For as long as I’ve been born the United States of America has had a policy of not negotiating with terrorists, even in a hostage situation. The thinking is that rewarding people who take hostages will just entice them to take more hostages. It’s a pretty common and widely accepted theory in psychology – we see it’s applications on things a lot more prevalent than hostage-taking; reward the dog for sitting down and the dog is more likely to sit when you want it to. Go pick up the baby when it cries and the baby will learn that crying leads to parental attention. In the same way, our current broken political system THRIVES on 11th-hour “crisis” situations.

The recent debt crisis is a glaring example of the extremism in politics, and in my opinion it is closer to a hostage crisis than we’ve ever been. Hostage situations almost always arise from the routine; it’s easier to both take hostages and shock and terrorize people when you disrupt their daily lives in everyday situations. In that same way, this debt crisis arose from something that’s so routine it’s been done 102 times before and never with stipulations attached. In the same way our financial system was shocked when it was held hostage despite the wishes of the majority of US citizens. After George Bush cut taxes in the biggest revenue loss in US history, despite having some of the lowest tax rates in the industrialized world, congress was so concerned that they … that’s right, raised the debt limit with nary a debate.

Had we handled raising the current debt ceiling the same way that was done George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and every other president this would have been done weeks ago with almost no attention from the public. What was different this time? Well, just factually speaking, this was the first time the “Tea Party” had any kind of say in congress. This was the first time that Obama didn’t have a majority in both houses. Those are the only significantly relevant issues that apply to this specific debt increase. As a percentage of GDP, we’ve had more debt – this was back in World War 2, and we’re fighting 2 wars right now, both started by George W. Bush.

The combination of the Tea Party influence and Obama not having a free pass in both houses gave Republicans a prime opportunity to hold the possibility of a default over Democrats’ heads. As usual, the Democrats had no spine and caved in and as usual the Republicans went against the wishes of a majority of Americans to push a horribly misguided philosophy of “trickle-down” economics that has been proven to not work.

All through this situation I heard Republicans pandering to the camera and saying how they wouldn’t let Obama and the Democrats raise taxes on America. Yet from the moment this situation was labeled a crisis the Democrats did not want to raise taxes on 98% of Americans, only on the richest 2%. Your average Republican will immediately knee-jerk and come back with “but … but … but … if taxes are raised business won’t hire people.” I will point out that corporate tax revenues are at an all-time low (mostly thanks to loopholes).  I will also point out that despite corporate profits being up 22%, the unemployment rate has only slightly improved and that’s not counting the hundreds of thousands who have simply stopped looking. All that is in addition to payrates for the average American decreasing, in relation to inflation. The bottom line: The Democrats wanted to raise taxes more or less on just those very people benefiting from the 22% increased profits, and the Republicans held our economy hostage because they opposed that. Once again, I will point out that the Republicans are getting lots of campaign finance from the very companies that have flourished the past decades, and it has been Republicans in the past to oppose campaign finance.

Back on the 2010 campaign trail all we heard from Republicans was how we needed to turn around the economy by creating jobs, specifically by making it easier for business to hire people by lowering taxes and creating more loopholes. Yet, they were so concerned about the jobless rate that as soon as the debt ceiling deal was done, Eric Cantor called for the Summer recess for congress despite the fact that the FAA was shut down due to disagreement over the ability to make it easier for FAA employees to unionize.  Think about it this way: After crying for weeks during the debt limit crisis that they weren’t getting their way, Republicans were so concerned about the average American that they were letting millions in non-controversial tax revenue go each day and putting 90,000+ people out of work while they went on a SIX WEEK vacation. Aren’t you glad they represent you so well?

So, over the past 1+ decades my long-view take on US economics is this: Republican politicians relax Wall St. oversight rules and regulations. Wall St. takes too many risks and ends up crashing, dragging the economy down with it. Government knee-jerks and saves Wall St. Too many corporations lay off people as part of the crash. People stop spending in fear. Government revenues go down. Government lays off people. More people stop spending in fear. Private agency that’s funded mostly by Wall St. banks decides that the US might be a risky investment despite the fact that statistically it’s better than many others that were labeled as safe by that same private agency – despite the fact that as of this writing the stock market is tanking and US Treasury bills can’t sell fast enough.

The basic problem is not that the US Government spends too much. The problem is the US Government spends more than it earns. There are three ways to correct that problem: decrease spending, increase earning, or both. To determine which method is best requires one to prioritize spending needs. THAT is where the real issue is. Our representatives and, indeed, our people cannot come to an agreement on what the purpose of government is.

Heck, if we can’t even agree on that, how do we expect to move forward? Well we’re certainly not going to now that the hostage-takers have gotten their way – they’ll simply think that they can just take hostages to get what they want. Keep your eyes open, because they have their eyes on Medicare and Social Security.

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Zarberg is a member of The Political Observers, a sub-group of our writers who are devoted to topics that are political in nature. Zarberg provides a liberal viewpoint in his articles.

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