fight over the debt ceiling.
The government will reach the debt ceiling limit on December 31st. Some financial maneuvers can be made to give a couple of months for Congress to do something, and the cuts from the "fiscal cliff" could push that a little further. But the fact is that Congress needs to address the debt ceiling, and it needs to do it fairly quickly. And Republican senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander think that will give the Republicans the leverage they need to force cuts to the "entitlement" programs.
Of course this makes no sense at all, since Social Security has absolutely nothing to do with the debt ceiling (and cutting benefits will not affect government discretionary spending at all). Medicare also affects the debt ceiling very little. This means the Republicans are not serious about controlling spending -- just about hurting the Social Security and Medicare programs (which they have never liked). They claim they would be doing this to save the programs, but that is just a lie. They are doing it so their rich cohorts won't have to pay a little more in FICA deductions, and they are willing to throw millions of elderly people under the bus to do it (because those are the people who would be hurt by the trillion dollar cuts in entitlements they are seeking).
The last time the Republicans decided to play political games with the debt ceiling, it caused a lowering of the government's credit rating and cost the government an additional $19 billion dollars. It also seriously tarnished the Republican brand. I'm amazed that they want to have the same fight again.
If the Democrats are smart, they will refuse to give in on this -- even if the money runs out and much of the government has to shut down. They must just make sure that they are doing it to protect Social Security and Medicare from the ravages the Republicans would put on those programs. Let the GOP block the debt ceiling raise -- and let them take the blame for it. The Republicans may think they have more leverage in the debt ceiling fight, but they don't unless the Democrats give in and give them that leverage.
We must hope that President Obama, Majority Leader Reid, and Minority Leader Pelosi have grown sufficient backbones to stand firm and protect Social Security and Medicare. Allowing the Republicans to cut a trillion dollars from these programs would be sheer insanity.