. Indeed as Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas already candidly forewarned on CNN yesterday, "The debt ceiling is going to be Armageddon." 

While most of us were still engaged in watching this macabre display of legislative hostage taking that House Speaker John Boehner led, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a potential GOP Vice Presidential nominee, took to the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal on March 30th to announce that he intended to vote against "an increase in the debt limit unless it is the last one we ever authorize and is accompanied by a plan for fundamental tax reform, an overhaul of our regulatory structure, a cut to discretionary spending, a balanced-budget amendment, and reforms to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid." Despite the feigned concern for New Deal and Great Society era social insurance programs that the Tea Party favorite has on more than one occasion vowed to privatize, Senator Rubio was savvy enough to throw back then-Senator Obama's own words in 2006 when he voted against raising the debt ceiling declaring "Raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure." 

Considering the scope of Senator Rubio's demands, it's fair to predict that debt ceiling fight promises to be an even more bruising battle than the one we just endured. Within moments of President Obama hailing the deal that was struck, the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky tried to recapture his lost relevance by saying he hoped that the debt limit vote would be an occasion for more spending cuts. If the Republicans managed to cut nearly $40 billion spending in this budget showdown, Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, announced in January that before any debt ceiling limit was voted on, he would demand $100 billion in cuts. If Rep. Camp holds true to his word, we only have to find another $60 billion in cuts.

Despite Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's recent exhortations to Congressional Republicans not to "play around with" a coming vote to raise the government's legal borrowing limit, I have no doubt that the GOP intends to demand more cuts in the next round of legislative hostage taking. In short, buckle up we're in for the ride of our lives as life in America as we have known it comes to an end. I have no doubt that GOP will win in the short-term drawing the country ever closer to a collapse in living standards for 80 percent of Americans all in the name of protecting the wealth, often ill-gotten, of the top one percent. Amageddon, here we come.


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