Through July 2011 global markets teetered as one attempt after another to avert a first-ever default by the US government failed, due to the intransigence of a conservative Tea Party congressional minority which refused to compromise on legislation to raise the US debt ceiling, allowing for further borrowing.
In fact, Tea Party members were very forthright in expressing their view that, in agreeing to discuss any raise in the debt ceiling at all, they were already compromising, insisting that any increase they may approve be matched dollar-for-dollar with spending cuts.
As the August 2 deadline neared, after which the US would be unable to meet its financial obligations to service its debt and pay Social Security benefits, veterans healthcare benefits, Medicare/Medicaid costs, worker’s salaries and troop pay, several international credit rating agencies threatened to downgrade the US’ AAA bond rating if a compromise was not reached, an act which would raise interest rates and smother an already anemic financial recovery.
After months of wrangling, in the last two days the powers that be in Washington finally crafted a plan that pleased no one, but which passed both Houses and was signed into law by President Obama with just hours to spare before the financial apocalypse. Republicans held a firm line on tax hikes, or even revenue increases from the closing of tax loopholes, and won $1 trillion in immediate budget cuts, with another $1.5 trillion in cuts over the next ten years to be determined by a bipartisan commission, in exchange for a $2.4 trillion rise in the debt ceiling. The only concession given to Democrats was the size of the increase, which enables the fractious issue to be tabled until early 2013, after the next presidential election.
The celestial backdrop for the confrontation was transit Pluto in Capricorn opposed the natal US Venus/Jupiter conjunction at 3 and 5 Cancer, a pairing of planetary energies which governs the nation’s fiscal health, wealth, income, finances and investments.
The Pluto opposition began in March 2009 and continues through November 2011, a period which saw a deepening of the economic malaise which has gripped the country, with high unemployment, a weak housing market, low consumer confidence and a sluggish economy.
Venus/Jupiter in the US chart is also an invitation to play politics (Jupiter) with finance (Venus), and with the opposition from Pluto focusing the nation on the issue of its foreign debt (in mundane astrology, an Eighth House/Scorpio/Pluto matter), the Tea Party chose a confrontation over raising the debt ceiling to flex its new Washington muscle and gain concessions they could never have won in a straight vote on the issues, without holding the nation’s economic future hostage.
But within this broad Plutonian framework, asteroids worked their spell, defining not only the particulars of the times, but identifying even the major players in the debt ceiling debate. Asteroids America and Pandora have been traveling together since the spring of 2011, focusing Americans on the plethora of ills and troubles (Pandora) released by Pluto’s pounding on the chief financial indicators of the US chart.
After months of playing celestial tag, the two finally conjoined exactly at 13 Leo on July 15, at the height of the debt ceiling negotiations and conjunct Obama’s natal Sun at 12 Leo, bringing the President to the fore. In the final month before the deal was reached, Obama took his case to the people, via the airwaves, on multiple occasions, from press conferences to televised prime time speeches, urging compromise and fairness, pleading the necessity of revenue increases as part of a complete package of deficit reduction.
All the while asteroids America and Pandora moved closer and closer to opposition to Damocles, representing the doom that hangs overhead unheeded, an opposition that became exact on August 2, precisely as time ran out and the new debt ceiling was passed.
And just as asteroid America’s travels described the national mood and circumstance, asteroid Washingtonia defined the political landscape at the nation’s capital. In company with asteroids Sisyphus and Niobe in early Scorpio, and forming a T-Square with asteroid Hybris in Aquarius and Jupiter conjunct asteroid Karma in Taurus, these celestials portray an atmosphere of repetitive, try-and-try-again, ineffective efforts (Sisyphus, doomed to forever roll a rock up a hill in Hades, only to have it roll down again, necessitating endless repetition of the action) hampered by pride (Niobe), arrogance (Hybris), and the effects of past actions (Karma) on our political (Jupiter) discourse and decision-making processes.
These energies ably depict the long hot summer of discontent in Washington, with repeated failed attempts to reach some resolution which would prevent financial disaster for the ship of state, coming to grief on the reefs of Tea Party arrogance and GOP leadership pride.
It was only when Hybris backed off into late Capricorn and out of orb of the T-Square as July wore on, allowing a partial retreat of arrogance from the situation, that progress began to be made. When the deal was finally cut, Washingtonia at 7 Scorpio still conjoined Niobe at 8 Scorpio and Sisyphus at 0 Scorpio, opposing Karma/Jupiter at 8 and 9 Taurus.
The determining factor? A timely arrival of a Sun/Venus conjunction in square to this tense stand-off from 10 and 6 Leo, adding a flavor of conciliation and compromise (Venus) while highlighting and illuminating (Sun) the disastrous probable effects of Washington’s continued delay and intransigence.
As if this were not enough, asteroid House has been running with Mars since early July, exacerbating the tensions and divisions in the House of Representatives, typically the birthplace of legislation in the US, and currently the governmental stronghold of the Tea Party movement.
The House Tea Party Caucus has only 60 members, barely a seventh of the 435 US Representatives and just a quarter of the Republican majority, but commands a disproportionate level of influence on national policy, with more moderate GOP members running scared and supporting Tea Party goals in fear of future primary challenges from their extreme right.
Speaker Boehner’s early attempts to reach a more broad-based agreement [Ed. note: see Alex’s Galactic Profile of Speaker Boehner here], including larger spending cuts in exchange for increases on the revenue side, were routinely sabotaged by House Tea Party members and their champion, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Cantor is technically Boehner’s Number Two, but a far from reliable lieutenant.
Mars/House continued to show itself in confrontation after confrontation throughout July, spreading anger and resentment (Mars) throughout the GOP ranks in the House of Representatives (symbolized by asteroid House), until coming to conjoin at the same degree on August 1, just as the agreement was reached.
The major players in the drama were well represented in the skies as well. The most visible proponents of both sides in the debate have been President Obama and Speaker Boehner. Since early spring, when budgetary issues began to heat up generally with the April release of the GOP’s 2012 budget plan crafted by Paul Ryan, asteroids Barry (for Barack Obama, the name by which he was known in youth) and Johnny (for John Boehner) have been traveling within five degrees of each other, indicating a level of enmeshment borne out by the frequent discussions between them throughout this period.
Barry was leading until their May 23 conjunction, when Johnny moved ahead; the pair were still just three degrees apart when the debt ceiling deal was inked, but Johnny in the forefront after late May symbolized the increasingly backward stance of the President, seemingly outgunned by the Speaker at every turn, though circumstances (and celestial proximity) forced them to continue to operate in tandem. Their May 23 conjunction fell at 10 Leo, the exact degree of the Sun when the deal was finally cut.
As June waned into July, the two seemed to be working together compatibly, forging a “grand bargain” in the $4-5 trillion range to resolve the issue well into the future. However, continued dissent in the GOP rank and file over even the most limited augmentations on the revenue side caused a rift, and on the night of July 9, as asteroid Johnny moved out of Leo and into Virgo, creating a dissonance by sign between them, Boehner walked out of negotiations with Obama, signaling that the grand bargain was not to be.
A more modest proposal in the $2 trillion range began to be discussed shortly after, but another hitch occurred July 13, when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) sneeringly walked out of deficit talks with Obama, stating “I think behind this notion of ‘We want shared sacrifice’ that they continue to say means, ‘We want to raise taxes.’ … We are not raising taxes, so it has to be net revenue neutral.”
At the time, a near perfect Yod, or Finger of Destiny, had formed in the sky, with TNO Eris, named for the Greek goddess of strife, discord and dissent, at its apex at 22 Aries, with inconjunct aspects to asteroids Eric at 22 Virgo and Cantor at 21 Scorpio, aptly relating the Minority Leader’s contentious attitude.
Just the day before, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had offered a back-up plan in case the negotiations fell through, a complicated legislative trick that would allow the debt ceiling to be raised without majority GOP support. Essentially, Obama would request the increase, Congress would reject it via a “resolution of disapproval,” which Obama could then veto, and the measure would pass unless Republicans could come up with a two-thirds majority to override the veto.
Asteroid McConnell at 27 Pisces on July 12 was forming a Grand Trine with asteroid Reid (for Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Majority Leader, who concurred with the plan) at 26 Cancer and asteroid Mitchella (for Mitch) at 26 Scorpio. McConnell was also at the Apex of another Yod, with inconjuncts to Barry at 28 Leo and Sisyphus (try, try again) at 29 Libra.
Vice President Joe Biden also played a crucial part in the negotiations. Beginning in early May, bipartisan talks headed by the Vice President attempted to find a way out of the impasse, but by late June, Republicans walked away from the table, citing the continued Democratic insistence that revenue increases be a part of the overall deficit reduction package.
However, in the final days, Biden was brought back in, and it was his decades of experience working with Congress and the relationships he had forged there which made an invaluable contribution to the compromise. Biden’s pivotal role and personal power are depicted by asteroid Josephina (for Joseph) at 5 Cancer for the passage of the bill, exactly opposed powerhouse Pluto at 5 Capricorn and trined asteroid Washingtonia at 7 Scorpio, smoothing the way between the opposed camps.
In an interesting aside, the House’s passage of the bill on the evening of August 1 saw the return to Capitol Hill of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords, shot through the head not seven months prior by a deranged constituent. Giffords, whose recovery has been phenomenal, determined that the vote was too important to pass up, and came to Washington to display bipartisan spirit in voting for a bill which, though fatally flawed in Democratic eyes, was deemed in the best interests of the American people to avoid certain catastrophe. That evening asteroids Gabriella and Gifford at 1 and 3 Scorpio reflected Representative Giffords’ return, appearing in conjunction with Washingtonia.
When the bill was passed in the Senate at 12:42 PM EDT August 2, 2011, opening the way for the legislation to become law, Senate Majority Leader Reid’s lead role in its adoption was symbolized by asteroid Reid at 3 Leo, conjoined not only the 2 Leo MC, but also the Venus/Sun conjunction at 6 and 10 Leo which made conciliation possible. Reid fell in square to Sisyphus/Washingtonia/Niobe, which at 0, 7 and 8 Scorpio were conjoined the 27 Libra Ascendant, with Karma and Jupiter opposed at 8 and 9 Taurus, just past the 27 Aries Descendant. Also angular were Hybris (arrogance leading to disaster) and Icarus (rash, reckless actions, heedless of the consequences) at 25 Capricorn and 1 Aquarius, conjunct the 2 Aquarius IC, and fractious, divisive Eris at 22 Aries on the Descendant.
Together these well describe the likely effects of the legislation, which cuts spending vital to the health of the struggling economy. Perhaps most telling is an exact conjunction of the transit Moon with asteroid Apophis at 19 Virgo, Apophis named for the ancient Egyptian personification of pure evil, and the Moon representing the people, many of whom will be harmed by the proposed cuts in social spending.
Senate Minority Leader McConnell is represented by asteroid McConnell at 28 Pisces, opposed asteroid Eric (for House Minority Leader Eric Cantor) at 29 Virgo, and forming a T-Square with the Mars/House conjunction at 29 Gemini.
Asteroids Barry and Johnny are still conjunct, at 7 and 10 Virgo, with Barry exactly sextile Washingtonia and exactly squared asteroid Panacea (the solution or remedy for difficulties or ills) at 7 Sagittarius, with the pair opposed to Chiron at 4 Pisces, symbolizing mortal wounding.
Barry is also exactly conjunct asteroid Requiem, the funeral mass for the dead, and in tandem with its opposition to Chiron and the ineffectiveness portrayed by the President in this crisis, one has to wonder, is this the end for Obama, a fatal misstep from which his presidency will be unable to recover?