The Astrology of the Debt Ceiling Debate
Where to begin! The United States has held public debt since the Revolutionary War. When taxes do not cover what a government spends money on, it will borrow money from private markets to make up for the deficit, which puts it in debt. Nearly half of US debt today is owed to foreign countries, with China as its largest foreign creditor. Before 1917, every instance of debt was handled separately, but as the United States became involved in the First World War, it needed to become more flexible. It issued “liberty bonds”, or financial securities that people paid into in order to help the war effort, which after a certain date could accrue interest and become redeemable for cash. At the same time, for the first time, the government placed a limit on how many bonds it could issue, in essence creating a debt ceiling, since issuing the bonds put the government in debt to the people who paid into them. Finally under the Public Debt Act of 1939, all governmental debt was formally consolidated under one debt ceiling. Since then, the debt ceiling has had to be routinely raised, virtually annually.
A quick perusal of how politicians vote on this issue unambiguously reveal that their vote is largely contingent on the party affiliation of the president and of the majorities and minorities in Congress. For example, then-Senator Barack Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling when Bush was President, while many Republicans, including Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, repeatedly voted to raise the debt ceiling under President Bush before suddenly developing strong positions against it under pressure from the Tea Party caucus. In other words: politics as usual. However, this never caused much of a problem because no one really dared to actually put the United States at risk of defaulting because it was just wasn’t even an option, the votes were always there to pass it. It was unthinkable because a default could be so damaging to the United States’ immediate and long term financial prospects. Until today. What is unprecedented about the partisan struggle du jour is how close to the deadline they’re cutting it (August 2nd), and how serious some politicians appear to be about actually risking default if they don’t get every spending cut or tax hike they want.
So, what’s going on in the sky?
The Second Liberty Loan Act, establishing the first effective debt ceiling, was signed into law on October 1st 1917 by President Woodrow Wilson. What we notice on this day is that it was very shortly after a full Moon, but it was no ordinary full Moon sinceit was within 15 degrees of squaring the Nodes, which means that it was a lunation midway between eclipses, and thus assumes a special significance and relation to them. The other important point is that this full Moon was square Pluto*** at 5 Cancer, exactly on the Nodes.
Throughout the month of July in 2011 when the US was seriously risking default for not raising the debt ceiling, Pluto was at 5 Capricorn, the exact opposite degree of when the US first established a debt ceiling. That’s hardly all there is to the story though. On January 4th 2011, there was a solar eclipse at 13 Capricorn while Pluto was conjunct the Nodes. 2 days later, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner wrote a letter to Congress reminding them to raise the debt ceiling. Also in early January, the bipartisan “Gang of Six” begin hammering out a long-term deficit deal. Then, nearly exactly six months later during the next eclipse season, there was another eclipse on July 1st 2011 at 9 Cancer, opposite Pluto at 5 Capricorn. 2 days later, Obama and Boehner had their first big meeting to hammer out a grand bargain on deficit reduction, and the Gang of Six talks fell apart. Boehner said the Republicans would not raise the debt ceiling without substantial reductions in government spending. Obama and the Democrats would only agree to certain cuts along with tax increases for wealthy corporations, which the Republicans couldn’t agree to. Even if they passed a “clean” debt ceiling raising bill, international credit rating agencies might still downgrade America’s AAA credit rating without additional action to reduce the debt. Time is running out and the “good” options are dwindling.
What I didn’t clue into at the time of the previous eclipse is how close it was to Independence Day – widely considered the birthday of the United States. This eclipse is probably hitting the transits of July 4th, 1776 pretty hard then. Now, I don’t want to get into the debate of what I think the “correct” chart is for the United States, so for now I will just use noontime, as the time doesn’t affect my observations.
Since the US was heading towards its 8th Saturn Return on its 235th birthday, it was also a Sun-Saturn recurrence transit, one made all the more dramatic because the Sun-Saturn recurrence occurred in the same signs and nearly close to the same degrees as in 1776, AND the Sun had recently been eclipsed. Saturn is probably THE planet of limits, restrictions, debts and taxes, and appropriately the national discussion has focused on a debt limit as well as well as what we have to conserve, cut or tax. Saturn Returns often function in countries as well as in the lives of individuals as times of reckoning and facing responsibilities. Interestingly enough these two periods of US history have Pluto in conjunction and opposition with the US Jupiter, which is interestingly enough, the planet most associated with wealth.
So, what will happen?
Well, I am encouraged by a few things.
- On July 30th there is a New Moon at 7 Leo. The Moon has to pass Venus to get to the Sun, and is also configured in a square with Jupiter. The other reason why the New Moon would be relevant for this situation is that it is the first New Moon since the previous eclipse, and we know that this story might be related to the eclipses. I’m thinking (hoping) that the New Moon’s aspects to Venus and Jupiter foster some cooperation, goodwill, or at least a way out of this mess, as both planets are benefic and restorative.
- As several people have pointed out by now, on the night of the final deadline, Mercury stations retrograde in opposition to Neptune. This could play out a few ways. We know that Obama has had a fairly decent history with Mercury retrogrades from his well-placed Mercury at birth. He tends to benefit from the chaos that surrounds him, and it certainly looks like he will be the one to gain politically, even if he has to use murky legal reasoning (Mercury-Neptune) to bypass a constipated Congress to save the country from default. Unfortunately it may not be enough to stop America’s credit rating from being downgraded, and ultimately the episode has shown the world how ineffective democracy can be. With Mercury retrogrades though, things usually go up in the air, and there is uncertainty (hard to believe how there could be much more than there already is), so even a conclusion to this issue is no guarantee that fighting would stop, a bigger fight might just be beginning.
Just over the horizon, the Venus superior conjunction is coming at 23 Leo on August 16th, although it will be active in the surrounding days as well. The Mercury inferior conjunction will be happening virtually at the same time. So the Earth, Mercury, Sun and Venus will be aligned, in that order. Some people are calling this a big moment for the Tea Party, for better or worse, for their stringent opposition to raising the debt ceiling, and I think there is a big reason for that, and I will be discussing it in an article in the near-future. The Tea Party’s opposition has pulled Boehner back from the brink of agreeing to a historic debt reduction deal with Obama, and has even made the passage of Boehner’s own plan uncertain. Usually natural allies, even the business lobby is at odds with the Tea Party on this issue. The division between moderate and radical Republicans has been made clear. Even McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential candidate came down hard on the House Tea Party Republicans for being unrealistic about their demands. “This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell into GOP Senate nominees“, he said. Kind of ironic for him to say that, since it was he who nominated Sarah Palin to be his VP nominee who became a symbolic figurehead for the Tea Party movement and a template and inspiration for other “Mama Grizzly” Tea Party Republican candidates such as the ones McCain just used to criticize the Tea Party!
***“Pluto?!” you ask. Pluto was officially demoted to a dwarf planet status due to its inability to fulfill the IAU’s third requirement for a planet to “clear its neighborhood”, whatever that means. I was hesitant to continue using Pluto in delineations after its reclassification in 2006, but then I came across Bode’s Law. Essentially, Bode’s Law shows how the distances of planetary bodies from a star are predictable . For instance, if the distance between the Earth and the Sun is divided into 10 equal parts, 4 of those units from the Sun is where Mercury is, 7 is where Venus is, 15 is where Mars is, and so on. It is dismissed as a coincidence by astronomers because Bode’s Law failed to correctly predict the position of Neptune. The weird part is, is that where Bode’s Law predicted where Neptune should have been, was the correct position of Pluto. Neptune and Pluto actually have overlapping orbits, and at times Pluto can actually be closer to the Sun than Neptune, so it isn’t hard to imagine that perhaps Bode’s Law is still on the right track, but incomplete. What this all says to me is that Pluto is in the same category as the other planets, by being part of the Bode’s Law sequence from the Sun. If we do accept this as a new (or additional) rationale for using Pluto though, then in the future we may also have to more thoroughly investigate Ceres, which is also part of the Bode’s Law sequence as the dwarf planet in between Mars and Jupiter.