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Debt Ceiling Deal: A Hard Pill to Swallow for Progressives

August 1, 2011

The proposed debt ceiling deal is a great disappointment to progressives. A big concern is that it’s all about spending cuts and nothing about revenues increases. Thus, the millionaires, billionaires and corporations will continue to not pay their fair share that is if they were paying anything at all.

Stalwart progressive Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) attacked the deal saying, Congressional Republicans “have been fanatically determined to protect the interests of the wealthy and large multinational corporations so that they do not contribute a single penny toward deficit reduction.”

He also took shots at the President Obama and Democrats, “President Obama and the Democrats have been extremely weak in opposing these right wing extremist proposals,” Sanders stated, admonishing Democratic leaders for being too willing to compromise on progressive issues such as entitlement programs and the Bush-era tax cuts.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), head of the Congressional Black Caucus, criticized the plan would put Medicare “on the chopping block” stating, “This deal is a sugar-coated satan sandwich. If you lift the bun, you will not like what you see.” He added, “This debt deal is antithetical to everything the great religions of the world teach, which is take care of the poor, aged, vulnerable.”

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-NM), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, released a statement in opposition to it, saying the deal “trades peoples’ livelihoods for the votes of a few unappeasable right-wing radicals.”

New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, called the deal “an abject surrender on the part of the president.”

Former Clinton Administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich warned, “By putting Medicare and Social Security on the block, they have made it more difficult for Democrats in the upcoming 2012 election cycle to blame Republicans for doing so.”

Reich further said, “The budget deficit is not the biggest obstacle to our prosperity. Lack of jobs and growth is. And the largest threat to our democracy is the emergence of a radical right capable of getting most of the ransom it demands.”

But, the problem is that the GOP and their extremist Tea Party wing have no problem in taking this country into default and blowing up our economy. They are willing to sacrifice this country’s economic stability and future to maintain their fundamentalist, dogmatic positions regardless of that fact that it will bring direct harm to millions of Americans.

So the question is how do you negotiate will partners who won’t negotiate? How do you play ball with parties that won’t abide by any rules?

The proposed deal would raise the debt ceiling to carry the government into 2013, with an initial round of domestic spending cuts of more than $900 billion across the federal government over the next 10 years, with a new bi-partisan Congressional committee given the task of agreeing to $1.5 trillion in further cuts by November or else $1.2 trillion in additional cuts would automatically be triggered, starting at the beginning of 2013.

Given this recent sad display of government action, why would anyone believe that they can now agree to anything?

Thus, are we looking for more future caving in to Republican/Tea Party demands by the President and Democrats, as we’ve seen over health care, extending the Bush tax cuts and now the debt ceiling deal?

Why won’t the President stand up to these extremists? When you start your negotiations by giving up positions from the get go, like abandoning a single-payer health care plan or pushing for a clean debt ceiling bill and then linking it to deficit cutting proposals, or stating up front you have no intentions of invoking the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling regardless of your intentions, and thus giving up negotiating leverage, you are ensuring you will lose, or end up giving a lot more that you should have.

This debt ceiling plan is likely to pass, but when is the President and Democrats going to say enough is enough? It is time to draw a line in the sand and be committed to not crossing it.

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