Our nation is now a mere five days away from the debt-ceiling deadline, a situation that has state governments, Wall Street, and citizens watching ever closely, waiting to see what exactly will come. As of now, we stand to see two options:raising our national debt ceiling for further borrowing capability or default and face the economic unpredictability and fallout that will ensue. The anxiety hangs in the air, as evidenced by Wednesday’s Dow Jones which dropped all of 200 points, another aspect of the daily decline that sends a clear financial message to the powers that be. What started out as another opportunity for Republicans to metaphorically and literally drag their feet in defiance of Obama’s “Reaching Across the Aisle” has now turned into an outright hostage situation, the only offering being Boehner’s most recent plan that would entail 1.2 trillion dollars in budget cuts, predominantly from social and domestic spending, with no cuts from Pentagon and Homeland Security budgets. The arrogance and out-of-touch delusions seem to stem from hopes of conservative reelection by way of pinning the downfall of the American economy as the sole fault of Obama, a plan that is now becoming nearly suicidal as even seasoned conservatives like John McCain are speaking out against.
The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue, and the public will turn en masse against”¦ Barack Obama. The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor. This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell into GOP Senate nominees. ““ Wall Street Journal
Of course, as I mentioned previously, Democrats are not to be left blame-free in these measures. Democrats have been offering up cuts like free money, the same ones they swore up and down would not be touched during negotiations. These offerings have included everything from Medicare to social security in a desperate attempt to find some sort of terms that Republicans can feel best represent compromise.
In Gloria Feldt’s fantastic book, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change The Way They Think About Power, Feldt recalls the consequences of unequal power play to the game of chicken, in this case, how giving leeway to the terms of any situation in the name of compromise can often prove damning.
Here’s how the legendary novelist Philip Roth played chicken with his wife, British actress Claire Boom: early in their relationship, Roth insisted that Bloom’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Anna Steiger, move out of her London home. “It wasn’t about hatred for my daughter,” Bloom reminisced years later in the November 1996 Vanity Fair. “He knew I would make any compromise to support our relationship. If I was willing to jettison my daughter in this manner, what could I ever deny him? I know I was diminishing my own character with each successive act of capitulation. These confrontations left me debilitated and unsure, and were to shape many of my future decisions.”
We are witnessing one of the largest games of chicken being played. Republicans, much like Roth, have sensed the room for absolute compromise, know that no matter what card they play, Democrats will blink, relinquishing their capacity to set the terms of power in the name of compromise. Only, in this game of chicken, there exists a fine line between the potential of a U.S. default and the prospect of even more debilitating cuts for those who are already affected the most by budget slashing. It’s only now that Timothy Geithner’s words over the potential debt ceiling raise have come back to haunt the very air that surrounds the continuing debates that rage on.
With Harry Reid’s newly introduced plan that meets all GOP demands, Democrats wait eagerly, much like putting all their chips on the table, wanting, waiting, and expecting the Republicans approval, much like Bloom’s own sacrifice in the name of compromise. Of course, the expectation that Republicans will again, reject this plan, is indeed, not something that will be totally shocking, but only ensuring that this group of leaders is indeed, intent on destroying many of their own ideas of “fail-safe mechanisms” in the interest of their own party. By divorcing themselves from all indications of irresponsibility in their actions, it is easy to see why the Republicans have no real desire to come up with actual solutions, when they can just sit back and wait for Democrats to give way to enough of their demands, always knowing they might be able to demand a bit more. Even as of yesterday, Boehner’s own plan fell short of the votes needed within his own party, and the $14.3 trillion debt still stands with no dents made.
There still is the hope that Obama can override all of this and act on behalf of the 14th Amendment, a measure that many leaders are calling for, even though the White House has gone on the record ruling it out as a possibility. One can’t help but suspect that in some way, Republicans are waiting with bated breath for Obama to act on this final measure, only to unleash their own complaints over the unnecessary action that our “out-of-control” president took when Republicans had a plan all along. So not only are we witnessing the world’s largest game of chicken, we are witnessing our very own political hostage situation in which Republicans are eager on proving to the base, as well as the all mighty swing voter, that they are indeed, not going to let the job creators suffer. Even with the Dem’s backing Reid’s newest plan and the hope that something will finally come of all of this, it still has to make its way through the House, competing with Boehner’s plan that will need approval from the Senate.
So now we tiredly wait, watching our elected leaders continue to play chicken, even as Obama pleads with American citizens to put pressure on the still-defiant GOP. With more and more voices mounting against the metaphorical shit about to hit the fan, we watch as mounting self-interest becomes less about political fodder and more and more about the risk of fallout for the American public. My hope is that both parties can put aside the fear of “Will this get me reelected” and start to concentrate on “Will this help the American public?” As the situation becomes a more urgent matter, the clock ticking down to the possibility of just being flat broke, the rest of the country waits on pins and needles whether or not Tuesday will represent them getting paid and eating, or struggling because a group of elected, grown men couldn’t get it together.
We shall see come then.