In opening the 113th Congress Thursday House Speaker John Boehner declared that debt is imperiling the American Dream. This is the kind of intentionally misleading narrative Republicans in collusion with corporate America and conservative think tanks have spent 40 years and billions of dollars developing. Unfortunately, the old adage rings true that if you repeat a lie enough it becomes fact.
First, Speaker Boehner you are a bit confused about debt. And so are you Mr. President. Debt is not stealing the American Dream. Corporate America and its political collusion with Democrats and Republicans are. But lets cut to the political-economic quick America, we have one political party -- the corporate party.
Let's look to any primer on debt provided by those economists like Dean Baker who predicted our economic collapse. According to Baker, the housing collapse, brought on by reckless finance, sank the economy -- and the steps that government took to counter all of this -- created the preponderance of our debt. According to Baker this is indisputable. Many other economists also echo this.
In 2007 the budget deficit was just 1.2 percent of gross domestic product output, a very reasonable amount. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this year's deficit will measure 7.3 percent of GDP. So the increase in the public debt since 2007 can be squarely placed at the feet of Wall Street. Corporate America peddled "debt" to those who could least afford it, those who bid for their slice of the American Dream by purchasing homes. Even former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson admitted in a 2009 Vanity Fair article that he and his Wall Street cohorts said housing would continue to go up in value. But conservatives love to blame the victims as part of their narrative in order to rally their base, which conveniently believes that personal debt caused our current troubles. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just ask Senator Elizabeth Warren who studied this extensively while at Harvard. I think it's more plausible to blame those at the top of the pyramid who knew exactly what they were doing.
But tell that to Speaker Boehner and the "fix the debt" corporate CEOs who were apparently inspired by the guy who got us into this mess in the first place -- Alan Greenspan!
So instead of fixing the roots of the problem, which is corporate control of politics and the economy, these corporate acolytes want to instead swoop in and fix (in the coming negotiations over extending the debt ceiling) what ain't broke, which is Social Security and Medicare!
In his speech, Speaker Boehner said that if we "free ourselves from our debt" (read that: reduce the social safety net) our economy will be set free and jobs will come home. Oh the hypocrisy! You know as well as anyone, Mr. Speaker, that most manufacturing jobs are not coming back to America.
Jobs are leaving America because you at the behest of the corporate party passed laws that made exporting jobs incredibly profitable. Congress passed tax laws that are enabling 70 U.S.-based corporations to not pay taxes on over $1.2 trillion in profits around the world.
In his remarks, Speaker Boehner also cites that debt is "draining free enterprise." Corporate profits have never been higher but nor has inequality, a fact you will never hear from the Speaker. Work no longer pays in America. The game is fundamentally rigged and ordinary people who do everything right, who play by rules still end up with the short end of the stick.
But make no mistake the corporate party knows there is plenty of prosperity in America but it's in the hands of the 1 percent. Investors all over the world are plowing into U.S. Treasury bonds, signaling a federal government nowhere near default. CEOs know this, politicians know this and Wall Street investors know this but the media doesn't or at least doesn't understand or acknowledge it and therefore most Americans don't either. I call it media free of fact.
But the reality, Mr. Speaker, one that working Americans feel in their guts everyday, is that since the great collapse -- created by corporate domination of our political economy -- trillions in housing wealth has been lost, millions of families lost their homes to foreclosure, many millions more are underwater, millions remain out of work and over 46 million Americans live poverty. But you and your colleagues continue to play political games at the public's expense and pander to the corporate elite who elected you. But you can change that by overseeing a government that represents all of us -- not just its profit-at-any-cost corporations.