Cat Culture
GAY AND GRAY: "Salvaging the Old"

The Debt Ceiling Vote Backstory

Warning: This is wonkier than usual political posts here.

category_bug_politics.gif I know we would all rather trade cute kitty stories but Medicare, the debt ceiling and our country itself are at serious risk. To use a Republican trope, there are no more than half a dozen grownups in Congress and we need to pay attention.

Last evening, the House of Representatives voted on a “clean” Republican bill to raise the debt ceiling. That means no amendments, no spending cuts – not Medicare or anything else - which is how the issue should be decided, but will not be.

This was a voodoo vote. Everyone knew up front that it would be rejected – in fact, that was, according to some, the Republican plan. The final vote was 319 No, 94 Yes with 7 Democrats voting present and 12 not voting - miles away from the two-thirds needed to pass.

The Republican idea behind this phony vote was to “prove” that a clean debt ceiling bill cannot pass and therefore it will be “necessary” to slash Medicare to get enough votes to raise the debt ceiling. Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday, Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said,

”...Medicare is 'going down. Doing nothing is not a plan...Everybody agrees something ought to be done except the Democrats in the Senate.'” [my emphasis]

But wait. It gets worse. According to Stan Collender at captitalgainsandgames yesterday morning before the vote,

”...it’s not at all certain that a big “no” vote for a clean debt ceiling increase means that the opposite is true and a majority is clamoring for an increase that includes deficit reductions...

“[H]ere’s another dirty little secret: There is a growing suspicion that, like what happened the day after the House rejected the Troubled Asset Relief Program [TARP] in September 2008 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by almost 7 percent, such a vote could quickly change market perceptions of the situation and have a substantial negative effect on interest rates and equity prices.

“It’s even possible that’s part of the plan. Former Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag said last week that it is going to be difficult to get Members of Congress to agree to increase the debt ceiling without some kind of “turbulence” in the bond market.

“A big “no” vote on a debt ceiling increase bill [what we got - ed] could easily accelerate that type of disturbance in the financial force. Indeed, it might be what’s needed to precipitate it and the leadership may be counting on that happening.” [emphasis mine]

But wait again. It gets more devious. According to Jackie Calmes at The New York Times yesterday, the markets will “yawn” at Tuesday's vote

”...if only because Republican leaders have privately assured Wall Street executives that this is a show intended to make the point to Mr. Obama that an increase cannot pass absent his agreement to rein in domestic programs.

“'Wall Street is in on the joke,' said R. Bruce Josten, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce."

It was digby of Hullabaloo who set me off on this debt ceiling voodoo dance. (She runs my number one, never-miss political/financial blog and if you're interested in these things, she should be on your list too.) Her response:

”I don't know what kind of sick nihilism makes a scenario like [creating financial panic out of nothing] remotely possible, but again, I don't believe it. We are talking about Big Money here and there are a lot of things that aren't working right in this country right now, but the greed mechanism isn't one of them.

“I don't believe 'the markets' are going along with that plan. And I don't think even the Republicans are going to take that kind of risk going into an election year.

“But if these people are actually planning a financial panic in order to destroy the safety net, can someone explain to me just how it is they can possibly be considered anything but criminals? This isn't a joke. Panics have a way of getting out of hand - it's not like you can wave a magic wand and it stops.”

Whatever is really going on, there is no question about what the goal is: to kill Medicare as we know it.

Representative Paul Ryan's plan for a voucher-system Medicare is dead, so the Republicans are moving on to their next plan. I cannot say anything better than one of digby's commenters, LL:

”I'm completely baffled by the notion that our leaders want to gut medicare. What do they want? Old people dying in poverty and misery by the millions? AGAIN? The reason we HAVE Medicare is we went through all this before.

“Is there a single person over 60 who can even hope to buy any kind of decent medical insurance on the private market? What do these assholes think we're all going to do? I don't know that it would happen, but I suspect that as more and more jobs don't offer decent medical benefits, there are going to be a lot of angry voters out there. Maybe not enough right now, but there will be, surely.

“I'm so pissed right now I can't see straight...”

Me too. And what a waste of Congress's time on Tuesday.

If you can stand more of this farce, there are additional tricky maneuvers over this vote here.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Vicki E. Jones: Fianna and the Guy From JULIE

Comments

Republicans put through a drug benefit to do exactly this-- end Medicare with an excuse. They purposely didn't allow Medicare to bargain for lower drug prices like the VA does and didn't allow American to buy their drugs from Canada for the same reason. Now they scream it can't survive as it is. Well, it can't but who created this scenario!

The real answer is single payer for everybody with bargaining for lower drug prices and allowing Americans to buy their prescription drugs where they can buy anything else-- on the internet and from whoever they personally trust. Americans though seem to be easily duped; so it's hard to say how it will end up except making a lot of us really mad.

What Rain said.

I am with Rain and Kay.

Ditto! And like the comment on the other blog.......I'm really pissed off with these congress people who call themselves leaders! What a bunch of crap! Dee

The corporate elite are proceeding as planned with their war on the American working people: pensions are disappearing or being severely cut, and wages have been receding for quite some time.

Now comes the war on the old people. How can they do this, you say? Because they really, truly believe that if you can't pay for medical care yourself, you shouldn't get it. This is all about mega-corporations and their wealth. America is just another money farm.

People are panicking. That is deliberate. Panicked people are easy to manipulate. Read Naomi Klein's *Shock Doctrine* if you haven't already.
The rich hate us. If we aren't doing them any good they can't see the good of us. So we have to fight back.

Four things and a question:

Roll back Bush Tax Cuts.
Raise ceiling on FICA payroll tx

Hands off SS and medicare.

Cut fraud and waste in all areas of government.

Live within our national means.

A question: financially speaking, how is rich defined?

John

No point in panicking -- we have no leverage, they'll do what they want. And we'll die. And they'll point at us and say, "Well, they should have saved their money for their retirement."

We did all the right things. We worked long and hard hours, we saved our money. We raised our kids, paid our taxes, tried to keep informed, voted in every election, gave to charities. We bought and maintained houses, mowed our lawns, supported our libraries.

And then the bottom fell out. Our houses are worthless, our savings are not adequate, our votes count for nothing. Corporations own our government. I'm too young for Medicare (63)and my health insurance is expensive yet covers practically nothing. We thought we were set. We retired early. Now we're stuck. Thank heaven our kids are grown and on their own. We were able to help them in the past, but no more.

Gutting medicare will solve the social security problem - eventually not that many people will live long enough to collect a payment. Well advised wealthy people are shorting their government bonds - they will make money on the crash, convert it to gold and store it in Switzerland. Look for a serious effort to repeal the 13th Amendment. You will work hard for minimal food and shelter until you die. One benefit will remain: You will get free cremation services which will recycle your body into fertilizer - thus you will be a productive member of society after you pass on!

There was a book titled "Triage" that came out in the 70's and described several scenarios aimed at expanding the profits of the major drug companies, hospitals medical practitioners and insurance companies exponentially. In the preface the author(s) claimed it was fiction but now it's all coming to pass.
"Triage" is out of print. Can't find a copy anywhere.

A great read Ronni.

I half way suspect there are a few dimwits within the GOP that could care less if the U.S. default's causing and even worse recession and then try to blame Obama and the Democrats because they refused to agree to some spending cuts; spending cuts that have already been proven ineffective at reducing the deficit significantly over time.

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