The Debt-Ceiling Debate Was Pure Theater

In recent months, Americans were treated to a particularly cheap political spectacle: negotiations over the debt ceiling.

“Extreme right-wing Republicans have hijacked the debt ceiling process,” said Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.

“The fight over the debt ceiling could sink the economy,” intoned National Public Radio.

Florida representative Matt Gaetz said that when it comes to the debt ceiling, he sees no need to parlay with the Republicans’ “hostage.”

The hyperbole flamed and kept on flaming. The bitterly partisan negotiations dragged on and on.

California representative and speaker of the house Kevin McCarthy made the most of the moment, posing in the Oval Office with White House bigwigs and New York senator and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer as the nation anxiously awaited a deal. Treasury secretary Janet Yellen had been enacting “extraordinary measures” since the debt ceiling was breached on January 19, 2023. Something had to be done! Thank goodness the best and the brightest were on the case.

Finally, right down to the wire, the Senate passed the new debt deal on June 1. Debt armageddon had been averted.

Americans, and the rest of the dollar-throttled world, needn’t have worried, however. The deal was done before the negotiations got started. Like professional wrestling matches, the fight was scripted, and the moves were staged. The economy is rigged. The debt ceiling was always going to be raised.

Some junior politicians failed to understand what had happened. In early January, McCarthy endured an extended drama on the House floor when Congresswomen Lauren Boebert (CO) and Marjorie Taylor Greene(GA), held out support for him, ostensibly in part over the pending debt ceiling, during initial ballots for Speaker. In May, however, Greene flipped, throwing her support behind McCarthy on the debt ceiling deal he cut with the Biden administration. All that January bluffing had been hot air.

Boebert, though, seemed genuinely surprised. In a June 1 statement, she wrote this: “The House passing this so-called ‘deal’ was another example of the Swamp shoving a $6-plus trillion blank check for Biden down Americans’ throats.”

Not long after, a long-simmering feud between Greene and Boebert burst into view. Steve Bannon, for his part, called for Greene and every other Republican who voted with her to be primaried over their support for the debt ceiling deal. Boebert I can understand. But does even Steve Bannon not know that politics is as real as a midring piledriver?

Alas, after this theater faded, we were left with the sighs of the commentariat, who lamented that leaders had failed to stop the fiscal hemorrhaging, preferring instead to kick the proverbial debt can down the road.

This was all expected, and played out as intended. During the recent “debt ceiling negotiations,” some players in the drama claimed to be working “across the aisle” to arrive at a deal. From the midst of political strife, lo, political goodwill emerged. And so our republic was saved. Bipartisan compromise, good old-fashioned political horse trading had helped our great nation live to borrow another day.

But there is no aisle. There are no real political parties. There is, in truth, a gaggle of criminals assembled under a great white dome in a city which exists solely—for no other purpose than—to bilk, grift, swindle, lie, and steal. We cheer as one side lambastes the brazen larceny, the sheer immorality, of its opponents. Little do we realize, though, that both sides employ the same agents who go around picking our pockets. Just as the only two sides in any robbery are the ones who leave it poorer and the ones who leave it richer, the only two sides in politics are those whose pockets are picked and those whose pockets are lined. The “aisle” is a distraction. Neither party is your friend. Both parties waste your money profligately.

The bluster of Bernie Sanders and Kevin McCarthy, of Joe Biden and Marjorie Taylor Greene—this is as cheap as theater gets. The “debt ceiling” scene is one we’ve seen again and again in this endless play.

So, let’s wise up. Let’s use this occasion, not to root for our oppressors any longer or to get emotionally involved in their shtick, but to demand that they stop counterfeiting our currency and that they stop pretending to be in business for anyone but themselves.

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