Tea party took America hostage on debt ceiling

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(Updated: 8.2.2011) After being subjected to a long, ugly hostage-taking drama in the nation's capital, millions of Americans woke up this morning relieved to hear that the United States of America may actually avert a politically-manufactured default disaster with a new White House/Congress debt ceiling deal.

But the relief may be short-lived for many Americans. The deal's slashing of vital government programs are a dagger in the back of an economy already slipping back toward recession, and will mean mass unemployment continued, homes foreclosed, schools and clinics closed, potholes unfilled.

Any sigh of relief will be tempered with disgust and anger at these cuts, at what is seen as the dysfunction of our government, and the failure to address adequately the main problem affecting the U.S. economy: lack of jobs. Disgust towards government is exactly what the tea party wants.

Instead of focusing on job creation like they pledged in the run-up to the 2010 elections, the tea party/Republicans, backed by the corporate media and far-right corporate supporters, have conducted an all-out attack on working people and government "of, by and for the people." They have insisted on job-killing cuts in education, research, transportation, public safety and every program that supports our nation's infrastructure or helps working people.

The Republicans have instead accelerated the transfer of wealth from the working class and people to the billionaires, banks and CEOs. How? By attacking government spending including on Pell grants, Medicare and Medicaid -- and even the most popular and deficit-free program in America: Social Security.

The debt ceiling crisis is the latest in a series of hostage crisis, as tea party Republicans threaten economic sabotage by refusing to allow necessary government functions that are essential to people's welfare and the entire economy.

They do not really care about the deficit or the vast majority of people in our country. They will not be satisfied until all restraint has been lifted on corporate greed, and government has been reduced to a protector of the rich and an instrument for them to loot what public wealth remains.

(These policies are similar to Big Capital's global policies of "austerity" unfolding now in Greece and Europe.)

This crisis has shown the Republicans are willing to sabotage the entire economy in their effort to discredit the Obama presidency, retake the White House in 2012, and impose their extreme, anti-working-class agenda.

Racial minorities will carry a disproportionate burden with these austerity measures. The far-right deliberately and consciously framed their attack against President Obama to appeal to racism, some overtly and some coded, by characterizing the first African American president as "unqualified" and "incompetent."  This coming from the supporters of George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann.

The whole program of cuts is based on the big lie that working people, especially the low-paid, women and people of color, caused the deficit because they are living "high on the hog" with government programs.

Racial inequality has skyrocketed since the start of the Great Recession. Reports show African American, Latino, Asian and Native American working families now have no savings and no cushion. Nearly 45% are completely "underwater" financially. These cuts will further intensify problems stemming from the racial wealth gap that has reach historic highs.

Part of the hostage-taking by Republicans was their absolute refusal to agree to increasing revenues -- ie cutting tax loopholes for billionaires, oil corporations and corporate jet owners.

One may be legitimately angry, as we are, at ground ceded by the president and Democrats, but to equate them with the Republicans, or, worse still, to ignore the role of the Republicans and focus only on the Democrats distorts the real political dynamics of the current situation, and is not a truthful reflection of politics today. It demobilizes and divides the broadest possible coalition necessary to fight the cuts.

This deal may tissue paper over the political crisis, but deep spending cuts will impact millions of households, renew budget crises faced by every state and local government, and threaten a new downward economic spiral.

It was of vital importance that the American people, in the eleventh hour, spoke out strongly -- at the urging of the president as well as of many unions and progressive organizations -- calling their members of Congress. Many organizations urged their constituents to tell Congress hands off Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tax the rich and invest in job creation to reduce deficits.

This eleventh hour rally seemed to have taken some of the worst anti-people measures off the table. Plus, the bloated military budget is on the table for cuts.

In the meantime, just as the American people began to understand and act in this crisis, it must continue to shift the debate back to where it must be: focused on jobs. To fund investments in jobs - including public infrastructure, education, green energy  - and guaranteeing that working-class Americans, seniors, the disabled, children and the most vulnerable are able to live a decent life, a key ingredient is increasing government revenues - by taxing the billionaires.

The Peoples Budget, proposed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tackles America's real economic problems. It taxes the rich, ends the war, eliminates the deficit and, most important, creates jobs by rebuilding America.

That's what this debate has to pivot towards in order to defeat the hostage-takers in 2012.