You have probably been hearing about “the debt crisis.” I can’t open a newspaper or turn on the radio or TV without hearing about “the debt crisis.” Well stop calling it that, because that isn’t what is going on. There is no debt crisis; the only crisis going on is the threat of several members of the House to vote against raising the debt ceiling if they don’t get their way, thereby sending our country into default. They are trying to get around the rules of democracy and force deep cuts in the things We, the People do for each other while keeping taxes really low for the wealthy.
There is a fight going on in Washington over whether we should have a democracy that works for all of us, or a plutocracy that runs things for the benefit of the already-wealthy. Unable to change public opinion, the conservative Republicans are trying to force changes in who our government is for and who gets to have a say in how things are decided. These ideological conservatives say government “takes money out of the economy” by spending on education, infrastructure, health care, etc. for you and me and our small businesses and startups, and they want that money to instead go to the billionaires and large, multinational corporations that fund their campaigns. As you know, they already voted to eliminate Medicare, and voted for cuts in Social Security, education, infrastructure spending, and all the other things We, the People have decided to do for each other, so we know they are serious about this. They say if they can’t have a country that is run their way then we can’t have a country at all.
The “mainstream media” has decided to name this fight a “debt crisis.” This leads people to think that somehow the country is in crisis over debt, when the crisis is over a few people forcing default if they don’t get their cuts. There is no debt crisis. There is a lot of debt, the result of tax cuts, increases in military spending, wars and giveaways to large corporations that have occurred under the Bushes and Reagan. But the way to solve a problem that resulted from tax cuts and military spending increases is to put taxes back where they were before Reagan, and cut the military back at least to where it was when we were fighting the Soviet Union, even though the Soviet Union is long gone.
Giving In To Hostage-Takers Is A Mistake
Last year these conservatives took the unemployed hostage, refusing to keep unemployment benefits going unless we extended the bush tax cuts for the wealthy. The hostage-taking succeeded.
So, having succeeded at taking hostages, the conservatives then took another, even bigger hostage. They demanded big spending cuts, outside of the normal budget process and decision-making mechanisms of our democracy, or they would “shut down the government.” The hostage-taking succeeded.
So, having succeeded at taking hostages, the conservatives have taken another, even bigger hostage. This one is the big kahuna of hostages. If they refuse to raise the debt limit the country could go into default, destroying our economy and the economy of much of the world.
The official policy of the US government on hostage-taking is as follows:
“Based upon past experience, the U.S. Government concluded that making concessions that benefit hostage takers in exchange for the release of hostages increased the danger that others will be taken hostage. U.S. Government policy is, therefore, to deny hostage takers the benefits of ransom, prisoner releases, policy changes, or other acts of concession.”
It says that past experience has shown that giving in to hostage-takers “increased the danger that others will be taken.” We gave in to hostage-takers, and the result was that more and bigger hostages have been taken. During these “negotiations” every single time Democrats have agreed to their demands it has resulted in their asking for even more.
It was a mistake to give in then, and it would be a mistake to let them get anything from taking hostages this time. If they get rewarded again next time is guaranteed to be even worse.
Dave Johnson (Redwood City, CA) is a Fellow at Campaign for America’s Future, writing about American manufacturing, trade and economic/industrial policy. He is also a Senior Fellow with Renew California. Dave has more than 20 years of technology industry experience including positions as CEO and VP of marketing. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. And he was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.