Tag Archives: debt ceiling

Excuse Me While I Hit Myself Repeatedly with a Hammer….

A recent post at Maddowblog began with the following observation:

Since so much of the public has no idea what the debt ceiling is, what default is, what bond markets are, or what the full faith and credit of the United States means, polling on the subject just doesn’t tell us much.

The post went on to describe a different sort of poll that proved the point; it asked about the debt ceiling, but phrased the same question two different ways. When asked simply whether Congress should raise the debt ceiling, respondents were pretty evenly split. The second version asked whether Congress should prevent the government from borrowing money in order to pay its debts;  73% of those responding to the question when it was posed that way said such a step would seriously harm the economy, and opposed it. Only 22% approved.

The American people aren’t stupid. When the question is asked using language citizens understand, they resoundingly offer the right answer. The lesson of this–and multiple other examples–is twofold: (1) the public is generally unfamiliar with the language of its own government, with many equating “raising the debt ceiling” with incurring new debt; and (2) polls that politicians reference to “prove” that the American public is on their side of an issue tend to be worthless and/or deceptive.

Thanks to their own extremism and lack of elementary economic knowledge, the Tea Party zealots who have captured one of America’s major parties and the House of Representatives are poised to do substantial damage to the people they have been elected to represent.

Pundits from both Left and Right (even Karl Rove!) predict that the government crisis they are determined to precipitate will create a backlash that can only hurt the GOP, but those warnings are falling on deaf ears. As a friend of mine used to say, you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.

The broad, sane middle of the American public will need to batten down the hatches and prepare for a totally unnecessary period of fiscal and economic misery–brought to us by people motivated by one and only one “principle”–ensuring that thirty million Americans currently without health insurance don’t get access to healthcare.

And to make sure they don’t, they’re willing to plunge the country into another recession.

Excuse me while I go hit myself some more with that hammer….

 

 

Of Debt and Taxes

I haven’t written about the congressional impasse (polite word for food fight) over the debt ceiling, because really, what could I say that hasn’t been said many times by many people? But being here in Split, surrounded by evidence that human efforts at civilization have persisted over thousands of years, I’ve grudgingly recognized that our species has persisted through many periods of collective craziness, many characterized by even more self-destructive psychosis than now.

In other words, humans will survive the current capture of Congress by unreflective fanatics who believe God has instructed them not to raise the debt ceiling. (To be honest, I’m less sanguine about our ability to survive the climate-change deniers….previous generations haven’t had the means to destroy the Earth.)

But even though my brain–such as it is–tells me we’ll get through this crazy time, I have a lot of trouble understanding the emergence of the Tea Party. Not their existence; we’ve always had strains of malcontents–anti-social or anti-intellectual or white supremacist or other odd movements–but their ability to make resentment of taxes a rallying cry and a focus for so many people’s anger. And not anger at a particular tax or tax policy, but at the very idea of taxes. They have somehow convinced otherwise reasonable citizens that taxes levied for the general welfare are somehow illegitimate.

During this trip, the things we’ve most enjoyed are the products of just such taxes–great public transportation, preservation of historically significant sites, museums…Do these troglodytes think such services are supported by magic? Let alone police and fire protection, garbage collection, etc.? Are they really willing to forego the very things that make us civilized–trade with other cultures, which depends upon confidence that we will pay our bills, the myriad services that make our common lives easier and more pleasant, any sense of common purpose–for gated communities and personal gun collections?

Everywhere we’ve been, we’ve met lovely people who are not remotely anti-American but who are mystified and worried by what is happening to our political system.

Me too.

We have another day and a half in Split, then two days in Rome before we head home. I wonder what we’ll find when we get there.