The Republican stance on negotiating an increase to the federal debt limit is illogical and ridiculous in so many ways, it's difficult for me to know where to focus my outrage.
First, it's deeply irritating to have the national interest held hostage by a quasi-religious "Thou Shalt Never Raise Taxes." And just as absurd, "Thou Shalt Always Have a Balanced Federal Budget."
The first commandment is Grover Norquist pontificating, who knows zilch about economic reality. Conservative (but not a crazy one) David Brooks gets it exactly right in his The Mother of No-Brainers column.
Over the past few years, it [the Republican party] has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.
The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.
The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.
The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency. A nation makes a sacred pledge to pay the money back when it borrows money. But the members of this movement talk blandly of default and are willing to stain their nation’s honor.
It's amazing that so many Republican legislators have surrendered their brains and commitment to serve the public interest to such a rigid, dogmatic No tax increases! oath. Reagan raised taxes numerous times. Apparently he'd be kicked out of the current Republican party.
Sometimes taxes need to be raised. Sometimes they don't. It depends.
Same with the G.O.P. drive to pass a balanced budget amendment as a condition of raising the debt limit. As a New York Times editorial correctly says, this is analogous to Republicans forbidding citizens to take out a car loan or a home mortgage.
What could be more prudent than balancing the books every year? In fact, forcibly balancing the federal budget each year would be like telling families they cannot take out a mortgage or a car loan, or do any other borrowing, no matter how sensible the purchase or how creditworthy they may be.
Again, sometimes it makes sense to go into debt. Sometimes it doesn't. It depends.
Conservatives often say they want government to act more businesslike. Well, how many businesses never borrow money? The federal deficit certainly needs to be reduced. But to hamstring legislators through a balanced budget amendment from effectively dealing with future national crises, that's crazy.
Currently federal tax revenues are at their lowest level in decades. The United States isn't overtaxed. Most of our deficit problem is caused by the unfunded Bush tax cuts, two unfunded major wars, and other unfunded Republican spending such as the Medicare prescription drug program.
This isn't opinion. It's fact.
Yet so far Republican negotiators are firmly opposed to increasing taxes on the wealthy, whose share of national income rose dramatically during the Bush presidency. Polls, though, show that Americans favor this. Here's what PoltiFact has to say:
We found a number of polls that indicate people do want the government to raise taxes. That was most clearly the case when it comes to raising taxes on the wealthy and on corporations.
Several polls ask people if taxes should be increased on people who make more than $250,000. Polls show substantial majorities support the idea. We found majorities of 72 percent, 64 percent, and 59 percent. (Those are from April polls by ABC News/Washington Post, McClatchy-Marist, and USA Today/Gallup, respectively.)
On whether corporations pay enough in taxes, Gallup found that 67 percent said they pay too little.
My final gripe about how Republicans are approaching the debt ceiling negotiations is this: they don't recognize that reducing government benefits is almost exactly the same as a tax increase.
I mean, what's the difference between forcing Medicare recipients to pay more for health care out of their own pockets, and forcing wealthy people to pay more taxes out of their own pockets?
All we're talking about is whose pocket the money is going to come from. The same principle holds for all sorts of government programs, federal, state, and local. If the Oregon legislature can't properly fund the state university system (which it isn't), then students and parents pay more for tuition (which they are).
This is so obvious, I can't believe Republican brains are incapable of recognizing it. I guess their above-mentioned quasi-religious fear of taxes prevents them from understanding simple logical facts.
Such as, government is us.
Every dollar of committed federal spending that now requires an increase in the debt limit was approved by our duly elected Congressional representatives, both Republican and Democrat.
The government isn't a malevolent foreign force. It carries out the will of the American people through the people they elect to represent them.
We, the people, have every right to raise taxes in order to provide benefits to ourselves.
We, the people, have every right to borrow money in order to finance federal programs that are important to us.
We, the people, have every right to make wealthy individuals and corporations pay their fair share in taxes.
Republicans need to open their eyes and start looking at the citizens they represent, not the special interests who lobby behind the scenes for special treatment. David Brooks end his column with:
The struggles of the next few weeks are about what sort of party the G.O.P. is — a normal conservative party or an odd protest movement that has separated itself from normal governance, the normal rules of evidence and the ancient habits of our nation.
If the debt ceiling talks fail, independents voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern.
And they will be right.