The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 17, 2015: Why We Must Raise The Debt Ceiling

In a new column posted on Alternet, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich explains in terms even your average conservative can understand why it is important to raise the debt ceiling, end the sequester, and put more people to work by increasing rather than decreasing spending on public investments like education and infrastructure. [Not that I’m a journalist, ethically obligated to reveal such things, but in the interests of full disclosure, I am a member of MoveOn.Org, who helped produce the video below.]

Before continuing with my own less coherent babble, I want to make something very clear. It’s important to differentiate between political party and ideology. When people complain about the Republican party, they ignore the ideology behind what they’re doing. Many people use the terms “Republicans” and “Conservatives” interchangeably, but they shouldn’t anymore than they should use the terms “Democrats” and “Liberals” interchangeably. When it comes to our federal government (and less dramatically so on the state and local level), virtually every single Republican is a Conservative (not even a moderate one), while the Democrats have both Liberals and Conservatives in their ranks. In some cases, a slightly moderate conservative is the best the Democrats could do to get someone elected, and they don’t always toe the party line the way Republicans do. Despite all the baseless lies they tell, it is Conservatives and Conservatism that are the enemy of the People, not Liberals and Liberalism.

Anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist, who famously said his goal was to “shrink government to the size where it could be drowned in a bathtub,” has been a driving force in American Conservative politics for irresponsible tax cuts for the super wealthy and huge corporations, based on the lie that if their taxes are reduced, they’ll spend more and this will create jobs. (Did you know that Norquist first thought of this idea when he was twelve years old? makes sense now, doesn’t it?) It’s not just a lie, it’s a huge Denali-sized pile of horse shit. Not the part about how spending helps create jobs (that part is absolutely true), but the part about rich people and corporations spending their money to create jobs. They won’t. They haven’t so far and their taxes have been cut enormously. Some of the largest corporations in America have paid zero federal taxes, but they’re not hiring millions of otherwise unemployed people right now. Clint Eastwood’s “Any Which Way But Loose” co-star Donald Trump isn’t hiring people for no reason just to create jobs, which he theoretically would be doing if the conservative argument on taxing the rich had any merit. Nick Hanauer explained it best in his famous TED talk from three years ago.

Not everyone agreed, of course. Forbes magazine panned Hanauer’s speech as wrongheaded and claimed that capital investment creates jobs. This is more horse shit for the pile. Capital investment doesn’t create jobs, it creates businesses. But if nobody wants what they’re selling, how can they stay in business? Consumer demand creates jobs and this is indisputable. Spending creates jobs, not savings. When you put your money in a savings account, the bank uses it to lend money to businesses and people and to make a profit for themselves (the banks.) But if there are no consumers to buy the goods or services those businesses offer, they won’t have any reason to keep as many people on their payroll, and unemployment will go up. Poor and lower middle class people need to spend much of their money just to get by each week. They can’t afford to put money away for savings, even for college for their kids. But the money they do spend at their local grocery stores and gas stations keeps those local merchants in business. They might not be if their customers had socked away their money in savings accounts, to be used some day down the road for something else entirely. But Conservatives want you to think that saving money creates jobs, not spending. They also want you to think that you’re a bad person if you don’t save money so that other people can use it for their personal benefit. They think a lot of things that are wrong, and one of the things that they are wrongest about is the debt ceiling.

We are facing another debt ceiling crisis, which eventually outgoing Speaker John Boehner may or may not avoid, depending on how much the ungovernable part of his party (hint: think of the 20th letter of the alphabet) pisses him off. They refuse to raise the debt ceiling because they say spending is too high and that we can’t afford to do it. More horse shit. The problem isn’t that spending is too high, the problem is that taxes are too low, especially on the super rich, who we know are not the true job creators. Trickle down economics does not work the way they claim, no matter how many times they claim it. All it does is increase income inequality, which leads to super rich people deciding that rather than create jobs with the extra money they have they’ll buy themselves some state and federal governments (this is why overturning the Citizens United decision is so important), and the cutting of government services essential to the people who are not super rich. Government needs money to operate, and that money is raised through taxation. Conservatives who follow Norquist’s “thinking” believe that austerity will bring us out of tough economic times. No, it won’t. It will only make things worse for the vast majority of us who don’t have millions of dollars at our disposal. Especially when you’re borrowing money to fund the military, which is not an investment that will return more money to the economy the way infrastructure spending will. Military spending benefits weapons manufacturer investors, which is why Forbes and their ilk like it so much. No matter what the conservatives tell you, the debt ceiling is not about spending, it’s about borrowing. If taxes had not be cut so drastically, we would not have needed to borrow so much money top pay for illegals wars. When you raise taxes, you borrow less, and you approach the debt ceiling much later. The solution to running up against the debt ceiling is not to reduce spending but to raise taxes, and the best people to raise taxes on are the people making so much money they literally could not spend it in their lifetimes or their grandchildren’s lifetimes. They won’t miss it one bit.

If you care about not just yourself and your family, but your friends and neighbors and the country as a whole, the worst thing you could do on Election Day is vote for a Conservative to represent you in government. Conservatives do not care about you (unless you’re just like them, and who wants to be?) Conservatism is a philosophy rooted in Selfishness. It’s all about “What’s in it for me?”, not “What’s in it for us?” Every single social advancement in our nation’s history was supported by Liberals and opposed by Conservatives, and always with the same tired horse shit arguments. Every. Single. One. My mother would not have lived as long as she did without Social Security and Medicare, two of the most popular programs in the country, both of which are opposed by Conservatives. They say they want to save them, but they want to do it by making everyone invest in the stock market and take their chances there. Instead of a safety net, they want a sieve. They got theirs, so they don’t care what happens to you. It’s just not in their nature to do so. Because they’re Conservative. And you should never vote for one again. Because they would never vote for you.

Daily open thread. Have at it.

22 thoughts on “The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 17, 2015: Why We Must Raise The Debt Ceiling

  1. My mother would not have lived as long as she did without Social Security and Medicare, two of the most popular programs in the country, both of which are opposed by Conservatives

    FDR we love you!

  2. The GOP started sinking beneath the waves in ’68 when Nixon was first elected. By the time his two Republican terms were completed, the country was suffering from EXTREMELY high interest rates, and inflation, unemployment, etc. Carter was only there for four years, but by the time Reagan showed up things were once again reasonable. Then 8 years of Reagan plus 4 of Poppy Bush and the deficits had soared, the debt was higher than ever before. Then 8 years of Clinton and the debt was actually being paid down with budget surplus. Enter W. Bush; 8 years later the debt had soared and the economy crashed, was on the verge of another depression. Unemployment soared. Enter Obama; ~7 years later, in SPITE of the conservative idiots in Congress, things are looking up. Unemployment down, debt approaching stability. Only problem is that tax rates on the rich and the corporate world are still WAY down there, and the whining about everything economic remains insufferable.

    Bottom line: IF the GOP should manage to win in 2016, the next depression and economic collapse becomes inevitable, and it seems very likely that there will be no way out of it. The GOP will have destroyed the country.

    And they’ll blame Carter, Clinton, and (esp.) Obama, of course.

    • ” IF the GOP should manage to win in 2016, the next depression and economic collapse becomes inevitable, and it seems very likely that there will be no way out of it. The GOP will have destroyed the country.”

      Therefore, if your goal is to start a revolution to overthrow the government, the best thing you can do is to vote Republican.

  3. This is all ECON 101 stuff, or course. Unfortunately, many people get Ph.D.s in the subject with no intention of advancing economic fundamentals, but only of gaining a podium from which they can announce their ideological commitments.

    But it is beyond obvious that 1,000 people with $1,000.00 each can spend and consume more than 1 person with $1,000,000.00, even thought the absolute dollar amount is he same. This is because the people with only $1,000.00 will spend most of that money, and every dollar spent leads to a very well understood amount of economic growth. (By “well understood,” I mean that the number (which I no longer recall) was calculated out to at least three decimal places.) The fact that each dollar spent leads to some measure of economic growth is not new, by the bye. Marx talks about it in volume 1 of Das Capital. I suspect that the understanding is at least as old as David Ricardo, but I’ve not tried to track it back. (Also, when you talk about the subject, don’t mention Marx; people just shut down. Rather, say it was known in the 1860’s.)

    For those who are interested, some of my “go to” sites for all things economic:
    Center for Economic and Policy Research:
    http://www.cepr.net/
    Economic Policy Institute:
    http://www.epi.org/

    • I read a quote while at work, and wrote it down, but don’t have it with me. The upshot was, if the Capitalists don’t want to prove Karl Marx correct, they have to find a way to grow the middle class in the US again, and give them security.

      This wage race to the bottom leaves no option except to increase taxes on the wealthy, if we are to further reduce the deficit, until we actually can start paying down the debt.

      It’s also time to stop letting cheap imports kill our economy.

  4. Yah butt Obama!

    McConnell, Boehner can end GOP’s debt ceiling crisis with same clean bill they gave Bush

    Boehner and McConnell should simply do for President Obama what they did for President Bush. In November 2004, they gave Bush a “clean,” $800 billion boost in the debt ceiling with no strings attached. With the current annual budget deficits at an eight-year low, that would give the Treasury almost two years before coming back to Congress and the new president to ask for more.

    That October, President Bush called for his fourth hike in the nation’s borrowing authority. His Treasury Secretary John Snow warned, “Given current projections, it is imperative that the Congress take action to increase the debt limit by mid-November,” adding that his arsenal of fiscal tools, including tapping money intended for the civil service retirement fund, “will be exhausted.”

    [. . .]

    Though an increase in the debt ceiling was never in doubt, Republican leaders in both houses of Congress postponed action on it last month, until after the elections, to deprive Democrats of a chance to accuse them of fiscal irresponsibility.

    The ironies in that 2004 debt limit expansion didn’t end there . . . By the time Bush left office in January 2009, the U.S. national debt had nearly doubled.

    • And, again, the debt doubled because of borrowing, not spending. Had Bush not cut taxes during time of war (something unheard of in the history of Civilization), the debt would not be so damn high. Too many people understand too little about the difference between the debt and the deficit, not do they understand the relationship of one to the other. They only know the lies the Republicans tell them: Don’t blame tax cuts for the rich because they pay for themselves.

      • The Republican mantra is to LIE. Always. If it were up to me, we’d deport — in rowboats (talk about a job creator!) — every freakin’ one of the bastards and NEVER let a single one back in again.

        • “The Republican mantra is to LIE” That’s cuz they’re true Christians and Christ forgives them all their sins so they git to go to heaven while us unchurched will go to hell.

  5. Today the Alabama secondary won the game against Texas A&M. Three pick sixes, two by the same guy.

    Michigan fumbled the snap trying to punt with :10 to play, and Michigan State took it in for a touchdown, to win 27-23.

    • We’re here, watching it in the comfort of our own warm home, and not down at Citi Field, where it’s in the low 50s. A co-worker of ours is dating a Mets fans with season tickets, and they’re going to Game 2 tomorrow night. Another co-worker is flying out to Chicago to visit a college buddy of his with whom he has kept in touch through the years. They’re going to game 3 in Chicago Tuesday night. Our office is covered.🙂

    • I remember it well — thank goodness I had driven out of the Bay Area for good a couple months previous.

      The panic I felt when I saw the collapsed freeway is something I’ll never forget, since that’s the road I took out of town — lower level going toward the north.

    • Considering David Ross and Jon Lester were next up, sending Castro was the only choice.

    • torture is never about gaining information. it’s about fear and intimidation, not just of those tortured, but of the general populace as well. for once it is planted in the consciousness that terrorists will be tortured, then “terrorist” is defined as anyone who opposes the government, the fear of torture suppresses dissent.

      Remember the words, “You’re either with us, or with the terrorists.” With that, Big Brother stepped into power.

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