Racism is the Root Cause of the Debt Ceiling Impasse
The rules of politics are different for Obama. The United States is still a racist country. Obama won only 43% of the white vote in 2008. Up until now, it did not really matter to the racists because the president was always a white male. Now that a black person is president, the racists are enraged; but, having failed to prevent his election, the racists are forced to either abandon their biases or use valid issues with real consequences as a vehicle for their prejudice. The fight over the debt ceiling is a second Civil War.
After the birther and immigration tempests, which were basically race driven as symbols for Obama’s not being a real American, they have now moved into substantive issues, like raising the debt ceiling. The Republicans voted for the war in Iraq (which was going to pay for itself, remember?) and cutting taxes at the same time. Republicans voted to raise the debt ceiling six times during Bush's tenure, now suddenly it's a matter of unalterable principle.
This is serious because failure to raise the debt ceiling could easily precipitate the worst economic collapse in the history of the world, but seeing as the Republican position is fueled primarily by racism and hatred of Obama, the nay-sayers are impervious to facts. This is proof that racism is bad.
In the end, the Boehner wing of the Republicans in the House should join with the Democrats to pass the necessary legislation, but when confronted by irrational prejudice, there is no guarantee this will happen. The United States is facing the economic equivalent of World War III. The Tea Party won because they were the problem, not the solution; and to force the Republicans to accept part of the responsibility for these tough policy decisions after refusing to cooperate during Obama’s first two years. In effect, the Tea Party and Cantor wing of the Republican caucus are willing to risk destroying the world economy because of their hatred of Obama.
The United States is seriously racially segregated in housing patterns and the gerrymandering of legislative districts reflects this reality in Congress. Eric Cantor represents Virginia’s 7th congressional district, which is rural, southern, stretching from the western suburbs of Richmond, the capital of the confederacy, northwest toward the Blue Ridge Mountains and is almost 80% white. Michelle Bachmann, who has just proudly announced that she will not vote for any debt ceiling increase, comes from a district that is over 95% white. House Speaker John Boehner represents a district that is 90% white and has had a Republican congressional representative for 73 years, since 1938.
Not only are the fanatics not scared of causing a world-wide economic collapse, they welcome such an outcome. Punishing America for electing Obama is right in line with their maniacal world view and their idea of what is needed for political victory next year. Additionally, corporations flush with cash are refraining from hiring to keep the situation dire. Now that the Supreme Court has given corporations unlimited freedom of speech, they can spend the money that could hire workers on trying to elect candidates to office who favor their agenda.
During the Bush presidency, corporate profits rose from 11% to 16% of the GNP. In spite of lower taxes and lower interest rates, only 3 million jobs were creating during the eight years of the Bush presidency, compared with 23 million during the eight years of Clinton; yet, higher taxes are “off the table.” If this scenario sounds far fetched, I have just finished reading: The Prague Spring and the Warsaw Pact Invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, a book of essays edited by Gunter Bischof, Stefan Karner and Peter Ruggenthaler. This is a brilliant book of seventeen essays based on archival documents that examines the positions of all the major players on both sides of the Prague Spring crisis. It took another twenty years, but the invasion of Czechoslovakia was the event that sealed the fate of communism and the Soviet Union, specifically because armed force was used to prevent economic reality from determining government policy. “Scientific” Marxist theory, that dictatorship of the proletariat working class was the engine of economic progress collided with the facts of falling productivity and failure to match the wealth of the west. Armed force was used to impose slogans.
The capitalist world, and specifically the United States, is going through a similar process. The Tea Baggers’ idea that all government spending is bad except for the military and police is pure poppycock. The two most vibrant sectors of the economy, information technology and air travel, are the result of decades of massive government support. The internet, satellites (how do you like your weather forecasting?), and the interstate highway system are all the result of decades of massive government loss-making expenditures. Most of the longevity people enjoy today is the result of government public health expenditures and regulations from the progressive era. The idea that all that needs to be done is to give the rich more money and they will spend and invest thereby creating jobs is not supported by the facts. Political conflict has become total war. The Tea Baggers are trying to blackmail the country into supporting regressive and destructive economic policies. It is the equivalent of the attack on Fort Sumter. The Republicans want to destroy the economy, oust Obama and once elected, their friends in corporate America will open their wallets and start hiring. QED.
Although the Republicans do not have armed forces to impose their will, they have Governors who are rapidly creating administrative barriers to voting in the form of requiring picture identification at the polls. Two signatures is not enough, especially in the absence of any proof of fraudulent voting. In fact, voter participation is falling. Now the Republicans want people to believe that in elections where usually more than half of the eligible do not bother to vote, there is this massive turnout among the ineligible. Hello, reality check. The most recent New Jersey primaries had a 3% turnout.
Along with making voting more difficult, the Republican governors are cancelling all the big infrastructure projects that create jobs and tool for future prosperity. In New Jersey, Governor Christie cancelled what would have been the biggest civilian infrastructure project in the nation, the ARC Tunnel project, the first new rail tunnel under the Hudson River in a century, fifteen years in the planning, because he said the state could not afford it. The Republican governors of Florida and Wisconsin cancelled the high speed rail projects. China can have high speed rail, but not the United States.
Governor Christie says New Jersey can not afford the rail tunnel. What can it afford? $300,000 a month in lawyers fees fighting the federal government that is asking for the return of the $250,000,000 the federal government gave New Jersey for the tunnel. It can afford increased tax credits for builders, it can afford to help finance the completion of the Xanadu mall and shopping complex in the Meadowlands during a recession. But infrastructure for a future economy is off the table. Can disaster be far behind?
[A note on racism in New Jersey. Carl Lewis, the Olympic Gold Medal Track star, grew up in Willingboro, New Jersey. He moved to California for training. In 2005, he bought a house in Medford, New Jersey, but continued to work in California although he periodically came back to coach the track team at his old high school This year, he is seeking the Democratic nomination for State Senate, but the Lieutenant Governor, Kim Guadagno, ruled him ineligible because he hasn’t lived in New Jersey for four years, as she claims is required by the state constitution. Lewis won the Democratic primary unopposed, but his candidacy is still in limbo.]
Helped by their crooked friends on the Supreme Court, who selected Bush in 2000 with the argument “there is no right to vote under the United States Constitution”…I wish that had been told to the millions of draftees who took an enlistment oath to protect the Constitution. I wonder how they would have felt to know that they were risking their lives and watching friends die to protect the supreme court’s right to deny them the vote and select the loser for commander-in-chief. According to Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court has the right to vote for president, but not the voters. That is alright because the supreme court that decided Bush v. Gore did not have a single combat veteran, and only one veteran at all. I can’t figure out why the country is in such a mess. Two wars and massive deficits? Maybe putting the loser in the White House in 2000 has something to do with it, but no one can say that because it would be rude.
Secure in their faith that white might makes right, the first priority is destroying Obama, and if the domestic and world economy need to be sacrificed in this Armageddon of righteousness, or rather whitechesness, so much the better. Anything to prove that electing Obama was a mistake and that the selection of Bush by our hereditary betters was the right choice.
The only lining to this cloud is that it shows that the world has progressed to the point where we can have the economic equivalent of World War III, without the corpses.