Debt Ceiling Lifts Cover Off A Dysfunctional Congress

August 3, 2011
Written by Janice S. Ellis... in
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President Obama, and the Senate leadership, fought hard to create an equable distribution of the tax burden by requiring that the wealthy pair their fair share, as well as a debt reduction plan that would remove waste from entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, without imposing undo hardships on the poor and the elderly. Photo Credit: Public Domain

Whether the crisis we just witnessed was real or manufactured, what should be abundantly clear to us as concerned citizens, and empowered voters, is that we have elected members of Congress who are either unwilling or incapable — or both — of doing the right thing for the right reasons.

Governing is about making decisions that result in the greatest good for the greatest number. Instead, Congress used the lifting of the looming debt-ceiling deadline to further political agendas and the causes of special interests and the powerful. The concerns and needs of the people were secondary, merely a public relations inconvenience.

What a shame. Of all the branches of our democratic form of government, it is the House of Representatives that is the People’s House. Those members are suppose to look out for our interest, our well-being, not that of special interests or the extreme political philosophy of the few. The People's House acted against the majority of public opinion in addressing this issue. Repeated polls were very confirming: The people wanted a fair and balanced solution arrived at through compromise and civility.

What the people got was far from it. A brief recount shows how this utter disregard played out.

At the end of the day, a fairly routine procedure for past presidents became a major undertaking for this president. At a minimum, it begs the question of why? Why was this a major hurdle for President Barack Obama when his predecessor, President George W. Bush, lifted the debt ceiling seven times during his terms without any fanfare, President Clinton before him, and then of course there is President Reagan who raised it eighteen times.


The pundits would argue that it was the influence of the Tea Party members who rode to Congress on the horse named, “Smaller Government & Less Spending.” Other pundits will assert this show of force by the Republican Controlled House of Representatives was an opportunity to flex its muscle by re-establishing its ideology of no taxes and less government to reconnect to its base.

However, we cannot ignore that this was also an attempt for those very vocal Republicans to make good on their main mission and promise to do whatever they can to keep President Obama from being re-elected.

And then there is the "Black" elephant in the room that no one likes to acknowledge exists let alone lend any credence: Could it be that the blatant and subliminal disrespect this President continually confronts is due to the fact that many are still uncomfortable with him and all he represents?

If we are honest in taking a hard look at the behavior of the members of Congress, and the Tea Party rallies with their racially charged placards, we have to acknowledge that the race card is at play. President Obama needs to be commended because no matter what, he has not resorted to playing the game. And, wisely so.

But race card aside, what this Congress just did bears scrutiny at a broader level. Whose interests were really at the forefront? Yes, it was important that the United States not default on its debt. But, that only required the stroke of a pen — as it has many times past. No, we do not need to just keep spending and adding to the deficit, we also need to cut waste — making needed changes in entitlement programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and revising defense spending. But didn’t the President and the leadership of the Senate propose that?

Shouldn’t we also address the need to increase revenues? Yes, and the President and the leadership of the Senate also tried to address that by proposing that the rich pay their fair share of taxes. Initially, closing inequities and loopholes would have done this in the current tax system.

However, the insistence of no new taxes by the Republican leadership ruled the day.

Why shouldn’t every American pay their fair share of taxes? Why should one group of Americans carry a disproportionate share of the tax burden? Why should those who can most afford it pay the least?

Why should these needed revenues be raised only by reducing the benefits to the elderly, the poor, and the middle class?

If what we witnessed these last several weeks — the motivations and actions of our elected officials at work — does nothing more, it confirms that we need to be very careful about who we send to Washington to represent our needs and interests.

Shame on us if we forget who, during these tough times, fought to do the best thing possible for the best welfare of all Americans.

Shame on us.