Why McConnell Is Fighting The Debt Limit Increase

It’s pretty simple, really. And it has nothing to do with money.

So, let’s take the money part first: the debt limit.

Suppose you owe $15,000. You want to pay it off and later buy a new car for $20,000. You ask the bank to increase your credit to $35,000. You’ve always paid on time and have a great job, so the bank says OK.

You’re in a much better position than the US.

If you’re the United States, even though the you’ve never failed to pay your debts, you can’t borrow to buy the car. According to The Treasury Department, the US can only borrow “to meet it’s existing obligations”, what it owes now, not future expenses.

Biden wants to raise the debt limit to pay off existing debt, not to pay for his Build Back Better plan. McConnell has conflated the two, making it seem that Biden wants to raise the debt limit to pay for his plan. That is horse puckey and the Senator from Lincoln’s birth state knows it. The problem is most voters – don’t know it. And McConnell isn’t telling them.

McConnell is no Honest Abe.

The political side is more nuanced, but equally underhanded.  It has nothing to do with borrowing money. It has a lot to do with spending money, specifically who spends it.

Republicans have always been the party of “fiscal responsibility” – not spending money unless really necessary. Then George H. W. Bush went to war in Iraq – without raising taxes to pay for it. That was the first time in the history of the country. The direct costs was $757 billion. Ten years, in 2001 later, his son did the same thing in Afghanistan. Direct costs of that war were $837 billion.  Together, 1.6 trillion.

It’s been OK though. After each war both parties in Congress raised the debt limit.

Then Donald (Who me? Pay back a loan?) Trump reduced taxes on the wealthy. With less tax income for four years, $7 trillion was added to the national debt, raising it to $28.4 trillion. 

Then came the pandemic, and another trillion in debt and growing. So Biden has asked Congress to raise the debt limit to pay off existing debt. 

And hit the McConnell wall. 

Not only will this torpedo everything from military salaries to basic services, it will turn the country into Trumpland, an international deadbeat. We’ll default on our debts for the first time in history. The outcome, even in December, will be catastrophic for us and the rest of the world. So much for the  Christmas spirit.

But that’s OK with McConnell. He’s blaming it all on Biden by presenting the debt limit increase as a combination of past debts and Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan. He thinks that will make Biden look like a spendthrift and persuade most of Congress to kill Biden’s plan.

He’s not telling the truth, though. Let me repeat: The current debt limit is for existing debts only. “Build Back Better” is not an existing debt and not part of the debt limit increase.

Why is McConnell doing this? Because his real worry is that “Build Back Better” will improve everything from healthcare to infrastructure to jobs to childcare. His real worry is that it will correct the economic imbalance in this country, especially in rural, traditionally Republican areas. And, when that happens, what will many of those Republican will do?  Change parties.

On the other hand, if he is successful in throttling the debt limit increase, the country, especially rural Republicans, will be in more distress than ever, which McConnell can then blame on Biden and the Democrats, thereby winning the next election. 

And after that, guess what? McConnell will do exactly what Biden wants to do: flow money into all those rural areas (although not as much – he’s a Republican, after all). Once he does that he and Republicans will be heroes and stay in power.  

For McConnell, it is not about the debt limit. It’s all about the power.

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PTSD, DINO’s, The Supreme Court, and 700,000.

In an earlier life, I was one of two members of the “Republican Committee” of Malvern, PA, a town of just under 3,000. Committee people choose candidates for public offices, from local to state to national.  

That was PT – Pre-Trump – when Republicans and Democrats respected each other and were respected by voters.  

Although the seeds were there. When County Republican Committee people met to vote, the outcome was pre-ordained. Most Committee people voted as they were instructed (most – hint hint). It was very disillusioning. 

One time a Democratic Committee friend snuck me into a County Democratic Committee meeting. It was one long night of bloviating. No decisions, just talk, talk, talk, talk… Also very disillusioning.

Sound familiar? The only difference now is PTSD – Post Trump Stress Disorder. The anger and hatred generated by PTSD-ers is now threatening democracy itself.

What we are witnessing from Republicans in Washington and around the country today, from McConnell to Abbot, is the sophisticated and ruthless accumulation and abuse of power.  What we are seeing from Democrats in DC and around the country, from Schumer to Wolf, is brain-numbing debates – like fleas arguing over who owns the dog, as a friend recently put it.

Republicans are all about accumulating power – to the detriment of the country; democrats are all about articulating the intellectually superior argument – to the detriment of the country. 

West Virginia’s Manchin and Arizona’s Sinema are DINO’s – Democrats In Name Only. They’re torpedoing Biden’s entire agenda because they don’t like parts of it; for Manchin, what it does his coal country and cost, for Sinema, cost. Now Progressives and Moderate Democrats in the House are torpedoing it by fighting amongst themselves – spoiled children leaving the playground because they didn’t score all the goals.

It’s sickening.

You know what else is sickening? Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s calling the Court’s recent decision to avoid ruling on the Texas anti-abortion gambit a philosophical choice. Six of the nine justices, including the last three McConnell jammed in, are Catholics, appointed by Republican Presidents. They subscribe to a religious philosophy that prohibits women from positions of power in the church, as well as the power to choose whether to have a baby or not. That’s bias, Judge, bald-faced, philosophical bias. 

Remember Separation of Church and State? Not any more. It’s the Merging of Church and State.

Alito also joined Barrett and Thomas in calling criticism an “unprecedented efforts to intimidate the court.”  Hmmm…Crying foul when criticized… where have I seen that before?…Oh yes, Trump, McConnell, Cruz, Jordan.… 

It’s sickening.

You know what else is sickening? Polls show 58% of Republicans refuse Covid vaccines vs. 15% of Democrats. Republicans have politicized something as apolitical as a vaccine. 

The country just set a new record: over 700,000 people dead from Covid. That’s more than died of the 1918 flu. It’s more than the population of Boston. Vaccines prevent or minimize Covid. That’s the reason for the mandates, whether they’re issued by governments, local restaurants, airlines, or hospitals. Yet these people are afraid of vaccines. They think vaccines don’t work. They think mask and vaccine mandates are unconstitutional. So they attack restaurant workers, flight attendants, health care workers – anyone who requires them to wear masks or prove they’ve had the vaccine.

How many of those 700,000 men, women, and children died because of these “patriots”, who don’t know the difference between freedom and selfishness, who wrap themselves in the Stars and Stripes and give Covid to others? 

I have an idea.  Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s keep them away from the rest of us, but let them refuse masks and shots.  If these people don’t care about giving Covid to others or the consequences of doing that, I don’t care if they give it to themselves or the consequences of doing that.

Think of how healthy that will be for the country.

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Welcome To Your New Home

She enters a wood paneled room with shaded wall lamps that give out a soft, warm glow. Clutches of people stand or sit at small tables, chatting. Others are at a small bar near the door. Light laughter floats across the room. 

There are no children at this wine and cheese party, just grownups, men and women in properly informal clothes, makeup freshly applied, hair well-brushed. No jeans or t-shirts, just khaki’s and ironed shirts. A few men wear blazers with pocket handkerchiefs – no ties.

‘Hey!”, says a white-haired man to her, “Welcome. I want you to meet one of the funniest people I know, me!” 

“How do you tell when you’re too old to drink?”, he says…and answers,“You don’t. Your kids tell you.” Her laugh is an immediate sharing of backgrounds. 

Others arrive. Some know each other, some don’t. Introductions are made and friendships start. 

“How many kids does it take to change a light bulb?“ Someone asks…and answers,  “Are you kidding? I couldn’t get them to change their socks!” More shared laughter.

It is not all corny Dad (or Mom) jokes, though. There is talk of places they’ve been, cities where they’ve worked, and people they’ve known. Mutual experiences are discovered and discussed. While it is apparent that these are accomplished people, there is no effort to one-up each other, no eye rolls, none of the natural competitiveness found so often in events like this. These are people who have already made their mark.

Outside of a ratio of about five women to one man, this could be any white collar mixer in any upscale bar in the country. 

But it isn’t any bar. This is a wine and cheese mixer at a gated retirement community for people 65 and older – for baby boomers.

There are estimates of 73 million baby boomers in the US, around a quarter of the population and growing. These are people who have already climbed the hill and are starting down the other side.  It is a $70 billion market, with 50,000 businesses employing nearly 1,000,000 people. 

The initial fee at retirement communities can be the cost of a house, from several hundred thousand to well over a million dollars, plus monthly fees of $3,000 to $5,000 that cover everything from wine and cheese events to full dinners to pool and gym memberships to parking garages. There are banks and beauty salons, even handymen on call. Some give residents “Help! I’ve fallen down and I can’t get up!” buzzers or morning  robocalls to check on them. If there is no answer, an attendant is at the  door in minutes.  

Elderly care in the US is not as personal or loving as a spouse or child living with them. It is based on cash. In other countries, from Japan to Greece, wrinkles are signs of wisdom, not weakness. Old people don’t use make-up or nips and tucks to cover what years have earned them. Families keep their elderly close, not out of financial obligation, but love and respect.

The USA is unique in its worship of youth to the exclusion of almost all else. And, like everything else in this country, people with money glide through old-age with grace and aplomb. Those without? Well, you can see them out the car window, sitting on broken steps or inside donated tents or, with nothing else to hold them up, lying on grates.  

At 7PM sharp, the wine bottles are corked and glasses picked up, as the new friends move into the restaurant for dinner or say goodbye until the next time and move to the elevators. No-one is even tipsy. The managed mixer is nothing if not careful.

She joins the latter group, wondering if her kids will call tonight.

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Look At Denmark. Look At US.

“This can only be done,” said Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke, “… because the entire Danish population has made an enormous effort to achieve this.” 

He was talking about Denmark’s lifting all coronavirus restrictions on September 10,  this on the same day that Biden announced mandatory vaccinations for nearly 80 million in the US, sparking more Republican fury.

Yes, Denmark has, at least for now, survived the pandemic. And yes, the US is in the middle of a self-inflicted fourth wave.

75% of Denmark’s population has been fully immunized with vaccines vs 54% of the US. On Sept 10, Denmark had 557 new cases  and 4  deaths. The US had 171,068 new cases and 1,777 new deaths. 

And, it’s worth noting, Denmark’s reporting is far more accurate than ours.  

You can argue relative population size as a mitigating factor. What you can’t argue about is Denmark’s success. 

You know why they’re winning against Covid 19?

They care about each other. They trust each other. They share common values.

We had that, years ago. We shared poverty and loss during the depression, as nature (the Dust Bowl) and economics (the Crash) shattered people ruthlessly. World War II required shared effort and sacrifice, from the draft, to wounds and death overseas, to food and gas rationing at home. Those shared sacrifices carried the country and the world to victory and later drove the country to more success in the 50’s , 60’s and beyond.

Now, some eight decades later, the country is unable to come together for something as basic as fighting a pandemic or assuring everyone the vote.

What happened? A number of things. 

The Draft. It brought Americans from different backgrounds together. They learned from each other and about each other, and the importance of protecting the other guy, because when everyone did that, no one was left unprotected.  

Today? No draft. No national service. No shared sacrifice. 

The Media. News outlets in the last century reported facts. Opinion was labeled as such. There was little emotion because they didn’t want to alarm people. That, too, was a result of a time when the facts were scary enough. 

Today, the news is just a way to get eyeballs, ears, clicks. ABC news’ David Muir delivers the news leaning forward, with his hands on the table, like he’s about to leap up in fear or anger. He, and many reporters and news casters, speak in half-sentences, as though there isn’t time to use full sentences. 

And then, there’s Fox, Newsmax, etc, whose sole purpose is to use a carefully selected set of facts (and outright lies) to gin up the fight-or-flight glands of the tribe. 

Politics. Politics used to be about competing visions and honest debates. Now it’s about who has more money.

Advertising. Where it used focus on the product, now what you see and hear is some variation of “You deserve…!”( new makeup, new car, lower price, bigger house)… “You deserve it all!”

Education. Many of our public schools graduate kids who can barely read and don’t have even basic knowledge of history. (No, the Civil War was not about States Rights, it was about Slavery. Yes, our White forefathers slaughtered Native Americans and stole their land.)

Which leads to the biggest reason: We’ve become selfish. Life is all about us. The notion of “all for one and one for all” has been replaced by  “screw you!” 

To be sure, not everyone is selfish, as we were reminded during the 9/11 Memorials, people running toward danger instead of away from it, putting others’ lives ahead of their own. Yet these heroes have had to fight Congress to get the medical care they were promised.

As you look at the bitter divide today, the lawsuits, the spitting, the fist fights over something as simple as getting a vaccination and wearing a mask, you see what has happened two or three generations after the Greatest Generation.

Denmark is safe from Covid because its citizens have shared values, a sense of community, trust in their institutions and each other.

We used to have that. It’s how we soared through the Twentieth Century, survived the Depression, won WWII, beat measles, small pox, and polio.

Used to.

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How A Southern Baptist Minister Turned Texas Into A Police State

Texas, the land of 10 gallon egos, has joined the NKVD of Russia, the Stasi of East Germany, and every other police state on Earth. How? By giving each and every citizen a $10,000 lure to sue anyone even remotely associated with a Texas abortion.

Texas law SB 8 is also called “the heartbeat bill”. Here’s how it works: Once a fetus has a heartbeat  (6 weeks usually – well before most women even know they’re pregnant), the woman can be sued if she tries to have an abortion. Anyone involved in an abortion, from the friend who encouraged her to do it, to the doctor who did it, to the person who drove her home, can be sued – by anyone. With a minimum payoff of $10,000 plus legal costs if they win.

SB 8 makes abortion illegal, but prohibits state officials from enforcing it. It simply turns everyone else in Texas or anywhere else, from Anti-Abortionists to profit-seekers to anyone with a grudge, into vigilantes. The only difference between them and Stalin’s Secret Police is secrecy. These snitches are all in the open.

Mark Lee Dixon, 36, a Southern Baptist minister from Waskom, Texas, came up with the original concept. He enlisted former top lawyer for the state of Texas, Johnathon F. Mitchell, who crafted the law. Then they got the town of Waskom to approve it. Never mind that the Waskom (576th largest town in Texas, population 2,192, 80% white) had no abortion clinics or Planned Parenthood offices, the idea was to impregnate Texan Anti-Abortionists with the concept of spying on…all women. 

And it worked. The Texas Legislature – yes, the same group who destroyed the notion of “one person, one vote” last week – now makes even victims of rape or incest unable to have an abortion in the state.  

And you thought ours was a country that separated Church and State. “Bless your idiotic hearts!”, sayeth Pastor Dixon and his Oh-So-Holy Anti-Abortionists.

The Supreme Court, with 6 Catholics out of the 9 Justices, just stonewalled an appeal to SB 8. I don’t think it’s an overreach to predict what their ruling would have been had they actually listened to arguments. Maybe they wanted to enjoy the Labor Day weekend instead of laboring to appear unbiased. Maybe they were all having bourbon shots at the Puppet Master, Mitch McConnell’s, house.

It’s not the law that is idiotic – actually, the law is diabolically clever – it’s Texans who are idiots. They elected officials who cut voter access, a major pillar of democracy. Then the same officials toppled a second major pillar of democracy: protection of the minority under majority rule. In a matter of weeks, these democratically elected officials suppressed black and brown – minority voters – and gave Anti-Abortionists dominance over women. 

Move over Taliban. Here come the Texaliban.

It used to be, way back when, that the Supreme Court staunchly and publicly protected the pillars of our democracy. Last week, in considering appeals against SB 8, they issued a “No Comment” from behind closed doors. If you listened carefully you could hear a third pillar crumbling in the background.

Autocrats like Abbot and other Republican leaders are not just stifling those who disagree with them and stuffing their beliefs down our throats; they’re destroying democracy and replacing it with their own theocracy.

God help us.

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