Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Debt Ceiling Hostage-Taking Facts

No, it is not remotely like your family budget; no, it's not a fake crisis drummed up by President Obama - fake crises is what repugs do - and no, it's not anything Democratic members of Congress have done, ever. Not once.

Steve Benen at Maddowblog:

First, a little common sense is in order. The right would have us believe that debt-ceiling increases and debt-reduction agreements simply go together -- they're the chocolate and peanut butter of U.S. fiscal policy. But even casual observers might notice an obvious flaw: the debt ceiling has been raised about 90 times over eight decades, and there haven't been 90 debt-reduction agreements over that period. So just on a surface level, we know there's a serious flaw in the argument.

Second, and more important, are the details Republicans choose to overlook. For example, since President Reagan, Congress has approved 45 debt-ceiling increases. How many of them were tied to budget deals? Seven. In other words, over the last several decades, 38 out of 45 debt-ceiling increases were not part of debt-reduction agreements (or any other policymaking measures).

Indeed, we should highlight an inconvenient detail: many leading Republican members of Congress, including a cast of characters that includes John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Mitch McConnell, have each voted for clean debt-ceiling increases unrelated to budget deals.

And third, while Boehner desperately hopes you have a short memory, his references to the 1980s and 1990s overlooks the fact that neither party ever held the debt-ceiling hostage before. Before 2011, the notion of American policymakers threatening to crash the economy on purpose unless their demands were met was considered so hopelessly insane that neither party dared go that far.

Boehner wants to talk about the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton eras? That's a great idea -- let's talk about the fact that Republicans of these eras were open to concessions as part of budget compromises, and never once said they were prepared to trash the full faith and credit of the United States on purpose unless they got their way.

What Boehner wants to present as routine is, as a matter of reality, wholly outside the traditions of the American experiment. He's the first Speaker to ever make this threat, so he should hardly be surprised when President Obama balks at paying a ransom to encourage lawmakers to do what they have to do anyway.

As Jon Chait recently explained, "Part of the confusion is that the debt ceiling used to be an opportunity for the opposing party to denounce the fiscal irresponsibility of the president. On occasion, but not usually, debt-ceiling hikes have been appended onto budget agreements that were negotiated on their own terms. 
What's completely novel is Congress using the threat of a debt default to force the president to make unilateral policy concessions. The conventions of he-said, she-said journalism have allowed this radical development to insinuate itself into the routine backdrop of partisan squabbling."

The Republicans' favorite argument is garbage. Whether they're aware of this or not is unclear, but either way, it's not to be taken seriously.

No comments: