Wednesday, November 9, 2011

An Unconstitutional "Committee" Poised to Add 40 Million to the Poverty Rolls

Each day as I pick up the papers, or read online news, I say to myself it just can't get any worse. There has to be a bottom, but where is it? When will the leaders in this country cease their destructive pro-party brinksmanship (and I am primarily writing here of the GOP) and work together for the common good of the people. True, every now and then a light emerges from the darkness, such as the vote in Ohio to restore the union rights taken away by Repuke gubernator John Kasich. But overall, the battles still rage, and societal decline remains.

At least as recently as 1996, an actual legislative hashing out was required by numerous congressmen to approve legislation that impacted citizens' welfare. It was only after this was done, that the final law - such as the 1996 Welfare Reform Act- could be brought to a vote. In effect, it was a constitutionally-based legislative process that enabled and validated that Act, an Act which saw the benefits of millions decline and fall into poverty - as welfare was replaced by work which in many states (e.g. in Maryland) allowed less than minimal wage rates. Many welfare to work folks in Baltimore, hired as janitorial or sanitation staff, were barely remunerated at $3 an hour. That this did not constitute a survival wage, far less a living wage never occurred to any of the politicos that endorsed it.

As disheartening as this Act was, it could at least be swallowed (if only half-heartedly) because citizens knew that a legislative process produced it. The outcome of the welfare to work wages was a product of the Welfare Reform Act. Its implementation didn't occur outside the Act, or the committee hashing out leading up to it. Such is not the case with the current "Joint Deficit Reduction Committee" which is a creature not of a legitimate constitutional process, but rather political expediency - in much the same way the "Warren Commission" was a creature of Lyndon Baines Johnson's political expediency in finding Lee Harvey Oswald solely responsible for the Kennedy Assassination. In both cases, a faux governmental veneer was attached to make citizens think there was a valid governmental benediction when there was nothing of the sort (all apologies to Stephen King for his new novel '11/22/63' predicated on a miscarriage of historical facts!)

Thus, in the case of this "Joint Deficit Reduction Committee", it didn't arise out of any formal governmental process that created it, but rather as a reactive concession to hostage -taking of the government by the Tea Party driven goopers. In other words, it marked a surrender concession to the debt ceiling debacle when the GOP House held the country to its demands ....."give in or we allow no increase in the debt" ...making the nation default. There were several options to this criminal ploy, among which I already blogged about was the invocation of the Constitution (Article 4 of Amendment XIV ) by the president:

This Article (constitutionally mandated - as opposed to being the reactionary fabrication of a special "super committee") states explicitly:

"The validity of the Public Debt of the United States, authorized by law, includes debts incurred for payment of pensions ....and shall not be questioned."

Thus, instead of agreeing to be a williing hostage and to endorse an unelected committee's decisions, Obama could have issued an Executive Order to override a putatively derelict Congress (obviously also out of its mind) and invoke Article 4 of Amendment XIV to raise the debt ceiling himself.

This would have avoided the specious artifact of a "Joint Deficit Committee" and its obvious intent to do an end run around the legislative process.

To be clear, this specious committee is charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in government cuts by Thanksgiving. If this unelected panel falls short, no resolution by Nov. 23, then deep budget cuts will be automatically triggered to both the defense budget and social spending in the amounts of $600b each.. Here again, the very existence of an automatic "trigger" does an end run around any reflective legislative process. It effectively enables an unthinking, non-debated economic adjustment to be administered with no human control or adjucation. It is, in effect, an abomination! (And no, I don't accept any true reflection inheres in this specious deficit committee, but rather political expediency to come to almost any solution most agree on. Real reflectivity by contrast requires adequate time to attain a rational and equitable solution and no artificial deadlines!)

The pressure is actually even worse than depicted, because the 6 Dems and 6 Repubs on this committee agree that they actually need to resolve their differences this week in order for the Congressional Budget Office to rubber stamp it by Nov. 23rd. The automatic cuts can still be triggered even if this happens if the Tea Party dominated congress fails to bestow its imprimatur by Dec. 23rd.

In other words, this diabolical farce sets us up for yet another hostage taking by the same creeps who perpetrated it during the debt ceiling debate in August.

The sad and sorry news out of this super committee is that the Dems on it are already caving on multiple fronts in return for a minuscule increase in revenues (about $350 b) proposed by the Grover Norquist dominated Rs. Thus, the Rs now "concede" to allowing an increase in revenues by eliminating or lowering itemized deductions for individuals, and lowering the automatic deductions for others, while retaining the Bush tax rates for millionaires and the one percent!

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is a fucking, outrageous farce! In return for the tiny and major discomfiting revenue adjustments (almost exclusively painful to the middle class) the Dems will agree in return to:

- massive cuts to Medicaid (ensuring the states will have to lower thresholds even further to qualify)

- increasing the eligibility age for Medicare to 67 or 68 (some Rs even proposed 70)

- Allowing a change in the inflation -adjustment formula to "slow the growth of Social Security benefits" - an abomination on which I previously blogged, noting it would rapidly translate into increased poverty among the elderly by essentially removing one whole month of (currently) received benefits every few years.

It's abundantly clear to me that any "solution" approved by this ad hoc, created- under- duress "joint deficit committee", will be no better for the mass of people in our country than a subdued hostage's family's welfare after it gives its life savings to a terrorist or other criminal holding the hostage for ransom.

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