With the so-called "fiscal cliff" more or less behind us, right-wing conservatives are furiously trying to frame the upcoming "debt ceiling" and "sequester" battles to their advantage.
But you don't need to get suckered by their attempts to deceive you. Here's what you need to know about these upcoming battles to cut through the right-wing spin.
1. House Republicans, by threatening not to lift our debt ceiling, are holding our economy hostage.
Since they failed to extract draconian benefit cuts in the last fiscal deal, Republicans in the House are threatening to refuse lifting the debt ceiling -- a tactic that could spell ruin for our fragile economy.
Republicans tried this dangerous move in the summer of 2011, and our nation's credit rating was downgraded as a result. If they try it now, and single-handedly force our country to default on its loans, the outcome could be a global economic disaster.
Failing to raise the debt ceiling does not lower our government debt; all it does is prevent us from paying the bills we already owe.
2. We must continue to stand against any cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits while ensuring that defense programs bear a fair share of spending cuts.
Protect crucial benefits
Benefits for recipients of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security should not be on the chopping block in debt talks.
Social Security is not part of the regular federal budget and has no business being included in any discussions about lowering the debt created by the rest of government.
Medicare and Medicaid can both be improved, but it makes no sense to squeeze costs out of these health care programs, only to see them either piled onto the backs of current beneficiaries, or shifted to private sector health insurance.
Make defense programs bear a fair share of scheduled spending cuts
Meanwhile, the Pentagon's budget has mushroomed over the past decade and more, its appetite fed by two expensive wars and by the sanctified status defense spending has come to have on Capitol Hill.
The larded-up Defense budget, stuffed with benefits for contractors who fork over large contributions to political campaigns, is in desperate need of trimming -- from the continued expense of a military operation in Afghanistan that should be ended quickly, to the wildly expensive F-35 fighter plane.
3. The debt ceiling is entirely separate from the "sequester."
The United States will reach our debt ceiling in about two months. At that point, if the ceiling is not raised by law, the nation will no longer be able to pay all of its obligations.
Around the same time, automatic spending cuts, called the "sequester" that were part of the last debt ceiling deal, are scheduled to begin.
These deadlines are nearly simultaneous, but they're entirely separate -- so don't be fooled by Republican attempts to use them as a single package to push for benefit cuts.
None of our upcoming fights will be easy. But prepared, we can take them on -- and win.
With the "fiscal cliff," we proved once again what we can accomplish together, as Progressives United members took over 100,000 actions to successfully make the wealthiest pay their fair share while avoiding cuts to crucial benefits in fiscal talks last month.
Our community must be organized to succeed in the coming months, and our best weapon is people like you armed with the knowledge to make a difference.