Polls tell us that a majority of Americans support the GOP in its dangerously misguided insistence on deep government spending cuts as a condition of raising the nation’s debt ceiling. It’s another example of the inability of many Americans to connect the dots between such abstract and broad-brushed government spending reductions and the reality of specific cuts to popular entitlements and programs such as Medicare.
Consider the following extract from a piece on the E.coli outbreak in Germany by Gardiner Harris that appeared in the New York Times on 02 June:
“One clear lesson from the German outbreak is that contaminated food can come from anywhere,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at the University of Minnesota. “We often want to think that the foods from the developing world are risky,” Dr. Osterholm said. “Produce safety is a problem everywhere.”
Indeed, the German outbreak is likely to increase concerns over the safety of fresh vegetables, Dr. Tarr said. The United States has suffered multiple contamination scares over the past decade in tomatoes, lettuce and spinach.
“I can tell you how to make a hamburger safe, but I can’t tell you how to do that with a head of lettuce,” Dr. Tarr said. “And that’s important.”
A law passed by Congress last year gave the Food and Drug Administration new powers to mandate that companies undertake preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of such outbreaks, and the law called for increased inspections to ensure compliance. The agency requested additional financing to implement the new law, including hiring more inspectors next year. Republicans in the House have instead proposed cutting the agency’s budget.”
Hands up all those who’d like to increase the risk of an E. Coli outbreak in America so we can cut government spending to preserve and even extend tax cuts for the rich. Welcome to the GOP’s vision for America!
Most Americans have yet to come to grips with the reality that lawmakers in today’s GOP have been pushed further to the right by its extremist base than ever before. A Washington Post piece on 05 June by Lori Montgomery highlights the fact that all but 13 of 288 Republicans in the Congress have signed a formal pledge not to vote to raise taxes. And if they break the pledge, right-wing organizations such as Americans for Tax Reform will see they are punished when they’re up for re-election.
So when we hear GOP congressional leaders urging President Obama to negotiate on raising the debt ceiling and on future budgets, it isn’t a true negotiation that is being demanded but a cave-in, an abject surrender, to what was an extreme position by a fringe right-wing faction but is now mainstream GOP anti-tax, anti-government orthodoxy.
If raising taxes are off the table, we can only significantly reduce the deficit by massive spending cuts that will do devastating damage to our nation. That’s a fact on which most mainstream economists agree (and even many ex-GOP lawmakers who were in Congress during a different time agree).
What’s more, GOP assertions that slashing government spending will help the economy are just so much hot air. The only case for that would be if government borrowing was crowding out the private sector and serving to raise interest rates. Neither is the case. In fact, interest rates are at historical lows. However, as we have seen with the painful cuts made by state and local government, significant cuts to federal programs will only add to the nation’s economic distress and the unemployment rolls.
Americans must soon make a clear choice to either embrace the GOP’s extremist vision for America or to reject it utterly. Splitting the difference through divided government as we have done so often in the past, will no longer do; it will simply delay the moment when Americans must decide what sort of society they want.
And make no mistake: the consequences of making the wrong choice promise to be devastating.