Ten Reflections on the End of the Government Shutdown and Raising the Debt Ceiling

1. The major issue which led to the October 1 partial government shutdown was the Affordable Care Act (ACA) / “Obamacare.” A small number of members of the US House of Representatives affiliated with the “Tea Party” wing pushed President Obama hard to negotiate on reducing or delaying the ACA despite the fact it had been passed by both the House and Senate, signed by the President and upheld by the US Supreme Court. The President said he would not negotiate, thus the stalemate.

2. House members who pushed for changes to the ACA/Obamacare were emboldened because of two structural changes governing elections. The first was increased “gerrymandered” federal congressional districts drawn by state officials to favor one political party. The creation of “safe” political districts reduced the need to promote more moderate positions or seek compromises. The second reason was the 2010 Citizens United vs FEC Supreme Court decision, which expanded the ability of wealthy individuals and corporations to create their own groups (i.e. Super PACs and 501c4 organizations) to support candidates and issues independent of political parties. Thus, the influence of political parties through campaign contributions to incumbents who deviate from the party position was lessened as Super PACs and 501 c4 groups spent huge sums of money to promote issues, which bolstered specific candidates.

3. The national debt and deficit are major problems. The debt ceiling had to be immediately raised. However, fundamental solutions must be found to significantly reduce the ever-expanding debt. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent in interest payments from taxpayers to individuals, corporations and nations holding US Treasury bills, bonds and notes.

4. The end of the partial government shutdown and rising of the federal debt ceiling should not in any way end our interest in these issues. December 13 is the new deadline for producing a compromise federal budget for 2014. The government stays open through January 15. The next debt ceiling deadline is February 7. There will be intense negotiations between Democrats and Republicans and between Congress and the President during the next several months.

5. The negotiations will not focus on Obamacare/ACA but rather the federal budget – in particular budget cuts. Major targets will be earned benefit programs of Social Security and Medicare (which we pay into), as well as Medicaid. These programs provide vital income and services for tens of millions of people. Also likely to be discussed as either part of or separate from the budget negotiations will be cutting corporate tax rates.

6. Not likely to be discussed during the negotiations will be the major causes or spike in spending and explosion of debt over the last decade: massive cuts in taxes for the wealthy and war and military occupation spending (including funding hundreds of foreign military bases and huge overpriced and unneeded weapons systems like the F-35 fighter jet). Another major cause of the recent debt increase was the federal stimulus package and bank bailouts following the economic recession/depression following the 2007-2008 financial collapse. This led to huge increases in unemployment, resulting in less federal revenues (from income taxes) and more expenses (for unemployment insurance).

7. It’s essential that we communicate with our federal elected officials during the next three months – often. The messages should be: “Hands Off Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” “Cut Military Spending.” “End Tax Cuts on the Wealthy.” “No Corporate Income Tax Cuts.” Also needed are public, visible actions. This is especially challenging as we move into the time of year of bad weather and the Holidays. Nevertheless, education, lobbying and public mobilizations are the best tools we have to express our views to those who will be making these decisions, supposedly on our behalf. Contact the President, Ohio Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown and your US Representative (see contact information below).

8. There is a “third way” to address our budget and deficit woes besides spending cuts and tax increases. It’s democratic control of the US monetary system. Private banking corporations create most of the money in our nation when they issue loans – in other words, banks create money as debt. We have licensed banks to create our money, which is then lent to the US at interest. The US Constitution grants Congress the authority (Article 1, Section 8) to create the nation’s money. Economist William Hixson says, “The very idea of a government that can create money for itself, allowing banks to create money that the government then borrows, and pays interest on, is so preposterous that it staggers the imagination. Either everyone in government in charge of the procedure is lacking in intelligence or they have been bought and paid for by those who profit from their skullduggery and their infidelity to the public interest.”

9. Our national debt could be significantly reduced, if not eliminated, through the creation of inflation-free and debt-free US money – as promoted by the American Monetary Institute. Congress should be told to explore not just budget solutions or tax solutions to our budget and debt crises, but also monetary solutions. We need real monetary reform that makes money creation a public, not a banking corporation, function.

10. Finally, our political system is broken because the system is fixed – as in rigged to benefit the very wealthy and corporations. It’s been this way for a long time and will exist forever and ever until the underlying political and economic ground rules are changed to benefit people without money and corporations. This is why AFSC has been involved for the last 18 years in educating, advocating and organizing to challenging never-intended constitutional rights for corporations — and why we are involved in the national Move to Amend coalition, which is building a national social movement on behalf of a Constitutional Amendment to end corporate “personhood” and the constitutional doctrine that political money equals political speech. While we focus on more sane and humane budget and tax priorities and real monetary reform in the legislative arena, part of the agenda should also be more long-term in the constitutional arena. Contact AFSC if interested in working with others on Move to Amend in your community.

Your president, senators and congress people need to hear from you today!!  Here is a quick reference for how to get in touch with them:

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