Warning: This is wonkier than usual political posts here.
I know we would all rather trade cute kitty stories but Medicare, the debt ceiling and our country itself are at serious risk. To use a Republican trope, there are no more than half a dozen grownups in Congress and we need to pay attention.
Last evening, the House of Representatives voted on a “clean” Republican bill to raise the debt ceiling. That means no amendments, no spending cuts – not Medicare or anything else – which is how the issue should be decided, but will not be.
This was a voodoo vote. Everyone knew up front that it would be rejected – in fact, that was, according to some, the Republican plan. The final vote was 319 No, 94 Yes with 7 Democrats voting present and 12 not voting – miles away from the two-thirds needed to pass.
The Republican idea behind this phony vote was to “prove” that a clean debt ceiling bill cannot pass and therefore it will be “necessary” to slash Medicare to get enough votes to raise the debt ceiling. Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said,
”…Medicare is ‘going down. Doing nothing is not a plan…Everybody agrees something ought to be done except the Democrats in the Senate.’” [my emphasis]
But wait. It gets worse. According to Stan Collender at captitalgainsandgames yesterday morning before the vote,
”…it’s not at all certain that a big “no” vote for a clean debt ceiling increase means that the opposite is true and a majority is clamoring for an increase that includes deficit reductions…
“[H]ere’s another dirty little secret: There is a growing suspicion that, like what happened the day after the House rejected the Troubled Asset Relief Program [TARP] in September 2008 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by almost 7 percent, such a vote could quickly change market perceptions of the situation and have a substantial negative effect on interest rates and equity prices.
“It’s even possible that’s part of the plan. Former Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag said last week that it is going to be difficult to get Members of Congress to agree to increase the debt ceiling without some kind of “turbulence” in the bond market.
“A big “no” vote on a debt ceiling increase bill [what we got – ed] could easily accelerate that type of disturbance in the financial force. Indeed, it might be what’s needed to precipitate it and the leadership may be counting on that happening.” [emphasis mine]
But wait again. It gets more devious. According to Jackie Calmes at The New York Times yesterday, the markets will “yawn” at Tuesday’s vote
”…if only because Republican leaders have privately assured Wall Street executives that this is a show intended to make the point to Mr. Obama that an increase cannot pass absent his agreement to rein in domestic programs.
“’Wall Street is in on the joke,’ said R. Bruce Josten, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”
It was digby of Hullabaloo who set me off on this debt ceiling voodoo dance. (She runs my number one, never-miss political/financial blog and if you’re interested in these things, she should be on your list too.) Her response:
”I don’t know what kind of sick nihilism makes a scenario like [creating financial panic out of nothing] remotely possible, but again, I don’t believe it. We are talking about Big Money here and there are a lot of things that aren’t working right in this country right now, but the greed mechanism isn’t one of them.
“I don’t believe ‘the markets’ are going along with that plan. And I don’t think even the Republicans are going to take that kind of risk going into an election year.
“But if these people are actually planning a financial panic in order to destroy the safety net, can someone explain to me just how it is they can possibly be considered anything but criminals? This isn’t a joke. Panics have a way of getting out of hand – it’s not like you can wave a magic wand and it stops.”
Whatever is really going on, there is no question about what the goal is: to kill Medicare as we know it.
Representative Paul Ryan’s plan for a voucher-system Medicare is dead, so the Republicans are moving on to their next plan. I cannot say anything better than one of digby’s commenters, LL:
”I’m completely baffled by the notion that our leaders want to gut medicare. What do they want? Old people dying in poverty and misery by the millions? AGAIN? The reason we HAVE Medicare is we went through all this before.
“Is there a single person over 60 who can even hope to buy any kind of decent medical insurance on the private market? What do these assholes think we’re all going to do? I don’t know that it would happen, but I suspect that as more and more jobs don’t offer decent medical benefits, there are going to be a lot of angry voters out there. Maybe not enough right now, but there will be, surely.
“I’m so pissed right now I can’t see straight…”
Me too. And what a waste of Congress’s time on Tuesday.
If you can stand more of this farce, there are additional tricky maneuvers over this vote here.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Vicki E. Jones: Fianna and the Guy From JULIE