America's ugly, ideological hostage-takers

As the US hurtles towards debt default, there's a growing sense that Tea Party acolytes may well be prepared to deliberately tank the economy if it ensures a one-term Obama and future power for them. It is ugly ideology.

The so-called world’s only superpower is currently being held hostage to an extremist ideology. Al-Qaeda’s? No. The Taliban’s? No. Iranian nuclear wannabes perhaps? Nup.

The Untied States of America is the captive of the bastard offspring of the Republican Party – the Tea Partiers, or Tea Baggers as late night comedian Bill Maher loves to call them. The ideology? It is preferable to shut down government and renege on America’s debts, than increase taxes on millionaires and billionaires. That’s all done with a side-order of a one-term Obama if it all goes according to plan.

It is on the face of it a simple ideology. It is simple because simple is the highest intellectual strata those who espouse it, and the freshman politicians they elected in the recent ‘shellacking’ of Obama, seem capable of attaining.

It is also conveniently simple and familiar when put to a nation that lives on maxed-out personal credit cards and so welcomes reassurance from Presidential candidates like Michele Bachmann that no “catastrophe” will eventuate if the debt ceiling is not legislatively lifted and the debt is not repaid. This is after all the United States of America, not some tin pot, reckless, living-beyond-its-means little country like Greece, or maybe Portugal, or Ireland, or Spain...and come to think of it what about Britain’s extraordinary debt level...and let’s not forget New Zealand’s too.

The basic premise Bachmann is espousing is akin to buying a new family car and then deciding there is no need to make the repayments on the money borrowed believing yourself to be above being held to account .

What Bachmann & Co. fail to take in is that America is not in the proverbial for its future spending (although that is frightening too). No this debt crisis is the product of monies already borrowed and spent, and now like some B-grade Game Show, the President and his foes are locked in an endurance race of deal making to try and beat the August 2 debt default buzzer.

Tea Partiers you see don’t like what they refer to as “big government”. For them that is “social medicine” a la ‘Obamacare’. To others it was health reform to ensure 30-40 million Americans with no health care could have the same chance of seeing a doctor and obtaining medical prescriptions as Tea Partiers are ‘entitled’ to.

The fact that the Social Security these Tea Partiers consider their fundamental right is one of the biggest of the government programmes on the US books seems to conveniently escape them. Who do they think is paying for it and with what?

They don’t have a problem with people making huge amounts of money...gross amounts of money even. Actually Americans by and large don’t resort to a Tall Poppy syndrome when it comes to their billionaires because it is a nation born to believe that they too can attain such riches and anyone can become President (except perhaps a Black man with a Kenyan father and a middle name of Hussein).

But when some of those people make up to 200 times the average wage of their ‘fellow’ Americans, yet pay a fraction of the taxes, if any at all, then questions need to be asked about their real commitment to America.

If the country taxes 16% of its GDP, but spends 25% of its GDP, then Houston, we have a problem. When those who make the most pay the least, when corporate jets are tax deductible, when Big Oil is slathered in subsidies, as are companies who export American jobs overseas to benefit from cheap labour, then the problem grows exponentially.

If increasing the taxes on those who can easily afford to pay a little more brings in many billions of dollars, then what on earth is the problem?

The problem is ideology, and ideology can be very ugly when its core includes a sense of entitlement for those who are at the top, prejudice against those not considered 'worthy' of state help, and then all wrapped up nice and warm in a cloak of ignorance and amnesia, because of course the debt ceiling that is at the crux of this looming Armageddon was raised seven times under the last Republican administration. Seven times...and then for good measure they chucked in a couple of unwinnable wars and a banking/housing/economic crash and, voila!

America’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling needs readjusting in order to avoid a default that would plunge the world into further economic crisis, and, it is not rocket science – even as Atlantis hurtles into space – to realise that it is crunch time for Superpower profligate spending.

And then there’s the political tightrope Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner are precariously negotiating.

The President knows Tea Partiers and Republicans like Mitch McConnell have as their key objective to make him a one-term president and if they have to burn the village to save it, stupidly they will. Especially if they can then turn round to the electorate and say “look at what Obama did...look how he messed up”.

Boehner is also taking a big risk with his own rank and file because many of them don’t like him either. They consider him a bit of a sell-out – what with that playing golf with Obama and now reports of secret meetings between the two over the debt, and possibly a little movement from Boehner on Big Oil and corporate jets. That’s fightin’ talk in Tea Party land.

The US Treasury has ruled out one possible area of negotiating leverage Obama was thought to have had in invoking a constitutional disregard for the debt limit and using Executive Order to keep things going. So, the nightmare continues.

This time however it has to be more than programmes that affect the poor that are negotiated away. This time Obama needs to actually crack down on those loopholes that suck billions from the coffers of all Americans. This time Republicans also have to do their bit for everyone, not just their fat corporate donors.

If they really do want to deliberately tank the economy to make sure they take power at the next election, then perhaps with the considerable focus that has been placed on their ideology and its immoral (or at best amoral) strategy they will be left in the electoral equivalent of the economic tatters they so knowingly passed on to this current administration.

Obama’s owning it, but it finally appears his team is looking more and more capable of exposing the poison chalice for what it really was. Sometimes bumper-sticker politics has its place alongside pointy-headed- constitutional- legal- lecturer-deliberative stuff.