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By Dave Palmer
The 113th Congress is duly sworn in, and once again House and Senate Republicans are up to their old tricks. So far, they’ve managed to find time to vote on whether or not they deserve a pay raise, schedule a vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act for the 33rd time, and turn down disaster relief for victims or Hurricane Sandy, calling it “pork barrel spending.”
Oh yeah, Republicans were magnanimous enough to grant roughly half of the $1.3 billion in new revenue sought by President Obama to avert another debt ceiling crisis or potential fiscal cliff. They are also calling for a government shutdown unless what they refer to as “entitlement reform” is put on the table, ostensibly to alleviate the federal deficit.
Here’s the problem: Social Security can only draw money from the Social Security Trust fund by law. Medicare and Medicaid similarly can only draw money from their respective trust funds, and therefore do not contribute to the deficit. The reason that these programs have any effect at all on the deficit is when Congress borrows money from the trust funds in the form of Treasury Bills. These T-Bills are loans with an expectation of repayment with interest, and when the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid cash in their T-bills, the deficit is increased.
So, in reality, Congress is wholly responsible for causing social safety net programs to contribute to the deficit. Then, Republicans turn around, clap their hands to their heads, and say: “My goodness this deficit is huge. How dare Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid demand their money back! We need to get rid of these programs ASAP because our spending is so out of control.”
Yes, your spending is out of control, as is evidenced by your need to borrow from programs that are fully funded by the taxpayers, and are therefore earned benefits. We paid for them, we should darn well be able to collect them. In no way, shape or form should a piece of my retirement plan be in jeopardy because you can’t manage to balance the nation’s budget or pay its bills.
In fact, this whole debt ceiling and fiscal cliff nonsense is really an argument about whether or not our country will pay its bills. The money Republicans in both the House and the Senate are arguing over has already been spent, and must be repaid. However, it seems that unless it’s paid by the sweat of the middle class and the working poor, Republicans will have no part of it.
The very fact that House and Senate Republicans are willing to hold to full faith and credit of the United States hostage over ideological viewpoints is egregious and unconstitutional.
Seeking to strip Americans of benefits they have already paid for is like a bank trying to foreclose on a homeowner who has paid their mortgage in full. It’s just plain wrong, and could potentially be illegal.
Additionally, The 14th Amendment, Section 4 states: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.” (Yes, that includes the $1.3 trillion in unfunded war liability incurred by George W. Bush in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars)
Translation: Congress needs to find a way to pay our bills, and not use programs for the poor and elderly to do it.
One place they could start is by eliminating corporate tax loopholes. We could have one of the lower corporate tax rates in the world if (and only if) corporations were charged a flat tax based on their total revenue. No loopholes, no exceptions.
Another potential source of revenue is cutting military spending by 10%, and call on other members of the U.N. to send their militaries to break up political discord in the Middle East. After all, Europe is much closer to the fight, so let them handle it. Remember, the less stuff we blow up, the less taxpayer dollars have to go into a rebuilding effort later on.
Reducing the number of tax loopholes for the super-wealthy could also bring in a raft of new revenue without actually raising taxes. I can’t protect my money in the Cayman islands without some scrutiny, so why should they be able to?
The bottom line is that House and Senate Republicans have become a tantrum-prone group of partisan idealogues who are willing to drive this nation straight into recession all in the name of making President Obama look bad. They were elected or re-elected mostly because of extensive gerrymandering, and have no place in a government that needs a measure of compromise to run.
Perhaps they will get the message if we treat them like any other debtor in America is treated if they refuse to pay their bills: Have collection agencies call them day and night, and if that doesn’t work, enter wage garnishment procedures. Maybe if their stubbornness costs them 10% of their wages each pay period, they’ll understand that America’s bills need to be paid.