Dr. Chris Lamb, a professor of Communication at the College of Charleston, composed the following entry that recently appeared on OpEdNews.
If no budget deal is reached between Congress and President Barack Obama by the end of the year, the United States will face what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke described as "a massive fiscal cliff of large spending cuts and tax increases."
We know the seriousness of this situation because no news program goes more than 10 minutes without telling us the seriousness of the situation.
The closest historical precedence for anything like the "fiscal cliff" is found in the 1984 movie, "Ghostbusters" -- when the ghostbusters inform the mayor of New York that the city is threatened by a disaster of biblical proportions:
Mayor: What do you mean, "biblical"?
Dr. Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
Dr. Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes . . .
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!
The news media have told us that the failure to avoid the fiscal cliff will result in--and make no mistake about it--a serious situation. They've reported that there will be an immediate tax increase on most earners and massive cuts to government programs, the defense budget, and Medicare.
But this is just the stuff they're telling us. Could it mean the end of the world? It might just be worse than that.
Here is a partial list of what will happen if Congress and the president don't agree to a budget deal before January 1, 2013.
-- The United States will convert to the metric system.
-- Replacement refs will return to the National Football League.
-- Congress will repeal the laws of gravity, leaving thousands of other bills up in the air.
-- The National Anthem will change from the "Star-Spangled Banner" to "Everybody Wang Chung Tonight."
-- Hours will have 61 - minutes.
-- All prime-time television programs will be required to include at least one appearance by a member of the Kardashian family.
-- Cell phones will only work in South Dakota.
-- Supreme Court justices will exchange their traditional robes for hoodies, low-rider jeans, tank tops, and doo rags and write their decisions in rap.
-- The letter "e" will be removed from the alphabt.
-- You will only be able to buy shoes for left feet and socks for right feet.
-- Olivia Newton-John will marry former major league pitcher Tommy John, divorce him, marry singer Wayne Newton, divorce him and then marry chef Jamie Oliver. She will become Olivia Newton-John-John-Newton-Oliver.
-- Texting will end, forcing millions of Americans to talk to each other.
-- Texas and Arizona will be returned to Mexico, which will then pass repressive anti-immigrant legislation.
-- "Human Sacrifice, Dogs and Cats Living Together . . . Mass Hysteria." Chris Lamb
is a professor of Communication at the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC. His last book was The Sound and Fury of Sarah Palin
(Frontline Press). This entry was first posted on OpEdNews
, and is included here with Lamb's permission.
It’s an economic environment of exclusivity, a recent episode of Fault Lines
Only one percent of the population takes in more than 20 percent of all earnings in the United States, for example. Since the 1970’s, the income levels of the top 10 percent in wealth increased four-fold; the remaining 90 percent of the country has had no income growth, when accounting for inflation and other cost-of-living increases.
And the U.S. government – not any branch and neither side – is fully helping to stop this anti-Democratic, non-capitalist movement from ransacking our Democratic capitalist country. The movers and the makers are led by the money shakers. And that’s probably never been more apparent than it is today.
“As both Democrats and Republicans gear up for the 2012 presidential elections, the race to raise money for campaign advertising is a driving force for both parties,” the reporter of this recent August 2 episode, titled “The Top 1%,” says.
The top wealth in the country and their corporations, who provide the most in campaign donations by far, get an unfair and disproportionate influence on government as a result.
Take U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, for example, who’s featured in the episode. Chair of the House Budget Committee, Ryan claims the only way to help our economy is by taking away healthcare benefits from the poor and elderly, cutting benefits from retirees … and lowering the tax rate on the top income bracket to only 25 percent.
Ryan’s top campaign donors
are investment firms and insurance companies, as well as Koch Industries.
These politicians don’t want to answer up to the public about their proposals or policies, either. Watch the young female reporter attempt to interview Ryan, having to dodge parking meters along the sidewalk as she tries to keep with the evasive Wisconsin Republican. (“Your questions are rude,” Ryan barked as he got into his SUV, closing the interview.)
And those who do answer questions about the policies they promote are quite blunt. Scott Hodge, president of the Tax Foundation
, is asked if his conservative think tank only advocates on the behalf of wealth. “Yeah – you just can’t help it,” he replies.
This is a 25-minute episode, which might be too long for some to watch. But if you only have a few minutes to spare, just slide the bar over to the 20:00 mark. You could even mute the volume. The next three-and-a-half minutes of the clip provides a rather vivid video grasp of the current economic situation in the U.S.
You’ll see the excitement and enthusiasm swarming the campus of Harvard University as it hosts an outdoor graduation ceremony, a rite of passage for the children of wealth to go on and score their own.
And then you’ll see the team of common Americans scouring the area after the ceremony, cleaning up all the trash those wealthy folks left lying on the campus grounds.
Right after that segment, put the volume back on to hear what’s probably the most succinct of summations on the subject.
According to Leo Hindery, a progressive political activist, “This degree of inequity will ultimately lead to social upheaval – it’s that acute.
“But the politicians aren’t listening (to the public),” Hindery says. “They’re listening to the lobbies. They’re listening to the wealthy people.
“We’ve got to disconnect.”
Our recent story on "America's $1 Bill Protest" picked up quite a bit of steam on the internet. In less than three days, it received thousands of hits here at ROBservations
and at its Examiner.com
The article was quickly picked up by other news distribution sites, too, and even got high ranking on the website of a national progressive television network.
On the website of Current TV, the story
was ranked fifth in popularity for a while.
Not bad for a narrow-niche blog, eh?
Of course, other big national news came out the next day, but we're still on the list - right now at 33, and still right above the Doug "tar baby" Lamborn story that's all over the news, too.
Which makes me hope that awareness of 'America's $1 Bill Protest' is still going around, too.
It's a national protest of sorts about unfair corporate taxes, and in which everyone can participate.
Best of all, you don't have to spend a dime to do it (aside from the dollars you're already spending anyway).
Rick Horowitz from MPTV
’s “Interchange” tells how both major parties are humoring the Tea Party in D.C., and why they shouldn’t anymore.
The longer we continue to “humor” them by overlooking their “symbolic” gestures and statements, the worse off we’ll be in the long run, says Horowitz.
“How much damage can they do?” Horowitz asks slyly in closing. And you know what? We came very close to finding out.
This video was first released on July 24, right before the crisis on budget and default came to a head two days later. The ordeal in Congress was then carelessly and senselessly extended until the very last moment; only late this morning, just 12 hours before the string holding our country together would have been axed, was it finally resolved
. And it was the Tea Party assembly in congress that made damn sure it got extended to that point, too.
And if it didn’t leave a bad-enough taste in the mouths of all Americans, we South Carolinians are left with even more bitterness stuck under our tongues. Our state’s House representatives joined up under the Tea Party tent to do all they could to stop any progress, even getting attention from national media, which described
their behavior as “South Carolina vs. the world.”
South Carolina voters should keep this in mind as the 2012 election season nears, and should remember Horowitz’s key advice: “Don’t let them get away with it.”
As arguments on the debt ceiling continue, Jim Clyburn is taking his viewpoint beyond the limits of the House floor.
The U.S. Representative of South Carolina’s 6th Congressional District is turning to both local and national media, as well as constituents, to extend his request: Mr. President, don’t let partisan politics affect the financial security of the country and its citizens.
And just how can the president achieve that? By using the 14th Amendment, Clyburn says.
Passed over 140 years ago to guarantee rights of former slaves, the 14th Amendment
also addresses debt and budget in its Section Four, which reads “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”
In an interview with MSNBC earlier today, he said
“If the President gets up to August 2nd, without a piece of legislation, he should not allow this country to go into default. He should sign an executive order invoking the 14th amendment and send that to all the governmental agencies for us to continue to pay our bills.
“He could do that with a stroke of a pen,” Clyburn offered along with historic examples, including the Emancipation Proclamation, of such executive orders.
“Sometimes executives must order that things get done.”
Pres. Obama has met with House Republicans many times recently regarding the national budget, but no agreements were reached. If no resolution is achieved and then signed by the president by August 2, the federal government could face potential default
, and would lack in funds to fully pay social security, veterans’ benefits and other regular expenses.
The 14th Amendment allows the president to bypass those problems, Clyburn states, and can avoid the multiple risks associated with default by doing so.
The congressman introduced the argument at a recent House Democratic Caucus meeting, receiving applause for the idea, according to
caucus chair Rep. John Larson (Conn).
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) proposed a short-term solution in a budgetary bill, in which the debt ceiling would only be extended for a limited period in exchange for other cuts, but even that isn’t good enough, Clyburn says, who asks that such terms be rejected.
“I would say to the president that if that’s what lands on his desk – a short-term lifting of the debt ceiling – he should put it on his desk next to an Executive Order that he will have drawn up,” Clyburn said
yesterday at a press conference from the Capitol.
“And with the same pen that he vetoes that short-term debt ceiling, he should sign an Executive Order invoking the 14th Amendment to this issue.”
In direct follow-up with local news yesterday evening, the congressman told
Columbia’s WLTX, “I urge Pres. Barack Obama to invoke the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling if Congress fails to come up with a satisfactory plan before the Tuesday deadline.”
Former Pres. Bill Clinton readily agrees, as well. In an interview last week with The National Memo
, Clinton said Obama should use the 14th Amendment option “without hesitation.”
The White House still states
intentions to refrain from the option, however.
A vote on Boehner’s short-term resolution was scheduled for today, but was continuously delayed
Inner party division could be part of Boehner’s problem with his proposal. At least 216 votes from the 240 Republicans in the House are needed to pass the bill, but tension between the GOP and its Tea Party-affiliated freshmen members may stand in the way, according to CNN reports
After being postponed until 6 p.m. EDT, delays quickly resumed. A floor debate on the topic was halted
, as well. At 10:25 p.m., Huffington Post
reporter Jennifer Bendery tweeted
“no vote tonight” from the capitol, attributing the confirmation to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). At 10:45 p.m., Politico
reporter Jake Sherman tweeted
notice of a House Republican Conference meeting tomorrow morning.
A bill must be passed by next Tuesday, Aug. 2. If none is, the only other option the president will have to avoid default is to invoke use of the 14th Amendment.
Included in the bills the government could be unable to pay if no deal is reached by August 2 are federal payroll, Social Security, Medicare and veterans’ benefits.
About 50,000 federal government employees reside in South Carolina; the salaries of about 7,300
state government workers – over 12 percent of all state employees – are funded by the federal government, as well.
Approximately 820,000 South Carolinians are Social Security recipients
, and 784,000 are enrolled in Medicare
. Almost 410,000 veterans
call the Palmetto State home.
John Boehner has never been a great speaker, necessarily. And so far this year, he’s rapidly become known to be an even worse Speaker of the House.
But after his off-guard statement tonight, he’s probably painted himself into an “absolute worst” corner in both regards.
It wasn’t his rebuttal to tonight’s presidential address. It wasn’t his insistence in that address that poor Americans should continue to pay the costs for mistakes made by wealthy corporations. It wasn’t the Visine glow from his otherwise Bloody Mary-bloodshot eyes, nor the radiation of his salon-tanned cheeks.
As he paced over to the Speaker’s Lobby to deliver his address, Boehner said aloud, “I didn’t sign up for going mano-a-mano with the President of the United States.”
, CBS News’ Capitol Hill producer, overheard the comment and tweeted it shortly after.
His deadpan confession was then “followed by silence” as Boehner and his staff continued their stroll to the Lobby for his rebuttal, indicating he could be losing respect within his own GOP.
A follow-up continued shortly after on CBS’s website
confirms that suspicion: “Boehner is caught in the middle of a battle within his own party and with the opposition party, and he apparently didn't expect being Speaker would lead to verbal combat with the president in prime time.”
Since making his address this evening, Boehner's website appears to have lost is 'mano'liness, too.
The speaker's house site (the address of which was confirmed) has been inaccessible for over three hours following the rebuttal.
Of course, tonight the president asked citizens to contact their congressional representatives and tell them of their own opinions on this budgetary topic.
Apparently, Boehner has quite a few constituents a lot more 'mano'ly than him, and who are eager to let him know their opinions.
The total cost of policy changes made by George W. Bush during his 2001-2009 presidency: $5.07 trillion.
How many Republicans (and now Tea Partiers) complained? Zero
The total cost of policy changes made by Obama, and even with projections through 2017 (inclusive of his second term): $1.44 trillion
How many Republicans and Tea Partiers are complaining? ALL OF THEM
Well, where the hell were you in 2001-2009, GOTea?
And an even better question - exactly where did all that money go?
Bush's costs - went overseas to companies that aren't paying US taxes; to rich folks who now pay much less taxes; to banks and corporations that pay little if any taxes.
Obama's costs - go to low and middle income groups, who were paying too much in taxes; to provide means for those same folks to access health care so they can continue working and paying taxes; to US companies that created US jobs, increasing the accessibility to tax dollars from all.
Republicans continue to holler for lower taxes on corporations and wealthy citizens, and in both federal and state legislatures. The U.S. is an over-taxed nation, they claim.
The percentage tax revenue plays on the U.S. gross domestic product is actually quite low, however. They're actually a rather small portion. Only two other developed nations (Mexico and Chile) have lower tax ratios. From EkonomiFakta:
Almost all of the countries ranking higher than the U.S. also have lower rates of poverty, lower (much
lower) rates of unemployment, higher ranks in education, and hold higher ranks in both health and life expectancy. In other words, taxes collected by those nations keep them afloat, competitive, productive, healthy and sound. Another point in argument against these GOP claims and tax policy suggestions: the US is the only nation on the planet that taxes persons who live under its own definition of poverty. For an interesting take on these figures, see the writeup on PoliticusUSA.
A federal budget has yet to pass Congress. Having only one more day (Friday, April 8) to do so hasn’t curbed opponents in their disagreements and hasn’t brought agreement to the table, either, meaning that many daily operations of the federal government may have to cease.
As the threat of a government shutdown seems imminent, let’s reflect back on the last time our country faced this circumstance. After all, they’re practically identical.
on Nov. 14, 1995:
“Today, as of noon, almost half of the federal government employees are idle. The government is partially shutting down because Congress has failed to pass the straightforward legislation necessary to keep the government running without imposing sharp hikes in Medicare premiums and deep cuts in education and the environment.”
Situation as of April 7, 2011
The Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives wants to force through an annual budget
that will cut dramatically from educational funding and healthcare, make Medicare unaffordable for many seniors, and come close to shutting down the Environmental Protection Agency. The same GOP budget proposal from the House extends significant tax breaks and loopholes to top income earners, megacorporations and offshore investments, though.
Pres. Clinton on Nov. 14, 1995:
“It is particularly unfortunate that the Republican Congress has brought us to this juncture because, after all, we share a central goal -- balancing the federal budget. We must lift the burden of debt that threatens the future of our children and grandchildren, and we must free-up money so that the private sector can invest, create jobs, and our economy can continue its healthy growth.”
Situation as of April 7, 2011
Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican chair of the House’s budget committee, has claimed lowering taxes on wealth and corporations will somehow increase tax revenue. His plan
would also over a trillion dollars in services for seniors and children, while increasing taxes on middle class families.
Pres. Clinton on Nov. 14, 1995
“(The House Republicans) sent me legislation that said -- we will only keep the government going, and we will only let it pay its debts if and only if we accept their cuts in Medicare, their cuts in education, their cuts in the environment, and their repeal of 25 years of bipartisan commitments to protect the environment and public health.”
April 7, 2011
Ditto today, and to the same programs. They propose changing Medicare to a voucher system, resulting in dramatic increases in it costs while also reducing its benefits; they want to reduce educational funding; they want to remove regulations on environmental factors; they want to remove funding from WIC and community health centers; and they want to end funding to the agencies that enforce environmental laws.
And if today’s scenario is so similar to the last time, then we should reflect on what its impact was in ‘95.
Although the November 1995 shutdown lasted only six days, do you know how much it cost us?
About $400 million in revenue, said the IRS. About $400 million in pay to furloughed government employees, too. That’s $800 million
in costs over only six days.
And that’s not all of the impact
- Approximately 400,000 new Medicare applicants were delayed in getting coverage, and thus delayed in getting needed medical services.
- Another 112,000 could not get their Social Security claims processed. Another 212,000 couldn’t get new or replacement SS cards.
- About 160,000 couldn’t get the passports or visas they applied for (which means they couldn’t travel – which means airlines lost millions).
- Over $800 million in FHA mortgage loans got delayed in processing, meaning over 10,000 low-income Americans were stranded in getting a residence, leaving many on the brink of homelessness.
- National parks turned away over 2 million visitors, meaning the government could not collect fees for entry, camping, etc. – and stores all around those parks lost business as a result, too.
- The National Institutes of Health couldn’t accept new patients, and not only did the Centers for Disease Control and Research have to stop its projects, but they couldn’t even answer their phones.
- Collecting delinquent child support payments was suspended.
- Work on over 3,500 bankruptcies stopped, leaving both the filers and the companies with claims hanging by a thread.
- Even services to U.S. veterans ceased.
And that was only for the six-day period of November 14 through 19. Beginning December 16 of that same year, it happened again
– and the federal government had to suspend many services until over three weeks later (January 6, 1996). The federal Office of Management and Budget estimated the total costs of these shutdowns to be $1.4 billion
And what will it cost
us if it happens again?
All the harms from 1995-96 will return, only this time in the current dollar value – and with further impact from current events.
Rescue and fire control teams on national properties will be closed, and during a time South Carolina folks in particular are aware of the risk of forest fires.
No new applications for Social Security or food stamps will be accepted, and during a time when unemployment is still very high, earnings are low, and more seniors are retiring simply because of job loss. Funding for food stamps will be reduced after the end of the month, too.
And because of its particular tax time occurrence, American citizens will be affected even more on an individual level; the IRS won’t be operating to process their tax refunds.
In addition, both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission won’t be able to operate, meaning the financial instability of our country will be at further – and unguarded – risk.
Let’s reflect on the past once again when considering all of the possibilities of shutdown effects – remember, then House Speaker Newt Gingrich was ridiculed
nationally after his pursuits. The events are also credited with securing Clinton’s reelection in 1996, too.
And current speaker John Boehner has been wading in a pool of laughing stock since the last election.
With the current situation carrying a near mirror-image to the last incident, it stands to reason that Boehner will lose, too – and Pres. Obama could very well find the GOP’s latest stab in America’s back to the guarantee to his reelection next year, too.
So if the GOP wants to keep this up - go ahead and do it. But citizens will make sure you regret even more than your party did 15 years ago.
Most of the GOP's proposed budget cuts take away from programs that help low and middle income Americans. At the same time, the GOP keeps giving tax breaks for high income Americans and corporations which, if weren't there to begin with, would just about completely fund all the programs to benefit low and middle income Americans.
From the Center for American Progress