There was no hue and cry when George W Bush was doubling the national debt. Bush started two illegal, unpaid for wars, gave huge tax breaks to the wealthy and instituted a pharmaceutical benefit for seniors that was again unpaid for. All these programs which were inherited by Obama were based on borrowed money and hence their net effect was simply to increase the national debt. In order to get the national debt under control all that would be necessary would be to reverse these Bush era programs, but Republicans want to stick Obama with these Bush institutionalized deficits instead. Republicans and Democrats went along with all this dutifully raising the debt limit whenever Bush asked them to. Now Republicans are screaming bloody murder about the debt, but they have not deinstituted Bush's programs that are still causing it. They haven't let Medicare negotiate prices with the pharmaceutical industry; they haven't done away with the Bush tax cuts although Obama has tried to get them to. Instead, they put Obama's back to the wall and demanded that the Bush tax cuts continue. They are due to expire at the end of 2012, and that is the primary reason why Obama insisted on a debt ceiling deal that would carry us through 2012. If there had been another debt ceiling fiasco around Christmas of 2011, Republicans would have held Obama hostage over the Bush taxs cuts forcing him to not let them expire or they would shut the government down. The current debt deal wisely avoids this scenario. Obama is trying to wind down Bush's stupid wars in a way that doesn't raise Republican ire, but he is not doing it fast enough. They are still consuming far too much money.
The debt ceiling deal provides for a commission that will get absolutely nowhere which will result in an automatic spending trigger which will provide for significant cuts to the Pentagon in addition to scaling back social programs. The fact that there will be significant cuts to the Pentagon is a stroke of genius on Obama's part. So I don't think the debt deal was such a bad agreement from Obama's point of view. He managed to put off the most significant cuts in social programs until the "out years." This means that nothing much will happen until after the next elections. If Democrats win big at that time they can undo whatever damage was done by any deals they made with Republicans. Nothing is set in stone that the next Congress cannot fix.
The Republican modus operandi for some years has been to vote against anything that would make a Democratic President look good in order to get the American people to vote against him in the next election putting a Republican in the White House. So this creates the conventional wisdom that a Democratic President doesn't know how to get anything done no matter how good his ideas or proposals are. Democrats have then obligingly gone along with Republican Presidents to get things done because they are not quite as venal and dastardly as Republicans and are more interested in helping out the American people. Consider Richard Nixon. Although no dirty trick was beneath him in order to obtain the Presidency, Nixon governed as a liberal. He established the Environmental Protection Agency, ushered in the first Earth Day, made an opening to the Chinese communists, something no Democrat would have dared to have done because of the expectation of a huge Republican outcry, tried to put together a National Health Care plan which was cut short by his impeachment, imposed wage and price controls, created Supplemental Insurance Income and on and on. The Republciacn MO in those days was to give the American people what they wanted but only when a Republican was in the White House. Otherwise, fight against any improvement in the lot of the American people thus convincing said people that the only way to get anything done was to put a Republican in the White House.
Then along came Jude Wannisky with a better idea, the Two Santa Claus Theory. The part about resisting any progress when a Democrat was in the White House remained the same. But instead of governing as a liberal, what the Republicans would do was to give everybody a tax break and put it on the American credit card. The idea was to run up the debt as much as possible, spend like a drunken sailor, create the ambiance of prosperity and then scream bloody murder about the debt after a subsequent Democrat was elected President. This would put Democrats in a bind because they would not be able to implement any social programs such as those implemented by Nixon. Their only job would be to clean up the elephant poop after the parade was over. This would further contribute to the conventional wisdom that the only way to get anything done was to elect a Republican President. This worked because Congressional Democrats were not as shameless as Republicans and would go along with Republican initiatives, if they thought they would benefit the American people, even when they did not hold the Presidency.
These techniques have been raised to an art form under the Obama Presidency. Republicans will not let any legislation pass that would in any way be considered a victory for Obama even if the legislation represents Republican ideas and no matter how much the lack of it harms the American people. By so doing they hope that the American people will blame Obama for not getting anything done and not notice that the real reason nothing gets done is Republican Congressional obstructionism. Even when Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress, as they did during the first two years of the Obama Presidency, Republicans used the filibuster in the Senate to prevent a whole slew of legislation, such as the legislation that would have closed the loophole giving tax breaks to corporations that ship American jobs overseas, from getting passed. Now that they control the House, their mission is even easier. They simply will not bring to a vote any Democrat inspired legislation, or if they did, they would simply vote it down because they have a majority. They don't even need to use the filibuster.
Only this time, after they get a Republican elected President in 2012, he or she will not pull a Nixon and govern as a liberal. Their far right philosophy is too much ingrained for that to happen. This time, even though the American people might be yearning for a "can do" President, what they will get instead is the opportunity to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. If Republicans control both Houses of Congress and the Presidency after the 2012 elections, what the American people will get is the complete elimination of all social programs unless Democrats use the filibuster in the Senate to stop them. They will get lower taxes for millionaires and billionaires and higher taxes for the poor and middle class. (Expect payroll taxes to increase.) They will get class warfare in the extreme while being called out for engaging in class warfare themselves by the likes of Rush Limbaugh. One Republican tactic is to accuse the other side of doing the very thing they themselves are doing. The Tea Party will stop worrying about the National Debt because that will be what their minders want them to do. Instead the push will be on for "revising" Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, deregulating corporations, lowering corporate taxes while lobbyists drill new loopholes in the "lower" taxes, privatizing public schools, parks, libraries, fire and police forces, getting rid of unions and converting all public employee defined benefit pension plans to 401ks. What's happening in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and some other states will have been only a prelude to what will happen on a national scale. The American people, despite opinion polls to the contrary, will not figure into any Republican calculations and their way of life will be decimated before their very eyes with them powerless to do anything about it. This is the morass that the conventional wisdom - that a Democrat can't get anything done while a Republican "can do" - will lead us into. This is the race Mitt Romney is gearing up for.
While the Republicans in Congress are determined not to give the Obama administration any "victories" which might actually make the lot of the American people better, and to force his back to the wall and demand that he implement the Republican agenda, the American people are too dumb to figure out what's happening. They will be swayed by the billions of dollars which will be poured into TV advertising that Obama's administration was a bust and that, in order to have "Morning in America," they must elect Republicans in 2012. If they are so led and if they so comply, they will be treated to Republican economic policies which will eliminate even more American jobs while creating tons of them overseas, the homeless population will mushroom, middle class people will be forced out onto the streets in droves while the economy goes into a tailspin. But while this is happening corporate balance sheets and CEO salaries will continue to skyrocket. Any talk by Democrats of a "jobs program" will be branded as socialism. The next Republcian President will fill a couple of Supreme Court vacancies with hard right Republicans thus guaranteeing that Republcian policies and laws will prevail into the next millenium. Any agencies that protect the American people will be defunded even if they are allowed to continue to exist. Workers will lose all the rights that their forefathers fought so hard for. Federal tax receipts will come less from corporations and billionaires and more from the working poor. The sick, the elderly and the disabled will have to rely on church based charity and forego any hope of help from their government. Hoovervilles (Romneyvilles?) will spring up all over the country.
Republicans are recreating the Great Depression and doing it with a vengeance. Their policies are ideologicaally based, not pragmatic, and they are bound and determined to thwart the will of the people in order to create a libertarian utopia. It doesn't matter to them how much harm they do to the average American or what the average American wants from government. Their mantras of small government, privatization of any and every public agency or program will carry the day despite any cost. According to them the Great Depression should have been allowed to proceed as long as corporate profits were up. The fact that unemployment was 25% was no big deal. Their advice to the unemployed: "Get a job, you lazy, shiftless suckers!" The prison-industrial complex will continue to expand especially for people of color who will find themselves incarcerated for drug offenses and petty crime while fraudulent bankers and rating agencies will only be bailed out when they get in trouble. Thus a libertarian utopia will have been achieved in which there is a small class of very wealthy people while the vast majority becomes increasingly immiserated. Sure, there will be a few lone voices crying out in the wilderness, a few disgruntled people who won't go along with the Republican program. They will be characterized as losers, socialists and people who have renounced the American dream.