The showdown over the budget and the debt ceiling continues to drag on and Congress is still attempting to cut spending down to nothing but defense, tax breaks for the wealthy and their own salaries. While politicians continue to rail against taxes and spending and the media hypes the “gang of six”, it seems that we’re quietly moving past an interesting historical marker. Ten years ago, former President George W. Bush signed the first round of tax cuts and the Treasury Department began to borrow billions in order to pay for them.
Think Progress reports that on August 1, 2001, the AP ran a story on the Treasury announcing its intent to borrow $51 billion to cover the tax rebate checks handed out by the Bush Administration. In addition, the article highlighted the Democratic argument against the Bush tax cuts: “Democrats argued that President Bush’s $1.35 trillion 10-year tax-cut package, which includes the rebate checks, is too large, and they expressed fears it will sow the seeds for a return to days of government red ink.” Since then, we’ve lost more than $2 trillion in revenue.
Coupled with two very expensive wars and other spending, I’m asking the same question as Salon’s Andrew Leonard – what’s the point of a debt ceiling? GOP demigod Ronald Reagan raised the debt ceiling 17 times during his presidency. Leonard points out that we’ve raised the debt ceiling 72 times since 1962. So what’s the point of the fight now? Simple: The GOP needs a fight they can win on. The majority of the American public is opposed to the war in Afghanistan. Support to repeal The Defense of Marriage Act is high, most Americans believe immigration is a good thing and public opinion on the matter has remained consistent for a decade. The biggest wedge issue is the economy – the job market and the deficit are the hottest button issues. Thanks to old myths about welfare queens, new viral video stunts by right wing hack James O’Keefe and saber rattling from the rich about taxes, the right wing is driving the public conversation their way.
If we really want to save the economy, we need to drive the conversation towards the truth. More than two dozen public companies have more cash than the U.S. Treasury. The gulf between rich and poor in America is wider than it has ever been. More cuts to social programs will only increase the poverty of American citizens and drive us further into economic oblivion. If we continue to let ourselves believe everything will just work out if we leave things in the hands of neo robber barons, we’re dooming ourselves deeper into debt.