Friday, July 15, 2011

Setting higher expectations on raising the debt ceiling and balancing the budget without raising federal revenue: how insightful?

Keywords or Terms: Whitehouse; Debt Ceiling; Social Programs; AARP; GE; Exxon; News Corps; ideological position; Hope; Optimism; Republicans; Democrats

If the negotiations at the White House this week regarding lifting the debt ceiling taught us anything, it is that republicans are insatiable; that even if Democrats are willing to give away the hugest proportions of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spending, Republicans will still insist that it is their way or the highway. What would it take to bring the Republicans around to the realities of not lifting the debt ceiling? Would setting the lowest bar for taxation even persuade the republicans that we have to raise some government revenue to meet part of our current obligations? Would the possibility of a government default spiting the nation’s ability to secure favorable terms on future loans convince republicans of what would happen if the nation’s debt ceiling is not raised by August 2nd? Would it be the AARP advertisement that their members should not be thrown under the bus in order for lawmakers to balance the federal budget or raise the debt ceiling?

Would the obvious consequence of humongous debts from two foreign wars and giving tax brakes to the rich in the past decade convince the republicans that you may not eat your cake and have it? Would Republicans appreciate that part of the reasons why we are asking them to support the raising of the debt ceiling and subscribe to additional revenue for the nation’s coffers come out of programs initiated and voted for by republicans in the past congressional sessions? Do republicans understand that when big corporations like GE, Exxon and News Corps pay no taxes, but instead receive tax returns to the tune of billions, that money is not available to pay down our debts or that that type of money must come from somewhere? Do we need to educate republicans about what a noticeable reversal it has been for a Democratic President to agree to cut some aspects of social programs that directly impact over 22 million seniors while attempting to get his party and republicans to a common ground for acceptance to raise the debt ceiling? Can republicans appreciate that part of our current budget deficit, came out of our inability to agree on what programs are actually essential for good governance and which ones are actually waste of money, even if they have to do with defense spending and or corporate welfare? 

Would demarcating the costs of the two foreign wars initiated by a Republican President and overwhelming supported by Republican lawmakers encourage republicans to assuage their demands? Republicans, who have made tax cut for the rich among us, millionaires and billionaires, a staple of their budgeting negotiations and practices, would like us to believe that continuing tax brakes for the rich, in austerity period, would help us cut down on our deficits. Would republicans talk to states’ governors about how bad the revenue forecast or receipts has been in the past three years and how things may get worse before they get better? If we, republicans and democrats, continue to haggle over how much cut is necessary in social programs and how much revenue we need to recoup from the rich, based on ideological grounds, then we are missing something in the whole puzzle of getting our economy moving again. If we are to get our economy back on line and create better opportunities to put the more than fifteen million Americans out of work, back to work, we have to be more forthright and transparent in our reasonings and negotiations.

Following tumultuous budget negotiations and debates under Vice-President Joe Biden, republican lawmakers in the budget work group, walked out on the group without any firm agreement on how to proceed. With deliberate rabble razing, republicans insisted that democrats were unserious about raising the debt ceiling or working on budget cuts. With each republican lawmaker walking away from preliminary negotiations and subsequently engaging in inflammatory statements about why the President is not doing anything about the impasses and why it was necessary for the President to step into the foray for there to be an agreement, the republicans have still not yielded on their demands, despite the good faith effort of the President. This means that republicans are either not cautious of what negotiations are all about and why the definition of the word, negotiation, involves reaching a not so, my position only Plato, whenever two persons or groups are attempting to reach an accord on a difficult issue. A negotiation is a game of give and take, not take, take and take!

The Republican leadership are probably unmotivated by the President stepping into the budget negotiations, though he is hardly obligated to do as such, since most of the work remains that of congress; or, they are hardly interested in reaching an accord with democrats and majority of republicans are probably still at that cross road of making sure Obama is a one term president as postulated by many in their leadership; and or, ensuring that republicans are able to kill the health care reform bill of 2010. Interestingly, despite President Obama’s invitation to the Whitehouse of the two parties’ leadership, to sort out the differences from ideological position of both parties, the attitude of either parties still remain as what they were before his invitation. Change that was expected has hardly arrived; neither has the silver lining to indicate that progress has been reached or some inkling of progress after the splitting of the Vice President Biden negotiation group terminated. The President has held two press conferences this week, obviously showing that he remains engaged in the process and is serious about reaching a big deal with the republicans. However, there is probably not much to show for his acceptance of republicans’ request that he needs to intervene in the broken down negotiations with Vice President Biden’s budget working group.

With the engagement of the President in the negotiation process so highly intertwined with the possibility of success; and the President showing gusto optimism, hoping the two negotiating parties would reach an accord very soon, one is mystified why much has not been achieved since the four-day meeting. Is it because the goals of the negotiations were inadequately defined? Is the involvement of the Presidency a disservice to the negotiation process or is it an additional plus, considering how far both parties have come, although they haven’t reached the final step? By setting specific goals and defining what success on the negotiations should be, negotiating lawmakers from both political parties have the potential to make influential contribution that may receive accolades from the public: raising the debt ceiling and finding additional source of revenue for the nation’s coffers.

The republicans want a constitutional amendment that will lead to a balanced budget, they want federal government to cut spending without raising revenue, and they want President Obama and the democrats to sign up to their plan about the budget and where they want the country to be heading. For republicans, they want greater influence on how the federal government conduct its business regarding spending and want the democrats to accept all their proposals before conceding on raising the budget ceiling. Additionally, Republicans are willing to concede their constitutionally protected lawmaking power, asking the President to seek their approval to independently raise the debt ceiling without their blessing, and hopefully absolving each of them come next year’s election, the probable associated risks of raising the debt ceiling, simply because they have committed themselves to untenable position of not raising taxes to an uncaught tax-hating or tax-adverse organization.

If you ask many other observers of the negotiation processes and the progress so far made at the Whitehouse four-day negotiations’ sojourn, you’ll probably get the assessment that to a certain degree, republicans are all about me, me and me, all along? Republicans are hardly interested in an agreement with the democrats or their leader on this one, since they have already sold their soul to the Gods of no-taxation; and already defined their plan not to concede. That is why, you have the speaker of the house, making a last minute press conference on Friday, saying the republicans have a plan; to which many of us are asking, what plan? Now, the question is, is the republican plan tenable this late or would it garner enough support to move the country ahead? If you ask the republicans, they would say yes; if you ask democrats, you will get a resounding no. This is probably why we are still in the impasse and, hope is fast becoming hopeless and optimism is about fading away. You could imagine that after four-day intensive Whitehouse meetings, the speaker of the house could come to a press podium to ask that the President present a plan! What plan: a plan that is already rejected or one that the republicans can score points against the president on? I imagine the President know that republicans are just playing games and their unyielding position is where they stand and where they would probably perish!

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