Thursday, May 17, 2012

Because It Went So Well, Republicans Want to Redo Debt Ceiling Armageddon

It's rare that I see a ploy so cynical and misguided that it almost leaves me blubbering in a state of combined disbelief / anger / incredulity / cynicism / sadness / lots of other bad emotions, but Republican House Speaker John Boehner accomplished it yesterday.

This is me, right now.

Boehner gave a speech in which he said:
So last year around this time, I accepted an invitation to address the Economic Club of New York.   I went up there and said that in my view, the debt limit exists in statute precisely so that government is forced to address its fiscal issues. 
Yes, allowing America to default would be irresponsible. But it would be more irresponsible to raise the debt ceiling without taking dramatic steps to reduce spending and reform the budget process.
We shouldn’t dread the debt limit.  We should welcome it.  It’s an action-forcing event in a town that has become infamous for inaction. 
That night in New York City, I put forth the principle that we should not raise the debt ceiling without real spending cuts and reforms that exceed the amount of the debt limit increase.  
From all the way up in Midtown Manhattan, I could hear a great wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Over the next couple of months, I was asked again and again if I would yield on my ‘position,’ what it would take, if I would budge…
Each and every time, I said ‘no’ … because it isn’t a ‘position’ – it’s a principle.   Not just that – it’s the right thing to do.
When the time comes, I will again insist on my simple principle of cuts and reforms greater than the debt limit increase.  This is the only avenue I see right now to force the elected leadership of this country to solve our structural fiscal imbalance.
Wow ... just ... wow.

This is such a SELF-EVIDENTLY AND PROFOUNDLY STUPID IDEA that I barely have the ability to contain myself to type out a semi-intelligent response, as I'm pretty sure that even hearing an idea that stupid has lowered my intelligence - though only temporarily, I hope.

Let's see ... how many ways is this idea stupid ...
So, the Republican Congress is yet again proving that it is full of crazy people and it's led by someone who's willing to act like a crazy person, even though I'm pretty Boehner isn't as dumb as he's currently acting.

But why is Boehner acting so crazy?

Because (on the bright side, as I explained in November) the Congressional Republicans have painted themselves into a corner. While they succeeded in extracting some serious spending cuts in order to raise the debt ceiling last time, many of those spending cuts come from the defense budget, starting on January 1, 2013. Republicans had been hoping to simply undo those cuts without paying for them, but thus far, Obama has said he won't allow them to do it. Second, the Bush tax cuts are set to expire ... on January 1, 2013. The combination results in $6 trillion in deficit reduction, distributed far more progressively than any proposal ever advanced by either the Democrats or Republicans, since half of the spending cuts come from military spending, and increased revenue outmatches spending cuts by a 3:1 ratio.

This is a situation the Republicans are desperate to avoid, so they're using the only tool left in their box - a gun, held to the head of the American economy, and they're threatening to pull the trigger in early 2013 when the debt ceiling needs to be raised again, if they don't get their way.

(I will note that this is more than a little hypocritical, as the Republican's own proposed budget doesn't meet Boehner's own demands. When someone pointed out this out to him, he responded in typical Republican fashion by saying that the rules Republicans impose on Democrats don't apply to Republicans.)

I hope Obama has the good sense not to try to negotiate with the Republicans this time. Instead, Obama should invoke one of the many options available to him to abolish the debt ceiling entirely, either by law or in practice:
No matter what happens, this episode confirms the fact that one of the two major parties has been taken over by ideological extremists bent on imposing their policy agenda regardless of the harm they cause to the poor, the middle class, the elderly, the sick, the environment, and the American economy in general. And those aren't my words - they're the words of a conservative American Enterprise Institute scholar.

It's almost enough to make me start looking for jobs in a country where the leaders aren't crazy. However, Europe's economic policy has been even worse than America's as of late, so I'm not sure where that leaves me to move to - I'm not going to subject myself to the whims of any country that isn't fully democratic. So, where does that leave ... South America, perhaps? Any suggestions?

P.S. As I said a couple of days ago, I'll be traveling until after Memorial Day, so no new posts until then. Check out the archives, and have a good couple of weeks!

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