GUEST COMMENTARY - For years now, a major goal of the extreme right has been to undermine Social Security and Medicare, the most popular programs in the federal government. The fight to protect them from this assault starts now.
Very early Saturday morning, Kevin McCarthy finally won on the 15th round of voting for Speaker.
In return, the right-wing Freedom Caucus got a promise from McCarthy that he would not approve a simple increase in the debt ceiling unless spending was held back at 2022 levels — which, with more than 7 percent inflation, would require huge cuts in everything from defense spending to Social Security and Medicare. And if McCarthy breaks his promise, any member of the Freedom Caucus can move to remove him from the Speakership.
For years now, a major goal of the extreme right has been to undermine Social Security and Medicare, the most popular programs in the federal government. The extremists will not succeed. But the coming fight over raising the debt ceiling seems likely to become the defining battle over the next six to nine months. (In 2011, the mere possibility that the U.S. might not be able to pay its bills rattled markets worldwide.)
Note, too, that Congress must also fund federal agencies and programs before the current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. The current $1.7 trillion spending “omnibus” measure was adopted in the waning hours of 2022. A failure to replace it would be a second cause for a government closure in the fall.
The three parts of the Congressional Republican Party — the fiscal conservatives, the cultural warriors, and the MAGA anti-democracy Trumpers — have come together behind fiscal conservatism — draped in warrior language, with the potential for a MAGA anti-democracy outcome. They are more dangerous than ever.
(Robert Reich, is the Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. Reich's newest book is "The Common Good" (2019). He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now. This story was first featured in CommonDreams.org.)