A Menacing New Washington Machine
As the smoke clears from the debt ceiling battle in Washington, an menacing new machine has appeared on the skyline of Capital Hill: the new Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, a virtual guillotine to which New Deal dreams will be ordered to report. In fact, the first victims have been largely identified during the past two months of negotiating between President Obama and Speaker Boehner. They include senior citizens struggling to survive on Social Security payments, people who can’t pay their medical bills without Medicare, and students trying to stay in school while their education debts soar.
We also know the fortunate ones who will be given a free pass: the super-rich who got big tax breaks under George Bush, the offshore tax dodgers, the weapons companies feasting on the bloated Pentagon budget, the Wall Street financiers, and the overcharging pharmaceutical companies. They will sit in the skyboxes sipping martinis while the blade falls again and again on the dreams of ordinary people.
Adding insult to injury, the bipartisan deal cleverly shields members of Congress from being held accountable for the bloodshed they will cause. By design, a vote for the debt committee’s inevitable attack on Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid will emerge as the only action that can avoid a disastrous "enforcement" mechanism. In the aftermath, incumbents will be able to say “Yes, the cuts are terrible. But don’t blame me. There was no alternative to voting YES.” This effort to prevent voters from holding incumbent politicians accountable is a dangerous end-run around representative democracy.
Neither of the two big parties is standing up for the interests of everyday people, and this is not likely to change. But change may be coming anyway in the form of extraordinary voter unrest spreading across America. Interest is growing in third party political alternatives that are not corrupted by the big money hijacking the two major parties. In many states the number of independent and third party voters now exceeds the total registered in the major parties. Revitalized by a surge of disaffected Democratic Party refugees, nascent progressive third parties offer a path to taking our government back, starting with the simple act of refusing to vote for the big money politicians who have betrayed us.
In changing the political dialogue in the 2012 elections, liberated voters can challenge the debt reduction guillotine and advance essential solutions to the debt crisis - including cutting the bloated Pentagon budget and progressively taxing multimillionaires, Wall Street speculation, and tax-dodging corporations. And we can force attention to the neglected jobs crisis that should have been Washington's first priority to start with.
In the 2008 election, we were exhorted to 'believe in' change. Now, with a third party movement emerging in 2012, we are ready to make change happen.
John Andrews and Jill Stein are co-chairs of the Green-Rainbow Party, the Massachusetts affiliate of the Green Party of the United States.