The Debt Ceiling and Washington’s Political Pornography

Published July 12th, 2011 by tcarpenter

Watching the negotiations in Washington about whether to raise the ceiling on the national debt is like watching a vile form of pornography–if pornography were boring as well as disgusting. Both Republicans and Democrats are engaged in their usual political posturing. The GOP members of Congress dig-in their heels about raising the debt limit, although the overwhelming majority of them had no problem taking that step during the Bush years–or for that matter during the administration of the sainted Ronald Reagan. They are equally adamant about no new taxes. That is an admirable position in principle, but only if serious spending cuts are made to keep the budget from continuing to bleed vast quantities of red ink. Borrowing to cover the shortfall is simply a form of deferred, covert taxation–with the goal of shifting much of the burden onto future generations.


Amazingly, the Obama administration and the congressional Democrats manage to be even a little worse than their Republican colleagues. They habitually portray proposals merely to slow the jaw-dropping growth in federal spending as brutal “cuts” that would devastate essential programs and put Grandma and Grandpa out on the street without their Social Security checks. Whenever the Dems propose so-called spending cuts, they are little more than paper promises to slow the rate of increase in spending in the out years–i.e., 5 to 10 years in the future. Experience has shown that promises of spending restraint in the mists of the distant future almost never become reality.


Both parties play their cynical games while the country careens toward national bankruptcy. If the massive budget deficit is not reduced through real (and substantial) cuts–which means cutting military spending, Social Security and Medicare–the United States could be Greece in another decade or two. Our children and grandchildren will not think kindly of us if that happens. But not to worry. The Republicans and Democrats in the 2020s will be busy blaming each other for the debacle.




3 Responses to “The Debt Ceiling and Washington’s Political Pornography”

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  1. 1

    Sherwin Kaplan

    The most dangerous aspect of the current situation is the apparent unwillingness to compromise. Standing firm on principle is a wonderful trait in academia or think tanks, but has no place in the political arena. Our constitution itself is a compromise which, when ratified, did not entirely please anyone. Likewise our governing system of checks and balances is dependent on the various power centers coming together for the good of the whole. This is why, with the exception of the civil war, most change in this country, either to the left or to the right, has been incremental and not revolutionary. The current political debate on the debt ceiling is a radical departure from this history. Whether out of principle or craven subservience to interest groups (how odd that standing on principle and kowtowing to interest groups lead to the same result), the fact is that selfish, parochial interests have now been placed ahead of the good of the country. Putting personal interest ahead of the good of the country is one reason why geographical entities such as Irag and Afganistan cannot sustain a viable form of democracy. Are we now sinking to that level?

  2. 2

    Elaine Bergstrom

    I am ready to post my own blog, which I will title “A Nation of Weasels” (apologies to REAL weasels) because no one cares about anything but getting elected (though I am not so sure about that any more, either, maybe just how much money they have in their campaign funds). That being said, I’ve hit the age where I feel I can pick and choose my libertarian principles (I mean, the right wing does when they are pro freedom but anti gay and anti choice). I choose to side with Ron Paul. Want to pay down the deficit? Stop all the troop deployment across the globe and bring them home then stop shoring up governments around the world, then cut the defense to a leaner meaner quick response unit. Oddly, this stance would make Paul a good candidate to head Dennis Kucinich’s Department of Peace — probably the first bi-partisan effort Washington has seen in a decade. By the way, you likely have a pretty “in the know” group of readers but don’t we spend as much as all the European countries combined on defense? I would think that is bankrupting us way more than Medicare and Social Security (which we citizens paid for) will. As for me, I don’t want to have the US go the way of Greece … give me Canada instead.

  3. 3


    Elaine, the U.S. spends nearly twice as much as the members of the European Union on the military. In fact, the U.S. spends nearly as much as the rest of the world combined. Clearly, that’s one area that can and should be cut dramatically. But Social Security and Medicare (especially Medicare) are looming financial black holes, and that problem must be addressed. We simply can’t fulfill all the promises those programs have made.

    Sherwin, compromise is an essential part of any effective political system. But compromise simply for the sake of compromise isn’t worthwhile, and for all the fuming and posturing, that’s what the debt ceiling deal ended up being. The S & P downgrade of the the U.S. government’s credit rating was an accurate indictment of a deal that puts off most of the spending “cuts” (actually just a slowing or projected increases) to the period beyond 2014. That’s inherently fraudulent, since such “cuts” almost never materialize. S & P made it clear it wouldn’t go along with that shell game.

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