The game of chicken over raising the debt limit continues, with Republicans (and some Democrats) vowing that any vote for it will have to be accompanied by deep budget cuts, and tax increases of any kind will not be considered. If Republicans have their way, there’s only one possible outcome. The social safety net, already badly frayed by the deep recession, will have to be trimmed even further. There’s simply no way to make the deep cuts the GOP is demanding without attacking Medicare and Medicaid, health care programs for the elderly and the poor. Much of the pain could be alleviated, of course, by repealing the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, but Republicans will not hear of it. They stubbornly cling to the fiction that any tax increases (even repealing the oil depletion allowance for oil companies swimming in record profits) will deepen the recession and cost jobs. The inescapable truth, though, is that the most vulnerable among us are being asked to underwrite the increasing income inequality in America, which is already at the shameful levels seen in the Third World. This is all neatly packaged as absolutely necessary deficit reduction, but if the Grand Old Party was really serious it might ask those who can afford it the most to share a little of the pain.