The extremist GOP has recklessly politicized one of the most important governing opportunities of a lifetime -- Speaker of the House John Boehner walked away from bipartisan debt-ceiling talks at the last minute to protect tax loopholes for millionaires, billionaires and big corporations.
It was an astonishing display of crass, reckless partisan politics to appease the Speaker's base of Tea Party fanatics in Congress and his special-interest campaign contributors, which increasingly control him instead of his better instincts to do the right thing.
The debt-ceiling talks are about setting priorities and making hard choices. Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Cantor and the Republicans have made their choices clear: In the negotiations they have chosen to put tax cuts for big corporations and super-rich people before all other considerations.
The Speaker and the GOP have put ideological purity and pandering to extremist right-wing interest groups and their Republican mouthpieces in Congress before problem solving to avert a crisis. Before deficit reduction. Before job creation. Before helping America's seniors and working and middle-class families get by in this tough economy.
It isn't any more complicated than that. They've made their choices clear. And so, too, has the president. He wants a deal.
By all accounts the parties were moments away from a deal that met the vast majority of the Republicans' demands while forcing Democrats to accept a disturbingly long list of concessions on core principles and priority programs they hold dear. And yet giving the Republicans a lot of what they wanted was not enough because the Republicans' dirty secret is that they don't really care about the deficit. And as the president has said, the Republicans simply don't know how to say yes. Instead, the GOP has engaged in political brinkmanship on steroids to protect tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans and big corporations that need those tax breaks less than anyone.
When the Republicans walked away from an imminent bipartisan deal, they threw the economy, the international markets, seniors and middle-class families under the bus. They're willing to default on Americans' financial obligations and default on the American dream, which has been made possible by programs like Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, college aid and much more.
It's now abundantly clear that the Republicans are willing to drive our economy off a cliff rather than ask corporations and the super-rich to pay their fair share. They're willing to end Medicare as we know it rather than ask corporate jet owners to give up their excessive and unjustifiable tax breaks. They're willing to slash Medicaid and literally kick millions of seniors out of nursing homes -- and shift billions of dollars of costs to the states while costing millions of jobs -- rather than force Big Oil companies to give up their special tax loopholes.
The GOP's recklessness and irresponsibility has no limits even at this perilous moment. Unfortunately, they're not in power to govern. They don't care about getting things done for the best interest of the country. They're in power to posture and position themselves for the next election, and that's the last thing the country needs right now. I'm still hopeful that the Speaker will come around to a responsible way to solve this problem, but I hope that doesn't include the deal that was on the table, because President Obama was giving away too much in his effort to get a deal that would avoid default.
What's missing from the talks is the simple fact that seniors and middle-class families didn't cause the debt and shouldn't have to pay for it. Shredding the economic security of struggling families and small businesses is simply the wrong way to go. It's a bad deal for America, even if it's bipartisan.
The answer now seems pretty clear -- if a fair deal can't be arrived at promptly, the president and legislative leaders should do what's both achievable and what makes the most economic and policy sense: They should have a clean vote on the debt ceiling now, so we can end the gridlock and get to the business of governing and addressing job creation and other top priorities.