Although the debt ceiling fight isn’t over yet, it is now clear it won’t be the excuse President Obama wanted to justify quickly jamming through an austerity grand bargain. As much as Obama desperately tried to use this artificial crisis to justify cutting Social Security and Medicare in a secret deal, that opportunity slipped through his fingers.
Just because our most popular social safety net programs escaped this current round of shock doctrine doesn’t mean the basic formula won’t be recycled in the near future to justify cutting these programs.
It appears that the pieces are already being set up for the next round of forced austerity via fake crisis. This next time, instead of the debt ceiling it will be a possible bond rating change that our political leaders will point to as the “crisis” that “forces” them to vote against the clear will of the electorate.
The pieces are such: The rating agencies are laying out the narrative that we are on the verge of a downgrade. You have the bond rating agencies, mainly Standard and Poor’s, getting shockingly involved in the political process. S&P is basically threatening downgrade unless certain politicians get their way. Most perplexing, they are actively picking and choosing between two remarkably similar proposals that would both reduce the deficit and raise the debt ceiling. They are establishing a very heavy handed pattern.
In addition, both Speaker John Boehner’s and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s debt ceiling increase contain some form of the Catfood Commission II that will report in six months. It is a super committee whose recommendations will be a fast tracked through Congress, getting an up or down vote. Since it is in both plans, it is more than likely that any agreement will contain some form of the Catfood Commission II.
From there it is easy to see how the next “crisis” could easily play out.
Right before or after the Catfood Commission II issues its report, the rating agencies will make the boldly political threat that failing to pass this specific package will negatively impact our bond ratings. They might not say it that directly, but it will be the inherent reality. Since the Catfood Commission II deal can’t be amended or filibustered, it will be the only game in town. The rating agencies only have to say a package must pass soon to effectively mean this package must pass now.
Avoiding that “crisis” will become the common bludgeon used to get members of Congress to vote for a backroom deal that was subject to neither public debate nor the regular legislative process. You will have members using excuses like, “I didn’t like this deal, but I wouldn’t risk our bond rating.”
As a result, Congress will be able take actions the electorate doesn’t want, but with the “crisis” and its bipartisan nature giving them the cover they need to subvert basic political accountability.