fresh voices from the front lines of change







We now have sorry news of the foul deal that the White House is pushing in the debt ceiling talks.

About $1.5 trillion in spending cuts -- including $200-300 billion from Medicare and Medicaid -- in exchange for $130 billion in loophole closings -- corporate jets, race horses and the like.

Forget about one-to-one spending cuts to top end tax hikes. This is worse than 10 to 1. Programs vital to Americans get cut -- Medicare, Medicaid, Pell grants, education, public health. Tax breaks not needed for the wealthy get extended.

Consider how we got here.

Instead of insisting on a clean lift of the debt ceiling with no extortion, the White House caved and agreed to negotiate with extortionists willing to threaten to blow up the economy if they don't get their way.

Instead of insisting on a one to one ratio of spending cuts to top end tax hikes, the White House caved and apparently accepts that spending cuts will be most of the deal, ratifying the utterly dishonest conservative claim that government spending has been out of control.

Instead of insisting that top end tax rates must be hiked, or demanding a millionaire's tax at a time when the richest Americans are paying a lower effective tax rate than their chauffeurs, the White House caved and now brags that it has embraced no tax rate hikes, it only wants to close egregious loopholes.

This is, in a word, pathetic.

Forget shared sacrifice. The most vulnerable Americans will be forced to pay for the mess created by Wall Street's excesses and Bush's follies. If these guys were negotiating for the purchase of your next car, your first born might be at risk.

Through this, Democrats have been silent.

The deal probably can't pass the House without Democratic votes but Nancy Pelosi has been excluded from the negotiations. The deal can't pass the Senate without the Democratic majority, but other than Senator Sanders, Democrats have said nothing, allowing Republicans to drive the debate.

And like any extortionists, Republicans have raised the stakes, walked out of the talks, calling ANY tax revenues unacceptable. This despite the fact that the American people overwhelmingly - -and even a majoirty of Republican voters -- support tax hikes as part of deficit reduction.

Republicans are in an utterly untenable position -- but they are confident that the president will cave. And given the history of the tax negotiations last December and these negotiations to date, it isn't hard to imagine where they got that confidence.

It is time for Democrats to assert their values.

If the president folds on his, his presidency is effectively over. Democrats should draw an independent line in the sand. No deal without the rich and big corporations sharing in the sacrifice. No deal that takes more out of the programs for middle income and poor Americans than it takes from tax breaks, loopholes and havens for the rich and the big corporations. Stand up to the extortionists, do not accept their terms.

The best outcome now would be for the President to say we agree that the deficit must be brought down, but cannot agree on how to get there. Republican willingness to blow up the economy to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans precludes any deal. So accept the debt limits that Republicans voted for in their budget -- that added $8 trillion in debt over the next 10 years. Lift the cap only to those levels -- and let's take the fight about how to get there to the American people in the elections, and let them decide how they want to exact the sacrifice.

The Senate should bring a measure to lift the debt ceiling to the floor under those conditions. Let Republicans decide if they want to blow up the economy. It is time to call their bluff -- for they are using extortion to achieve ends that are bad for the country, bad for the economy, utterly unjust, and massively unpopular.

If Democrats allow them to get away with that, can anyone wonder why their supporters will be discouraged or disillusioned? It is time to stand up.

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