While the USA is quite appropriately finally focusing attention on the gun rights vs. public safety, there are now only 45 days left for the congress to work out a plan to avoid the new “fiscal cliff” of raising the debt limit while finding a bipartisan road to budget control.
Consider the following dollar amounts for 2012 which do not yet include the increased revenue from the tax increase on the wealthiest Americans, which became law on January 2, 2013:
* U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
* Federal budget: $3,820,000,000,000
* Recent budget cuts: $ 38,500,000,000
* New debt (deficit for the year before budget cuts): $1,650,000,000,000
*Total National debt to date: $14,271,000,000,000
If this was a family budget, it might look like this:
* Annual family income: $21,700
* Money the family spent: $38,200
* Total budget cuts so far: $38.50
* New debt on the credit card (deficit for this year before budget cuts): $16,500
* Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
It is clear by these figures that neither the national budget nor the family budget can long endure without catastrophic consequences. No member of congress who can add whole numbers would disagree with this, either. And when it comes to resolving this impossible budget situation, no member of congress who can also subtract would dispute the following methodologies for bringing the budget in line with revenues:
* Reduce spending.
* Increase revenues.
Seems simple enough, and actually,both have been partially accomplished: Revenues have been raised as a result of both a recovering economy and the tax increase on those making more than $400,000 a year; and there have been approximately US$1.2 trillion over 10 years, or approximately US$120 billion a year in spending cuts. However, these are not nearly enough to fix the USA deficit or debt issues in the foreseeable future. Both GOP’ers and democrats who know math know this.
To date, republicans have resisted tooth and nail any tax increase on the rich because, truth be told, the rich finance the GOP’s political campaigns. One does not bite the hand that feeds it, so the GOP believes. However, because of their poor showing in the recent general elections, they had little choice but to reluctantly allow passage of the aforementioned tax increase.
Democrats have resisted some (though not all) spending cuts, particularly those involving social net programs like social security and Medicare. The GOP likes to call these entitlement programs, or government giving away free stuff, as Mitt Romney said, even though those receiving benefits already paid for them.
In fairness, both parties have resisted stopping the pork-barrel extra spending that gets inserted into legislation to buy votes, such as the infamous $150 million “Ted Stevens Bridge to Nowhere”, and the unnecessary and unrelated spending that was included in the Superstorm Sandy relief legislation that recently passed congress.
All of the partisan dysfunction notwithstanding, the big angry white elephant in the room (pardon the pun) is the threat issued by republicans to use the debt limit ceiling issue in February, i.e., appropriating the funding necessary to pay for goods and services ALREADY bought (much like paying the monthly bill for the debt already racked up on the family credit card), to force spending cuts. They have drawn a line in the sand claiming that they will not support raising the debt ceiling unless, dollar for dollar it is matched with spending reductions. They do this despite creating more self-inflicted harm and debt for the nation, as well as having the good faith and credit of the USA further damaged and downgraded on a global scale, as it was in the summer of 2011 during the last GOP-inflicted debt limit ceiling crisis.
There is only one way to describe the GOP’s intention with this issue: BLACKMAIL.
Blackmail is a criminal offense. Yet, congressional republicans are threatening to hold the entire country, its credit rating, and its ability to pay bills for goods and services already incurred hostage in order to force president Obama and the democrats to cave in to the GOP’s fiscal demands. This is no different than a kidnapper demanding a ransom for the return of a Kidnapped person.