The last few months of President Obama's first term and the first few months of his second term will determine whether the voters elected Barack Obama or whether the House Republicans (next year a slim majority of 17 votes) can effectively depose President Obama (leaving him as a figurehead) and the US Senate. That is, will we have a republic or will we be governed by an extortionist mob in the House?
The Republicans have repeatedly said they will use every vote on the debt ceiling as a choke point by which they will dismantle programs that help the middle class or those seeking to be in it. They will cut, cut, cut social security benefits, medicaid benefits, and medicare benefits. They will achieve this by extortion, by threatening to bring the US economy down by defaulting on debts.
No one elected them to do so. And a Republican majority in the House is only one half of the Congress.
This is the battle for Barack Obama's presidency. Unless we fight, we lose America. This battle is that stark. Government by extortion will become the norm.
This morning, Greg Sargent of the Washington Post suggested that the President understands this and would refuse to negotiate on the debt ceiling:
If this happens, Obama will refuse to negotiate over the debt limit, just as he’s refusing to negotiate over tax rates on the rich. The message will be clear: We’re not talking, if the debt ceiling — and the nation’s economy — have a gun pointed at their head.WaPo, The Plum Line: "The Morning Plum: Why Obama won’t negotiate with GOP over debt ceiling."
Republicans are recklessly putting the recovery at risk. The GOP’s brand is in tatters, and the party will ultimately cave on this point rather than risk more public blame for threatening to tank the economy again. Powerful GOP-aligned interests in the business community, including the Chamber of Commerce, won’t tolerate another debt ceiling fight. Having perennial fights over whether the country will pay its bills is no way to govern, and it simply must stop. The only way to put an end to this madness is to refuse to negotiate if the GOP insists on trying it again. Therefore, no discussions over the debt ceiling. Period.
This may sound like an optimistic prediction, but this is exactly what’s happening over whether to raise tax rates on the rich: Dems are refusing to negotiate. If Republicans seriously attempt a rerun of the 2011 debt ceiling playbook, my bet is this is how things will unfold.
I can't predict how this will turn out and what the President will do, but early indications are good. Today President Obama told business leaders that he would not play the debt ceiling game with Republicans:
President Obama said Wednesday that he would not let Republicans use the nation’s debt ceiling as a negotiating point in efforts to keep automatic spending cuts and tax increases from taking effect next month.WaPo
“The thinking is the Republicans will have more leverage because there will be another vote on the debt ceiling, and we will try to extract more concessions with a stronger hand on the debt ceiling,” Obama told members of the Business Roundtable. “That is a bad strategy for America, it’s a bad strategy for your businesses, and it is not a game that I will play.”
This is the battle for democracy in this nation. If the Republicans can extort the government to impose their policies by putting a gun to the head of our nation, over and over again, then our nation is lost. It may be time for a constitutional crisis by which the President ignores or finds ways around the "debt ceiling."
But it also may take letting the nation default to end the extortion. Let the Republicans shoot the hostage and reap the whirlwind. We can't give the Republican House control of the executive and legislative branch through extortion.
Business, workers, and the entire nation will pay the price in a debt-ceiling caused recession, but the price is higher if we cut spending on social programs (also placing us into a recession) and the price to democracy is too high if we let the House Republicans run the nation's government by extortion.
If this is what it takes to keep our republic, so be it.