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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 8/10/11

After the Ransom

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While we all cringe at the consequences of the hostage-taking we've just witnessed, the question becomes: how can progressives shape the narrative, and the future?

The debt deal, fears about the super committee, S & P's highly politicized downgrade, the fall of the stock market, the continued high unemployment rate, the hemorrhaging of local city and state coffers - all of these are bad enough. But the insidious spread of the right wing frame among even mainstream journalists - and even Democrats who apparently think they are criticizing the Tea Party - only adds to this infuriating state of affairs.

Just some examples: Tom Hartmann recently played a montage on his radio show of news "reports" on the S & P downgrade, all claiming that it was based on government overspending, as opposed to what it was actually based on: Republicans' unwillingness to consider revenues, and willingness to bring the U.S. economy to the brink of default.

Recently, John Kerry - after calling it the "Tea Party downgrade" went on to talk about social security, medicare and medicaid, as if these programs were the cause of our economic woes, as opposed to the financial collapse brought about by banksters' house of cards, the War in Iraq, and the Bush tax cuts. (He even threw in such right wing ideas a "regulatory reform!")

Other disappointments include journalists such as Andrea Mitchell blaming Democrats and Republicans equally for acting like children; even former Clinton advisor Alice Rivlin took on the Republican meme of blaming social security, medicare and medicaid when speaking to Lawrence O'Donnell recently, colorfully saying that the continued growth of medicare will "eat us alive." (Really? The best run insurance program we have? Then why do proponents of medicare-for-all say it would save money?)

Finally, MSNBC's Tamron Hall announced today that the super committee's task would be budget cutting - rather than it's actual task, reducing the deficit, which could easily be done with revenues.

Perhaps alone among progressives, Randi Rhodes has been defending Obama and the Democrats on her radio show, claiming that the debt deal itself is a kind of trap for Republicans, forcing them to adopt Democratic policies. But beyond the questions of budgets, spending and taxation, is the terrible precedent that Obama allowed to occur - i.e., taking the American economy hostage. While anger and hand-wringing among progressives abound, what steps can we take to make sure this never happens again? Of course, Republicans are already vowing to make such threats standard operating procedure, but even beyond Obama's presidency, absent a fix to this vulnerability in our current legislative framework, I see this as a constitutional, and existential threat to the U.S.

The easiest route to fix the flaw, would be to throw out the whole idea of the debt ceiling, which is highly unusual among developed countries.

Another route takes us back to the 14th Amendment option, favored by many progressives, as the hostage drama took place. If Obama had the power to invoke the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling, then it stands to reason that any thought of not raising the debt ceiling would be unconstitutional - and that he could still declare that now.

(My personal preference, would be to declare any attempt to threaten to take the U.S. economy into default to be a violation of the Congressional oath of office, thought I don't expect to see that any time soon.)

As a non-lawyer, I expect plenty of criticisms for my suggestions as naive. However, in a post Bush v. Gore, hostage-taking world, perhaps progressives should be as expansive in their view of what's possible as the radical right has been.

 

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Amy Fried applies her Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior to writing and activism on church-state separation, feminism, reproductive rights, corruption, media and veganism.

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