Biden, the GOP and You: Who Won the Debt Ceiling Fight?

Are you aware that the richest among us are suffering? That’s why the debt ceiling fight was really just a ruse.

During the big Washington showdown over the government’s debt ceiling, it looked possible for a brief moment that President Joe Biden might bully GOP leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy into hurting one of America’s most vulnerable minorities: The uberrich.

Republicans were pushing hard to “fix” the government’s financing crunch by imposing vindictive new work requirements that would cut off benefits for older, low-income Americans who need Medicaid and food stamps to get by. Democrats had denounced the cruelty and rank unfairness of punishing the poor, while requiring nothing from millionaires and billionaires. Biden twitted McCarthy with the threat of putting some of the burden on the privileged — before backing away from democratic principle, jovially assuring Kevin that he was just pulling his leg.

And a good thing he backtracked, too. Are you aware that the richest among us are suffering? CEO pay hikes have slowed to a trickle, with honchos of major corporations getting their incomes increased last year by an average of only about $15 million each. How can Washington expect such hard-hit families to help with the national debt?

Besides, many top executives are already making painful sacrifices to keep corporate profits soaring. Not sacrificing personally, of course, but sacrificing employees. Google’s top boss, for example, punted tens of thousands of workers last year, just before rewarding himself with a $226-million paycheck for doing the dirty deed. (By the way, it would take several lifetimes for a regular Google worker to amass the fortune the chief pocketed in that one year).

But hey, that’s how the system works, right? And it’ll keep working like that as long as corporate-financed political operatives like Biden and McCarthy are the ones making the “compromises” on things like the debt ceiling. After all, it’s not really a compromise when two foxes and a chicken vote on what’s for dinner.

How It’s Done: Setting Low the Ethical Bar in Politics

The beauty of impeaching a public official is that it re-calibrates the standard for political morality, letting other politicos gauge just how low they can go. Consider two recent Texas examples.

First came Rep. Bryan Slaton, a howling right-wing culture warrior who specialized in demonizing LGBTQ+ people as “perverted.” But the 45-year-old Republican — a former Southern Baptist youth pastor who was elected on a “family values” platform — got caught getting a 19-year-old intern drunk, having sex with her, then warning her to keep quiet. But she outed the pervert, so his pious GOP colleagues defenestrated Bryan to preserve “the legislature’s integrity” (excuse that oxymoron). Thus, the moral bar was lowered to “do not get caught drugging underage staffers to have sex.” Good to know.

Then came the impeachment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a notorious political grifter who has turned the state’s top law enforcement office into a personal criminal enterprise. He’s facing multiple indictments and investigations for securities fraud, bribery, abuse of power, obstruction of justice — and even such tawdry embarrassments as having a donor with legal problems renovate his kitchen and hire his mistress.

Paxton is a scuzz, but he’s received a get-out-of-jail-free political pass for years by being the partisan scuzz for the GOP’s militant MAGA clique. But — uh-oh — in February, he arrogantly went too low, demanding over $3 million from the legislature to settle a whistleblower case against him. Suddenly, even fellow Republicans were spooked into probing the misdeeds. The lead investigator, who’d never before expressed concern about the AG’s flagrant violations of the public trust, declared that spending state money for Paxton’s criminality was just too much to swallow. “It curls my mustache,” he exclaimed, as he made the motion to impeach the scoundrel.

Thus, a new standard was set: Corruption is still fine… but settle on your own dime.

Jim Hightower