The Debt Ceiling: Washington’s Summer Thriller Terrifies the Poor and Elders

The Debt Ceiling: Washington’s Summer Thriller Terrifies the Poor and Elders

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When a government becomes so beholden to special interests that it no longer can effectively serve its constituents, it has to create fictions of its usefulness to the people, terrifying them in the process.

First, there was in April the cheap spectacle over shutting down the government. Now with July going on to August, an even more tawdry piece of political theater, like a Hollywood summer blockbuster, counts down the minutes to raising the debt ceiling. In its absence, all are told to expect socio-economic Armageddon.

In truth, raising the debt ceiling is a routine procedure for the United States, which has relied heavily on borrowing for decades. As President Barack Obama noted in last Monday’s prime-time speech, “President Reagan did it 18 times. George W. Bush did it seven times.”

Yet in a Washington infested with every imaginable lie and phoniness, there is the particularly galling lie of the phony “patriotic Tea Party,” which is striking up an unconvincing pose as it demands spending cuts commensurate with accruing additional debt.

The greenhorn House representatives, who for the most self-serving of political interests vociferously militate against government spending, know next to nothing about the complex economic landscape they pretend to navigate. Ignoring the fact that the tab for the so-called war on terror is approaching $4 trillion plus another $1 trillion in interest, according to a recent study by the Eisenhower Research Project at Brown University, they obsess endlessly over entitlements programs for ordinary Americans.

Yet, this new crop of representatives who were elected in blind reaction to Obama’s presidency have sufficiently mastered the Washington game to be in ostensible collusion with the executive branch itself, sharing the single purpose of terrifying the very people they are supposed to serve.

Come this Tues., Aug. 3, 2011 -- the middle-class, poor, disabled and elderly Americans are being told -- there will be no Social Security or Medicare payments, if a way is not found out of the “debt-ceiling impasse.”

Today the top 10 percent of Americans own 30 percent of the national wealth – about triple the proportion they held in 1970 -- while the lowest 10 percent own only two percent of the nation’s earnings, as they fight for the crumbs. These numbers put America in the world’s worst economic company, such as Uganda, Iran and Egypt. The last time America displayed such a lopsided distribution of wealth was in the late 1920s, as a harbinger of the Great Depression. Instead of playing games, this is when the federal government should be marshaling all of its means to pull America out of the bleakest economic times since the 1930s.

The financial faith and trust of the American government has become a plaything in the hands of the president and an overemotional John Boehner as his foil.

Despair and sameness are now firmly established as the two gifts of the Obama administration to American voters after its epic campaign for hope and change. The president, however, keeps up the pretense, referring to himself as an affluent American, who is uneasy with his own privileges and would like to spread the country’s riches by taxing the wealthy. Besides this shopworn fix, however, there is no real vision, energy or strategy to pull America out of its stubborn economic predicament.

Wall Street gangsters looted the property values, retirement funds and stock portfolios of Americans, as Washington sat by and did nothing. It is the new normal for the executive and legislative branches to perpetuate the same self-serving inertia without an iota of reformative imagination and true patriotism.

This phony war shall also pass. After much bickering and grandstanding, expect a last-minute compromise with a bill reaching the president's desk for his signature.

Yet it is sobering to consider that the sitting government, conspiring with its “opposition,” has no other purpose than to terrify the American public into silence and submission.

Public fear, however, is never neutral. Throughout history, fear has been a fertile ground for the rise of aspirants to totalitarianism, who promise full bellies and warm rooms at the price of unquestioning obedience. In the process they find scapegoats in “other people”—immigrants, Jews, Muslims and so on—to finalize their grips on power.

Last week Norway served as a stark reminder of what a single man armed with nativist delusions and weapons can do. As stirrings to pass anti-immigrant legislation reach a growing number of states, it is time to wake up to the true consequences of the games in Washington.