Southern Politics

Next month, 5500 Social Security recipients in Union County, Georgia, may not see their monthly check. These retired people over 65 constitute 26% of Union County’s population and if they lose their checks, it will be a significant blow to them and the Union County economy. And Union County has only itself to blame because they elected a radical extremist to Congress, Tom Graves. Rep. Graves is delighted with the prospects of default on the national debt just to prove a point. Whatever language he uses to explain his resistance to increasing the debt limit, the practical effect is that he is throwing a significant portion of his constituents under the bus.

US Rep. Tom Graves
US Rep. Tom Graves

What we are witnessing in DC is the crumbling of the Republican brand because of reckless people like Graves. When offered an 83% to 17% split between tax cuts and increased revenue (by closing tax loopholes), the Republicans choose default. They are sinking under the weight of their hard-line approach to the debt, a situation they created all by themselves. They started the demand game after they rejected a chance to vote for a “pure” debt ceiling increase. They demanded tax cuts, huge tax cuts. And Obama gave it to them on a platter but they decided to blow the biggest chance in decades to reduce entitlement spending.

As soon as the President offered huge tax cuts, mostly composed of sacred cows to the Democratic Party, the Republicans balked when asked to tackle some of their sacred cows. After raising the debt ceiling seven times, without a whimper, under Bush II, suddenly they decide that it is sacrificial just to vote for a debt increase. Is this a joke? Are they serious? They spent the money and now that the bills have come due, they want to default? Is this the same party that criticized mortgage holders for walking away from their contracts? Is this the same party that harped repeatedly that Obama was a big spender and when he offers substantial cuts they balk? Actually, their attempts to roll over Obama have backfired. He is the one with a titanium spine!

Rep. Boehner has turned over House speakership to Rep. Cantor and said that the debt problem is Obama’s, not his. Sen. McConnell has suggested washing his hands of the debt and turning it over to the President. McConnell even went on to say, “I refuse to help Barack Obama get reelected….” In others words, better to crash the economy than be party to $4 trillion in budget cuts. These are two big boys wanting to pick up their toys and go home because they do not get their way. And on the way home they call the President names and question his integrity and good faith. They want it all or they want a default. How patriotic! Even the Wall Street Journal takes them to task. They said, “The tea party/talk-radio expectations for what Republicans can accomplish over the debt-limit showdown have always been unrealistic.”

Worse yet is Gingrich who is encouraging them to default by saying “the country will award you with a dozen more seats in the Senate and 30 or 40 more House seats and a Republican president and we will have this country back on the road to prosperity.” I guess he is a prophet. Then there is Eric Cantor whose investments show that he is betting on a default. Bachman suggests paying China before paying seniors if a default occurs. That is an interesting, if not disturbing and slightly crazy, notion even if China is the repo man!

When asked whether they would prefer to have a Congressman who sticks to their principles or who compromises to get things done, 68% of Democrats are looking for compromise while 66% of Republicans want to stand on principle, even if it destroys the economy. Such a rigid ideological approach is doomed to failure because rigidity is never an option in a democracy. A pluralistic society demands that all of its citizen’s share in its governance, i.e., compromise, while rigidity demands just the opposite.

Finally, I want to use a quote from the leader of a bipartisan group just to show how utterly unreasonable the Republicans are being about the debt. “Republicans don’t know when to take ‘yes’ for an answer,” said Bob Bixby of the bipartisan Concord Coalition, a leading advocate of balanced budgets. “They could have very, very favorable terms in the current negotiations with Democrats yielding far more in spending cuts than Republicans would have to yield in tax hikes.” Maybe it is time to recall Rep. Graves.

Jim Fitzgerald

Jim Fitzgerald

A clinically trained psychologist, Jim had a private practice in Cobb County for almost 30 years. For the last ten years he has been a Professor of Psychology at Goddard College in Plainfield, VT, but lives in the North Georgia Mountains.