Dont Let Extortion Beat Democracy

Dave Johnson

The country has been held at gunpoint: a faction of the Congress, in service to a wealthy elite, were able to get away with threatening us, saying “give us everything we want or we will kill your economy.” The other side, inured now to one-dollar-one-vote “market” rule over one-person-one-vote We-the-People democracy, capitulated to the demands. Moreover, they agreed to cede budget-rule to a 12-member “Super Congress.” The deal is announced at the last minute forcing Congress to vote before public opposition can rally. If it passes, this elite-enriching deal will slow the economy, kill even more jobs, and make it even harder to pay our bills. This is not how our system is supposed to work! This is not an America that any of us recognize.

A Pattern

A terrible pattern of naked aggression against democracy has emerged. It surfaced with the financial crisis when Congress was stampeded by the threat of complete economic meltdown into a huge taxpayer bailout protecting the fortunes of Wall Street and too-big-to-fail bankers. The “emergency” vote occurred before opposition could rally. Then came the obstruction of democracy following the 2008 elections with a Republican majority filibustering … almost everything We, the People tried to do for each other. This unprecedented disruption of the functioning of government frustrated people’s faith and trust in our system and weakened the barely-recovering economy.

Next was the series of “hostage-taking” acts of extortion. The first was the threat to cut off assistance for the unemployed unless the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy were extended. Then the “government shutdown” threat, forcing cuts in the things We, the People do for each other. The latest, this “debt-ceiling” threat to take down the entire economy forcing more cuts, demanding a process that locks them in before people can wake up from the shock and fight back, all occurring outside of the processes of democracy.

Each time the manufactured “crisis” negotiations are stalled until the last minute, the deal is “announced,” and the vote occurs, “locking in” the demage before public opposition can rally.

The Lesson: Raw Extortion Beats Democracy

Again and again, bailouts or tax cuts or favors for the wealthy paid for by cutbacks in the entitlements democracy brings to the public — good wages, pensions, education, health care, infrastructure, environmental protections – or they will make good on a threat to collapse our economy. Again and again leaders capitulate. Again and again the lesson is taught: raw extortion beats democracy.

A wealthy elite again and again, holding us hostage and saying, “give us what we want or we will take down your economy, country, job, pension, health care – you name it.

“Banana-Republic Status”

Paul Krugman explains the harm done by this “deal,” writing in The President Surrenders,

It will damage an already depressed economy; it will probably make America’s long-run deficit problem worse, not better; and most important, by demonstrating that raw extortion works and carries no political cost, it will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status.

Who Stands Up For Democracy?

Who will stand up for We, the People democracy? Because this is not it.

Are we going to just let this happen? The point of letting the deal come at the very last minute is to keep opponents from having time to rally opposition before the default deadline. But outside groups are rallying.

Campaign for America’s Future says: Say ‘No Deal’ To The Raw Deal. CAF’s Robert Borosage writes, in Capitulation,

With the economy deeply depressed, 25 million people in need of full time work, the raw deal will impede any recovery. It precludes any serious action on jobs from the federal government. It will cost jobs as spending is cut. Instead of getting serious about a plan to revive this economy and put people back to work, Washington will remain fixated on what and how much to cut. From the President to the Tea Party zealots, politicians will tell Americans that this agreement is “important to our economy.” Yes, it is important – important in the way a virus is important to a sickly patient. It will make things worse.

[. . .] No progressive can or should vote for this capitulation. Republicans have won big. They should be forced to produce the votes to pass this in the House. If they can’t, the president should do what he should have done from the beginning. Stop the negotiations, demand a clean lift of the debt ceiling, and invoke his constitutional powers to avoid default.

Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) says

“This deal will kill our economy and is an attack on middle-class families. It asks nothing of the rich, will reduce middle-class jobs, and lines up Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for cuts. Today, we’re putting in thousands of calls to Congress urging Democrats to keep their promise and oppose this awful bill. The 14th Amendment is unambiguous, and President Obama should invoke it to pay our nation’s debt. Then Democrats should focus on jobs — not cuts — in order to grow our economy.”

PCCC says: Call Your Representative, Tell Them To Reject The Deal! Click the link to enter your zip code and get the phone number to call.

CREDO Action says, This is capitulation, not compromise. Tell House Democrats: Stop a bad deal on the debt ceiling. Click the link, enter your zip code to get the number to call.

MoveOn.org‘s Executive Director Justin Ruben, says:

“This is a bad deal for our fragile economic recovery, a bad deal for the middle class and a bad deal for tackling our real long-term budget problems. It forces deep cuts to important programs that protect the middle class, but asks nothing of big corporations and millionaires. And though it does not require cuts to Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid benefits, it opens the door for these down the road via an unaccountable Congressional committee. We surveyed our 5 million members and the vast majority oppose the deal because it unfairly asks seniors and the middle class to bear the burden of the debt deal. Congress should do what it should have done long ago and what it has done dozens of times before – pass a clean debt ceiling bill.”

Firedoglake‘s Jane Hamsher says, Whip the Super Congress: Call and Ask Your Member of Congress if They Like Their Job,

The deal between President Obama and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell calls for the creation of a “Super Congress” to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits.

You won’t find a Super Congress mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. It will be an elite body of 12 members of Congress who write legislation behind closed doors and then announce it to the public. Whatever they decide will then be fast-tracked through both chambers, where it can’t be amended by simple, regular lawmakers.

… This is an emergency: we need you to call your Congressman today and ask them how they intend to vote.

Call your member of Congress and ask them if they intend to vote for a Super Congress to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Friends of the Earth urges rejection of proposed debt ceiling agreement,

“Friends of the Earth strongly opposes this agreement and urges members of Congress to reject it. The agreement threatens the economy, erodes the social safety net, undermines enforcement of crucial environmental laws and limits our nation’s capacity to invest in a brighter future. It is likely to mean more people drinking poisoned water and breathing polluted air, and a slower transition to a clean energy economy.

“We can avoid draconian cuts simply by making corporations pay the costs of their pollution through a carbon tax. We can avoid spending cuts that fall on the backs of the poor and the middle class if we end giveaways to oil and gas corporations and other polluters. But that’s not what this agreement does.

“If congressional Republicans continue to refuse to ask wealthy corporations to pay their fair share, President Obama need not allow our economy to be taken hostage. Instead, he can and should heed the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and act unilaterally to prevent a default.”

Progressives United has Russ Feingold’s statement,

“The debt ceiling deal should remove any doubt of the power corporate interests have over our government. That deal, hammered out by the president and Republican Congressional leaders, places the burden of reducing our long-term budget problems on average Americans, while the wealthiest individuals and corporations are given a free pass. Americans are willing to bear their share of the burden of addressing our nation’s long-term budget problems, but those sacrifices should be shared by all.”

Updates

John Nichols at The Nation, Progressives Slam Obama’s Debt Deal as More House Dems Say They Object, (click through to read John’s entire piece.)

What is striking, however, is the level of announced Democratic opposition to the plan. By one whip count, roughly half the members who have said they will vote “no,” or who have indicated that they are leaning in that direction, are Democrats.

Progressive Democrats of America is saying No Deal!,

The debt ceiling deal struck last night does not tax the rich or even allow temporary tax cuts on the rich to expire. Nor does it defund any wars. Yet it requires cuts of $1.2 trillion now and $2.5 trillion over a decade.

Tell Congress to reject this deal.

Color of Change says, Don’t Pass Deal Balanced on Backs of the Poor and Working People While Asking Nothing from the Wealthy,

“More than 70,000 ColorOfChange.org members have called on Congress and the White House not to pass any deal which attempts to reduce the debt on the backs of poor and working class people, while asking nothing from the wealthiest Americans and corporations. Unfortunately, this deal fails both those tests.”

 

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