Mary Ann Sorrentino's 2 Cents Worth

Opinions, Observations and Musings

Mary Ann Sorrentino

Mary Ann Sorrentino
RI or FL depending on season, USA
June 19
Mary Ann is a columnist for the Keene (NH) Sentinel, the Providence Phoenix and other newspapers and has appeared on She was an Associated Press Award-winning radio talk host for 13 years and the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood of RI 1977-1987. Her most recent book, ABORTION - The A Word (Gadd Books) is available on line and in major bookstores.


JULY 25, 2011 11:42AM

Debt Ceiling Crisis: Shame on Republicans!

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  Great Depression

                                              MUST IT COME TO THIS?


One of the many reasons political conservatives drive me crazy is their refusal to admit when they are wrong. No matter how serious the blunder of one of their own may be or how much it may threaten national security in all its forms, they just circle their wagons and wait for the crisis to blow over.

Who can forget the Nixon years when the federal government was breaking into offices, stealing people’s medical records and when the president himself was eventually caught on audio tape admitting to grievous wrongs? Then there was the George W. Bush era, guided by little more than a president with an endless ego and a sick need to vindicate his president father—so much so that he was willing to plunge the nation into not one but two wars that can never be won. We are still paying for that debacle and our grandchildren’s futures may have been destroyed by it.

Liberals certainly know how to overlook the scandals created by their own as well, but I believe history shows that the left is more capable, and willing, to call its comrades on the carpet when the seriousness of an offense demands it. Tough decisions are their specialty, as FDR, Harry Truman and Bill Clinton showed. It is hard to imagine a Democrat getting away with arms sales to an enemy as Reagan tried to do, without word one from those around him. Clinton may have delivered a ton of embarrassment with the Lewinsky scandal, but getting serviced in the Oval Office while creating a surplus on the budget can’t compare with what Nixon, Reagan and George W. Bush did to permanently damage America’s economy, security and global respect. As evidence, I submit the fact that even Republicans now see Clinton as a statesman and have called upon him for his help.

Yet Republicans just cannot bring themselves to chastise their own, however much damage is being done. The debt ceiling crisis proves this point. Where is the voice of reason on the right telling former janitor John Boehner to get out of the tanning booth long enough to put together a deal to avert a national and even global economic meltdown?

Recently, the Economist spoke up and called their own beloved American conservatives to task for their shameless behavior. This is important and noteworthy, yet the US press seems to have given it little exposure.

I present it here, therefore, in the hope that more readers will be moved by its message so that in these critical final days, before all of America’s bill become past due, we can raise our voices in a national cry to Republicans to “GET SERIOUS!”

Please read it, and pass it along, for all our sakes and for the sake of generations to follow, around the world.



America's debt


The Republicans are playing a cynical political game with hugely high economic stakes

Jul 7th 2011 | from the print edition

IN THREE weeks, if there is no political deal, the American government will go into default. Not, one must pray, on its sovereign debt. But the country will have to stop paying someone: perhaps pensioners, or government suppliers, or soldiers. That would be damaging enough at a time of economic fragility. And the longer such a default went on, the greater the risk of provoking a genuine bond crisis would become.

There is no good economic reason why this should be happening. America’s net indebtedness is a perfectly affordable 65% of GDP, and throughout the past three years of recession and tepid recovery investors have been more than happy to go on lending to the federal government. The current problems, rather, are political. Under America’s elaborate separation of powers, Congress must authorise any extension of the debt ceiling, which now stands at $14.3 trillion. Back in May the government bumped up against that limit, but various accounting dodges have been used to keep funds flowing. It is now reckoned that these wheezes will be exhausted by August 2nd.

The House of Representatives, under Republican control as a result of last November’s mid-term elections, has balked at passing the necessary bill. That is perfectly reasonable: until recently the Republicans had been exercising their clear electoral mandate to hold the government of Barack Obama to account, insisting that they will not permit a higher debt ceiling until agreement is reached on wrenching cuts to public spending. Until they started to play hardball in this way, Mr Obama had been deplorably insouciant about the medium-term picture, repeatedly failing in his budgets and his state-of-the-union speeches to offer any path to a sustainable deficit. Under heavy Republican pressure, he has been forced to rethink.

Now, however, the Republicans are pushing things too far. Talks with the administration ground to a halt last month, despite an offer from the Democrats to cut at least $2 trillion and possibly much more out of the budget over the next ten years. Assuming that the recovery continues, that would be enough to get the deficit back to a prudent level. As The Economist went to press, Mr Obama seemed set to restart the talks.

The sticking-point is not on the spending side. It is because the vast majority of Republicans, driven on by the wilder-eyed members of their party and the cacophony of conservative media, are clinging to the position that not a single cent of deficit reduction must come from a higher tax take. This is economically illiterate and disgracefully cynical.

A gamble where you bet your country’s good name

This newspaper has a strong dislike of big government; we have long argued that the main way to right America’s finances is through spending cuts. But you cannot get there without any tax rises. In Britain, for instance, the coalition government aims to tame its deficit with a 3:1 ratio of cuts to hikes. America’s tax take is at its lowest level for decades: even Ronald Reagan raised taxes when he needed to do so.

And the closer you look, the more unprincipled the Republicans look. Earlier this year House Republicans produced a report noting that an 85%-15% split between spending cuts and tax rises was the average for successful fiscal consolidations, according to historical evidence. The White House is offering an 83%-17% split (hardly a huge distance) and a promise that none of the revenue increase will come from higher marginal rates, only from eliminating loopholes. If the Republicans were real tax reformers, they would seize this offer.

Both parties have in recent months been guilty of fiscal recklessness. Right now, though, the blame falls clearly on the Republicans. Independent voters should take note.





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- such dangerous brinkmanship, Mary Ann.
- such dangerous brinkmanship, Mary Ann.
Dangerous and once again, we all pay...
Thanks MaryAnn. In my heart of hearts I just don't believe that this is about differing perceptions and conceptions of our government. I just don't believe that it's about differing perspectives on how to create and balance a budget or how to stimulate an economy or how to create a tax environment.
I believe that it's about power.
Those in office (i.e. power) seek to both keep it and exercise it. It's the ultimate sport guaranteeing a spot on political ESPN highlights (Fox and MSNBC). Despite John Boehner's posturing and couching his utterances in faux-populistic phraseology, he cares only for the bludgeon of power and ultimately brinksmanship.
This has become the way of our nation and government at all levels. And something is desperately wrong.
The so-called tea party is doing one thing right. These folks have created an organization which is now a "de facto" party (a horrendously scary thought).
And, as has been demonstrated countless times in the past, those of us who might be charitably classified as "liberal" or "progressive" or even "moderate" sit on our hands and be-wail the dastardly "right" while doing nothing to either organize or articulate or ACT.
Our President seems to have more in common with Harold MacMillan (the Appeaser) than with Clinton or Truman or even Carter. He's trying to "play by the rules". Unfortunately, he hasn't been told what the real rules are and never got enough experience playing with the "big boys" in the Senate to know that the rules are simply that there are no rules. The only rule is to do what you have to do to get your way.
Very well said Mary Ann. This current political crisis is totally manufactured, unnecessary, and potentially catastrophic. The newly elected Tea Party wing backed by the power hungry Eric Cantor is holding Boehner and our country hostage. It is blackmail and criminal. If they take this country over the economic cliff because they will not accept elimination of corporate tax breaks, then they are irresponsible idiots. The packages that President Obama is willing to agree to are 4-1 in favor of spending cuts over revenue increases. These right wing nuts want to tear everything down and we the people will pay. Excellent article Mary Ann.
Thank you Catherine for reading and commenting. Yes, it is indeed dangerous and I must say I am very concerned, as we all are.

Sheila, I always appreciate your loyal support. Thank you.
I believe the problems started way back when Obama chose all the wrong people for his cabinet. What was he thinking? Not about us. and I also believe he has been threatened repeatedly.
Walter, I am so grateful for your thoughtful analysis and I agree wholeheartedly. I was a paid lobbyist for many years when I worked for Planned Parenthood. What I learned is that
1) The deals are made in the hallways
2) Getting to where you need to be is usually about blackmail, not about thoughtful debate.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely was never more true than it is today. God help us all!
Howard, welcome to my page and thank you for such insight. See my reply to Walter above for more on "blackmail."
Thanks for the read and comment, Christine. You make a great point, but if the president allows himself to be "threatened" he doesn't know how the game is played and he doesn't deserve the power he has.
Thanks for the read and comment, Christine. You make a great point, but if the president allows himself to be "threatened" he doesn't know how the game is played and he doesn't deserve the power he has.
Note taken. I will never understand how it has come to pass that the right has been able to convince people that voting against their interests is in their best interest. A world gone mad. r
Rosy you are so right...I just watched the evening news on TV and the world has gone mad indeed...and more craziness is on the way at 9 PM when the President, then Boehner square off on national TV...Equal time for the Republicans? Why? They lost the election, as I recall. Why can't Obama just find a video of Boehner screwing a sheep and then let him know it's in the White House's possession and get the negotiations REALLY going in the right direction? THAT's how DC really operates and this president hasn't figured it out yet!
Nicely expressed, but I say a plague on both parties! This mess was bipartisan in origin. That the current negotiations seek merely reduce the rate of a debt that will continue to increase by trillions of dollars is a disgrace to the human faculties of logic and responsibility. The Republicans may be more conspicuously slimy at the moment, but the Democrats as a party are no roses; nor have they ever been.

We, the people, allowed this situation to arise. We no longer have a representative democracy. It is a representative plutocracy, gilt by a Constitution beaten, as Donne would say, to airy thinness.

Given the momentum things have in their current direction, I am sad to say that it is unlikely that things will change soon. If any hope exists, it may be in the disaster that may result from our current crisis. Depending on its severity, it may just demand some of the changes that could so much more painlessly have been applied sooner.
Thanks, Paul for your point of view, and I believe I said the Democrats aren't perfect either, but in this case the bottom line that continuing to demand debt reduction by cut only while the rich sit idly by paying nothing is just plain wrong. And that is NOT a Democratic position. Neither, as I wrote, can you find the kind of egotistical "the country and its citizens be damned!" attitude in governing among Democrats that Bush and Nixon, for example, typified. So though neither party is perfect, when it comes to worrying about the survival of you and your children, the conservatives-- the pro-family Republicans-- are far more imperfect in my view.
The really frightening thing is that the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party want to crash the government. They have in mind rebuilding a Libertarian state out of the chaos.

It's straight out of the imagination of Ayn Rand.
Rodney you are so right...and you know Alan Greenspan was a disciple of Ayn Rand, of course. This sounds like something Rod Serling could do on the Twilight Zone....very creepy...thanks for the comment.
Mary Ann--as a lifelong Democrat, I am naturally receptive to your argument. But this sentence from "The Economist," which I hear all the time, bothers me: "This newspaper has a strong dislike of big government; we have long argued that the main way to right America’s finances is through spending cuts." What, other than a metaphorical boogeyman designed to sound alarmly big-brotherish, does "big government" mean? "The Economist" seems to assume that if every government office is kept in place but made to cut its budget, big government is reduced. How, exactly, is that the case? Doesn't the size, the reach, remain the same?

You comment that "It is hard to imagine a Democrat getting away with arms sales to an enemy as Reagan tried to do, without word one from those around him. Clinton may have delivered a ton of embarrassment with the Lewinsky scandal, but getting serviced in the Oval Office while creating a surplus on the budget can’t compare with what Nixon, Reagan and George W. Bush did to permanently damage America’s economy, security and global respect." Does this not conflate a moral issues with political issues? Of course, one way to resolve this category confusion, a way I tend to accept and, I think, you are aiming toward, is to say the political is the moral, especially when the well-being of som many people, in the U.S. and globally, is at stake in this current economic impasse.

That said, I do admire your post. It argues for civic virtue, for a sense of public-spiritedness, for reciprocity, and for respectful care for the good of others.
It's madness...
After reading the comments, I am reminded of something: On three (!) occasions I was involved in the organizing and running of little outfits with co-religionists. We set out rules, plus (I thought) we were all adults and of goodwill and decent behaviour. On all three occasions I was shocked and angered to find that the rules were wallpaper and the knives were out. Is this the only way human beings can operate? Even in these pages (pages?), people who disagree about things get verbally vicious. Not on this thread, thankfully, at least not yet (!). But Cranky got castigated last night for not being *sensitive* enough. (The attackers were *sensitive*?)
When I read such a thoughtful response to anything I write, no matter how critical, I am always gratified that-- if nothing else-- my writing has motivated the reader to give a lot of thought to something and to take the time to pen a scholarly argument in reply. In the end, as you well know, writers have little else to look forward to in terms of rewards for their efforts but the proof that what they have put out there actually strikes a chord in the audience. I am not defending the Economist, but I do subscribe to it because I think it is important to read another perspective on world news-- in this case, a view from Europe and from the right wing.

As far as morality and politics are concerned, I believe those two are oxymoronic, I cannot imagine that morality can exist if tainted by political maneuvering, and my experience as a lobbyist has taught me that morality is the last things politicians consider when making decisions. On the contrary, all the things that DO motivate politicians can pretty much be catalogued under the headings of the 7 deadly sins of pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth, all of which have nothing to do with keeping on a moral path.

But I love the way you write so much I may just post more of these sorts of tantalizing articles just to get a comment from you as exquisite as this one.
Thanks for reading and commenting. As far as this thread is concerned, I am always happy to see that readers of my posts tend to be sincere and civil. I have written some posts along the way guaranteed to raise some people's ire, and they did. But I can also say that the tone of commenters in objecting either to something I wrote of to someone's comments have always been civil.

I'm a fan of Cranky, and I don't know what exchange you are referring to, but I must say that the name "Cranky Cuss" never seems to fit because I don't find him cranky much at all!

In the end, a place like OS is fueled by all of our egos, some more out of control than others, and also by a not-very-constant level of "sensitivity" depending on who wrote what and why. There are certainly axes grinding daily on OS, wounded feelings and, worse, the desire to wound as some scramble desperately to be king or queen of the OS mountain they imagine actually means something regarding their literary ascent.

I love OS, but I do it for fun and to be able to be in touch with the folks like those who have commented here, whose writing I admire and whose feedback I appreciate. In that spirit, thanks again for being part of it.
No one likes the idea that the US debt is so high; it weakens us politically and economically. But brinksmanship during a time of high unemployment is folly.

The sad part of this particular broohaha is that the senior GOP members know this is the best deal they will EVER get. Yet they continue to capitulate to the party wing that refuses to consider revenues...even though those revenues would not come from the rank and file but from the super rich.

Yes, we need to curb spending. We also have to raise revenues. The Republicans have had thirty years or more to prove trickle-down, supply-side economics works. Well, it doesn't. Why that message isn't getting through is beyond me.
Of course you are right, and why the message doesn't sink in is beyond me as well. To think the already struggling citizenry can take any more cuts while also being asked to pay more in taxes and fees while the wealthy continue to gloat in a system that favors them so disproportionately makes me angry as well as sick to my stomach. Thanks for the read and comment.
Well said, Mary Ann. I don't even want to think about this stuff. It's not a whole lot better here with our right-wing prime minister Stephen Harper who couldn't care less about the people, animals or environment of Canada, or the world. Talk about an embarrassment! Not only him, but the 40% of Canadians who voted for him. How this makes for a majority government, I don't know. And now our "left wing" opposition leader, Jack Taylor, has to take an extended break because he is suffering from cancer -- for the second time. It's really pretty terrifying this "right winguification" of our world.
Thanks Elizabeth- It's important for us to remember other countries are having similar problems, if nothing else because misery really does love company. But your news also adds to our communal anxiety. This is surely a global issue, not just America's problem and we can only hope that reality eventually dawns on the gang in DC.
Thank you for an excellent post, Mary Ann. Power is the most corruptive element at play in bringing about the situation in which we find ourselves, whether it is in the US or Canada.

I see many supportive and interesting replies here, including one from a fellow Canadian, Elizabeth Warkentin. She's right about our situation which concerns me much (as a Quebecer) with NDP leader Mr Jack Layton's [not Taylor] sick leave. It was because of him that his party had done extremely well in Quebec last May.
I hear you, Mary Ann. Austerity has two components: spending cuts and revenue increases. All credible economists agree on that. In this country, however, credible politicians need not agree with that, and credulous voters seem to eat up what the demagogues serve.

I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican, and I was no fan of Bill Clinton. Still, he set us on a track for surpluses as far as the eye could see--and he did so in part by having the politcal courage (and wherewithal) to raise the top tax bracket to just over 39 percent.

Who would be able to do that today?

Here's to the hope that better days are comin'!
Fusun, thanks for the update from Quebec and for your usual and appreciated support.

Paul, you are a true gentleman and it's so nice to see. Thanks for your gracious clarification.
As with everything else the Republicans throw up, this was a manufactured non-issue designed to prevent America from talking to Congress about the one and only thing on their mind: jobs, jobs, jobs. It is a tried and true trick. When Wall Street is robbing us throw up the Gay smokescreen. When we are about to invade yet another country strictly to feather the nests of those in the Defense industry, talk about abortion.