U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) voted against the Budget Control Act of 2011 that was passed by the House today, criticizing the Tea Party for “holding America hostage” and saying the cuts included in the deal would hurt ordinary Americans.
Holt characterized the debate about credit default as a debate between two visions for America.
“One side envisions rebuilding our country, investing in jobs and education and infrastructure, and rising from the Great Recession as a stronger and more resilient nation,” he said in a written statement released after the vote. ” The other side accepts a pessimistic vision of a weakened America with a shrunken government – a nation hampered by deep cuts to the safety net and hobbled by a refusal to invest in our future.”
Holt said in a fair debate, a hopeful vision for America would win out, but that the default debate has not been held on fair terms.
“The Tea Party and their enablers have held America hostage. They have insisted that, unless Congress enacted their radical, ideological agenda, they would force an unprecedented default on America’s obligations and thus trigger an economic collapse,” he said.
Holt said he was willing to support “a balanced, fair deal” if that was what was required to prevent a default.
“Unfortunately, today’s deal is not balanced. It is not fair. Most of all, it is not right,” he said, citing vast cuts in government services that ordinary Americans depend on such as student loans, unemployment insurance, food safety inspections, and highway safety programs.
“These cuts will force layoffs among teachers, public safety officers, construction workers, and more,” he said. “These laid-off workers will, in turn, be forced to pare back their spending at their local grocery stores, drug stores, and small businesses, forcing still more layoffs.”
Holt said the vicious circle threatens to destabilize an already fragile economy.
“We saw in last week’s economic reports that job growth has been choked back by cuts in state and local governments,” he said. “This deal does not help the situation. It hurts the economy.”
Holt said the deal lays the groundwork for another $1.5 trillion in cuts to come, to be negotiated behind closed doors by an unelected super-committee.
“Given that the first round of cuts will have decimated discretionary programs, these later cuts will very likely focus on Social Security and Medicare,” he said. “The citizens who will be hurt most are those who have the least voice in our democracy. After all, when a handful of politicians gather in the proverbial smoke-filled room, the interests of ordinary Americans are nearly always left out.”
Holt argues that the most privileged Americans will be immune from cuts.
“Favored corporate interests, millionaires, and billionaires will continue to receive special tax breaks as far as the eye can see,” he said. “That is not the sort of fair, balanced deal that Americans asked for and expected.”
Holt said he is deeply troubled by the precedent the deal sets.
“The Tea Party and their enablers have, by taking the American economy hostage, transformed a routine budgetary authorization into the most dramatic reshaping of government in decades,” he said. “Today’s deal establishes that government-by-hostage-negotiation is a legitimate, effective way to achieve one’s political ends. I am frightened by what this means for the future of our democracy.”
For in depth coverage on the debt deal, visit politico.com.