Debt Ceiling Charade: Why Are Republicans Voting Against America's Interests?

There isn’t much credibility left in Congress, perhaps none at all. In fact, the ceaseless C-SPAN sitcom we call government has offered plot lines from titillating tweets to illegitimate children, foreign lovers to shady cover-ups. But even their writers sometimes run out of ideas. Last week, when they thought you weren’t watching, they stooped to acting out their actual jobs: faking a vote on the debt ceiling.

A group of Republicans and Democrats alongside them turned sacred duty into dramedy. Pretending they would favor something they actually don’t endorse, they voted against their own beliefs and our national interests.

Of course, they first sold their banker buddies the good seats. Along with popcorn and reassurance that they weren’t actually planning a default on our debt, they were just pretending to do so in order to exact concessions.

These “leaders” admit that not raising the debt limit is untenable. Defaulting on our loans, we’re told, has the potential to wreck our economy. In fact, we’re supposed to be very concerned about this economy. It’s not “healthy”; it’s in “free-fall”; it’s “crumbling into ruin”.

But this belies the true damage these members of Congress seem intent to bring upon us. The economy is nothing besides the people that work, buy, save and invest within it. The collateral damage here isn’t to some numerical abstraction; it’s a serious and even fatal blow to Americans. We talk so much about the economy suffering; it’s easy to forget it’s actual people who stand to be hurt badly, over and again.

Even Republicans know raising the debt ceiling is not really negotiable. This issue is at core about whether or not we do what we say, whether or not America can be trusted. And raising the debt ceiling without precondition is about whether we make good on our promises not just to our creditors, but to each other. For all Republicans talk about not being able to afford things, it seems to apply only to food, health care, housing and electricity for their constituents. We’re flush when it comes to not collecting taxes from corporations, giving more to millionaires, subsidizing polluters and bombing other countries.

Without raising the debt ceiling free of conditions, we cannot honor our commitments to our grandparents who need to see their doctors and purchase their meds, to our children who need trained teachers and classrooms with heat and to our neighbors who need help when jobs are scarce and earnings don’t cover what life costs. Further gutting social spending will hurt those least equipped to sustain further injury. The jobless, the homeless, the young and the old will be the ones maimed.

With all this at stake, those of us without Goldman-sized bonuses to cover the cost of a heads-up beforehand are left watching in horror from the nose bleed section. This is a scripted show mocking not only we the people but the very exercise of elected office.

If voting among the masses is democracy in action – the votes of those we’ve voted for should be even more important. This is the logic behind representative democracy as our beloved Constitution has enabled it. This is the belief that has served us as a nation and as a people.

We all like to have occasional fun at the office. Some facebook checking, coffee drinking, office gossiping stress relief help the hours tick by. Republican House Members and some Democrats have turned workplace tricks into a dangerous practical joke on us, and we’re not laughing.  This is the scariest kind of reality television. No more theatrics about our security and prosperity. Our elected leaders need to stop playing at their jobs and step up to do them.

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