Optimism on the Debt Ceiling?

Debt Ceiling CartoonSome people are very worried about the Debt Ceiling crisis. I am one of them. I’m finding it very hard to think of anything else. But there are a lot of people out there who are trying to comfort us all with rosy deconstructions of what’s going on in Washington. Greg Sargent’s Morning Plum had the cheeky title, The Debt Ceiling Is the GOP’s Problem. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. The implication here is that all this hope that Obama will stand strong on the Debt Ceiling is a bunch of happy horseshit. We’ve seen Obama draw lines in the sand only to later cross them in—What?—ever negotiation he’s ever been in. But hope does indeed spring eternal for all of us out here who are terrified that this is all going to end badly.

Think about a game of chicken for a moment. Two cars speed towards each other and we see which one swerves first. Or we watch a high speed head-on collision of the two cars. Consider the situation if the two drivers have played this game many times before with the same driver always swerving. But this time, that driver claims he absolutely is not going to swerve. There are three possibilities. The least likely possibility is that the other guy will swerve this time. Slightly more likely is that the same old guy will swerve. And the most likely possibility is that there is a high speed head-on collision with lots of collateral damage.

Obama is the guy that has always swerved.

So that’s where we’re at. But Sargent’s article does include some hopeful information. Politico reported this morning that half the House GOP membership is prepared to cause the government to default. On its face, this sounds bad: half the GOP is crazy. But I already know that. These numbers indicate that if Boehner doesn’t follow the “Hastert Rule,” which stops him from allowing a vote on anything that doesn’t have majority support of his caucus, there is no problem. The Democrats and a hand full of Republicans will vote to raise the Debt Ceiling. End of story. So “Good news, everyone!”

Along the same lines, Jonathan Cohn reports that the White House explicitly abandoned the platinum coin option to put more pressure on the Republicans. There is some sense to this. If the White House claimed that it was prepared to use this option, the media would have reported it as he’s crazy, she’s crazy. But all this talk of leverage doesn’t really make any sense. The Republican Party is crazy. Their position seems to be if they can’t get everything they want, what is the point of being in Congress. It is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Jonathan Chait is similarly on the case, but he seems a little more concerned than the others. The truth is that we really don’t know what is going to happen. The time for this confrontation has come. But he pointed out a nice irony with the Republican position:

It’s also noteworthy… that Republicans consider the budget deficit so massive and urgent as to be worth provoking economic disaster, but not urgent enough to consider accepting higher revenue as part of a compromise. The fiscal status quo is worse than a potential global meltdown, but even slightly higher revenue is worse than both.

But as I’ve written before, even more than crazy, the Republicans are immature. Their behavior makes all the sense in the world if you put it in the context of a grammar school playground.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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