Wed, Jul

Roaming Charges: The Shame of the Game


GUEST COMMENTARY - “The enemy is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he is on.”  – Joseph Heller, Catch-22

+ In the manufactured showdown over the debt ceiling, Biden didn’t just blink; he set a political speed record for rapid eye movement.

+ Cutting future spending for poor people, sick people and children in order to pay the debts rung up by tax cuts for the rich and astronomical spending by the Pentagon. This is the gist of the deal Biden brokered with Kevin McCarthy, a deal that needed the support of Democrats to push through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. In the end 165 Democrats voted for the bill and only 149 Republicans.

+ The deal is bad and probably only a harbinger of the coming bi-partisan austerity. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities the agreement will “increase hunger and poverty” among poor older Americans, a reference to new SNAP work requirements. What a thing to brag about when you go back to your state or district.

+ Biden claims he “compromised on the budget, not the debt ceiling.” Of course, that’s the point. The debt ceiling only exists to provide neoliberal politicians like Biden an excuse for imposing austerity on social and environmental programs while funding an ever-expanding defense budget…

+ But he didn’t “compromise” at all. You have to get something in a compromise. Here Biden simply put a limit on how much he was willing to give away.

+  Of course, not all Democrats went away empty-handed. Joe Manchin extracted his pound of hydrocarbons for his vote by slipping a measure to approve the Mountain Valley Pipeline into the debt ceiling bill. They didn’t emphasis how much it pays to be an asshole in those “How a Bill Becomes a Law” videos in grade school.

+ As Biden himself admitted, the fake fight over the Debt Ceiling was really fight over the budget, in which there were two sides making demands: rightwing Republicans and far right Republicans. The Democrats asked for nothing and got less. The Far Right demanded all they could think of, got it and now wants more. This is how the game is played and only one party is playing it.

+ The Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the debt deal’s cuts to IRS funding concludes that the measure will actually increase the debt because it “would result in fewer enforcement actions over the next decade and in a reduction in revenue collections.”

+ Even for Republicans, it’s never been about the debt. As Dark Lord Cheney said, “Reagan taught us that the debt doesn’t matter.” It’s about re-allocating the federal budget to the people who put you in office: arms makers, banks, drug companies, oil companies, slumlords, tech giants, hedge funds. If you don’t have a lobbyist, a PAC or a dark money conduit, you don’t count for a damn thing in this town.

+ Case in point: the morning after the “Debt” deal passed the House and was sent to the Senate, Susan Collins, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations committee, announced her intention to introduce an emergency supplemental to raise Pentagon spending beyond debt limit deal. “That is what we need to do,” Collins said. “That is what I would ask the administration and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to commit to.”

+ Kevin McCarthy: “We might have a child that has no job, no dependents but sitting on the couch, we’re going to encourage that person to get a job and have to go to work, which gives them worth and value.” Imagine being a child that has no job and no dependents! They really do want your kids either sharpening blades at the slaughterhouse or pumping out babies at the age of 13…

+ I’ve often said that at a functional level the two main parties are almost indistinguishable. This is, of course, not entirely true. For example, the House Republicans are ready to oust Kevin McCarthy for not getting all they wanted, while the Democrats are rallying around Biden for giving the Republicans most of what they wanted and getting nothing in return.

+ Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries announced his support for the debt ceiling bill not by saying there was a gun to his head. Not as the least worst of bad options. Not regretfully or even reluctantly. But “without reservations.

+ Astra Taylor, co-founder of the Debt Collective, a union for debtors: “The debt ceiling deal codifies an assurance for Republicans that Biden will head into 2024 as Americans’ debt collector in chief.”

+ Even though the political “middle” today is to the right of Barry Goldwater in 1964, Chris Matthews was hauled out to laud Democratic progressives for “working with the middle” on the debt deal, correctly noting: “The Squad really didn’t cause a lot of trouble this time.”

+ It took Nixon to go to China and the Democrats to slash their own (meager) social welfare programs and impose onerous work requirements to qualify for the pittance that’s left.


+ At the same time the Republicans in Congress were threatening not to pay the nation’s debt (largely attributable to Trump’s tax cuts and the ever-expanding war-making budget), the Democratic-controlled Senate voted to kill student debt relief, reinstating more than 260,000 already cancelled student loans owed by educators, nurses, first responders, and other public service workers and making people pay interest cancelled due to the pandemic payment pause. Joe Manchin, Jon Tester, and Kyrsten Sinema joined with the entire GOP in the Senate to pass the bill. Michael Bennet and Mark Warner didn’t even show up to vote.

+ Enrollment in US colleges has declined by about 15% in the past decade, according to federal data. Is it any wonder why?

+ In the 2020 presidential elections, voters who were 18 to 29 in 2008 backed Biden by 55 percent to 43 percent, a margin roughly half that of Obama’s 12 years earlier.

+ This headline (“The Florida Mom Who Sought to Ban Amanda Gorman’s Poem Says She’s Sorry for Promoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion“) and her quote are a pretty fair indicator of where we’re headed: “I see the word ‘communism,’ and I think it’s something about communism. I didn’t read the words. They have to read for me because I’m not an expert. I’m not a reader. I’m not a book person. I’m a mom involved in my children’s education.”

+ An analysis by Media Matters of FoxNews’ coverage of the protests against Target for offering Pride-themed merchandise revealed that the supposedly chastened network devoted 2 hours, 12 minutes and 32 seconds worth of coverage to the manufactured backlash against Target last week and at total 22 seconds on the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal in Illinois, involving the molestation of 1,900 minors by 450 credibly-accused sexual abusers, including priests and lay religious brothers. So perhaps it’s not about protecting the kids, after all?

+ The Russian Duma, after initially vowing to limit the government’s ban on gender reassignment to pre-op cases, is now imposing a ban on the surgery itself. There have been 2,990 documented gender reassignments in Russia between 2016 and 2022. Some Russian politicians have warned that men are “hiding” from the draft by registering with the state as women.

+ John Carl Baker: “The anti-trans international.”

+ Trump is setting himself up to run to the left of DeSantis. He may end up to the left of Biden…Trump in Iowa this week: “I don’t like the term ‘woke,” because I hear the term ‘woke woke woke’ — it’s just a term they use, half the people can’t define it, they don’t know what it is.”

+ Ron DeSantis vowed this week to “destroy leftism in America.” It’s so typical of DeSantis to promise to do what Clinton, Obama and Biden have already done.

+ For a party obsessed with dress codes and the strict application of pronouns, “Casey” DeSantis is a pretty gender neutral name.

+ At least 250,000 Floridians have been kicked off of Medicaid by the state, even though most are still eligible. How can anyone run for office on this record?

(Jeffrey St. Clair is a writer for CounterPunch.org where this article was first published.).