The debt ceiling fiasco is one of the things our nation does that makes little sense.
We do not seem to like simple solutions and work hard to make things much more complicated. Our absurd number of veto points is another example, but the debt ceiling is so much worse given it puts an entire planet’s economy at risk. Add into that one side that is absolutely not interested in a fair compromise and desire to break things so their Orange Vulgarian God can rise to power once again, and the absurdity only grows.
I am writing this on a Sunday so perhaps things change by the time I write this and the Republicans come around to reason and then Donald Trump cures cancer. Right now, none of that seems very possible.
The debt crisis is a crisis that Republicans created because we let them do it. The game is simple: Create a crisis, blame Democrats for it because they are “unreasonable,” and then “solve the problem.” Actually, that is a bit outdated, because the new version of the game is to wreck the world economy if they do not get what they want.
The Republicans are assisted in this effort by many in the DC media, who at best are framing all this in a profoundly naive manner, and at worse are purposely helping the GOP. It is shocking to watch unfold. From the link above:
But this might be a good occasion to point out the other big mistakes that have brought us to this point. Namely, those of the political media, who can rightly be said to have spent the last decade botching their coverage of the debt ceiling, mainly by failing to speak one plain truth: We keep getting dragged to the brink of default because the GOP has become a gang of extremists. This is villainy—their villainy—and the media has let them off the hook by treating this psychosis as all part of the natural order.
Over at New York, Jonathan Chait (not for the first time) runs down the most recent spate of examples that indicate we’ve already slid down a slippery slope: Here’s an unchallenged contention in The New York Times categorizing the debt ceiling standoff as “the ordinary stuff of politics”; there’s Jake Sherman blithely declaring that in “modern times, the debt ceiling is raised with negotiations.” (The American Prospect’s David Dayen has a deeper dive into Sherman’s particular brand of malpractice in this regard.) This is misinformation—or at the very least, it omits the most critical fact of all. As Chait writes: “These arguments conflate negotiation, which is historically common in debt-ceiling bills, with extortion, which isn’t.”
That the media cannot keep what is and what isn’t a “norm” straight in their head is the venial sin embedded within their debt ceiling coverage. The mortal sin is that the media has essentially conferred on the Republican Party the right to regularly stage these extortions. Imagine what would happen if the shoe was on the other foot—that a Democratic-controlled House majority was threatening to push the country into default unless a Republican president consented to a massive increase of the welfare state. It’s hard to imagine journalists referring to liberal hostage-taking as merely “the ordinary stuff of politics.”
It is a spectacular misread to view this as anything other than extortion, and it feels like another turning point for our awful modern political saga. Biden likely will have to do something extraordinary to get around this. Whether that is wielding the 14th Amendment or Minting the Coin is difficult to say.
Using the 14th Amendment would be especially delicious given it is one of the three Reconstruction Amendments (13th, 14th, and 15th) so there would be the added troll factor, given Republicans these days seem to pine for the Antebellum times. It would also be controversial but as Garrett Epps at Washington Monthly says, let’s bring this old law school argument into real life. Biden should do it and then tell the Supreme Court what’s what.
As for negotiating with them, that has not worked and in fact, has had the opposite effect.
NEW — Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill say negotiations are going in the wrong direction. They say republicans’ demands keep going further to the right.
Me, @bresreports and @heatherscope
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) May 20, 2023
I have no idea what is actually going on in the Biden White House, so I am withholding judgment on whether there has been a strategy misstep here or they are setting a trap for the GOP. That much is unclear. Biden has set traps for the GOP before, such as in the State of the Union Address when he called them out on cutting Social Security and Medicare.
I do not think that the political fallout of any so-called unconventional move will hurt Biden all that much. I do not buy that the majority of people care a lot about procedures. Biden also has a lot of ammunition to use in any speech to point out that he is being the reasonable one, and the GOP cretins are the unreasonable ones. This thread by Washington Post writer Catherin Rampell outlines the level of unreasonable GOP-ness quite well:
What’s in this supposedly commonsense bill McCarthy is demanding in exchange for not destroying the global economy?
Here’s my handy guide, for those interested in the substance of the legislation and not just political gamesmanship. 🧵
— Catherine Rampell (@crampell) May 16, 2023
The debt ceiling is only a problem when a Democrat is in the White House. It is invented. The Republican Party is overrun by radicals who want to burn everything down. McCarthy is the Speaker of the House based on promises to wreck everything, and the people he made these promises to are not stable. That is the reality.
To anyone who thinks Biden cannot do anything “drastic,” some food for thought. If we are in a car on a clear highway and I purposely swerve suddenly off the road for no reason, that is radical and trying to stop me from heading into a ditch makes you reasonable.
If we are on the same highway and we suddenly come upon an exploding, burning fuel truck and I attempt to swerve off the road to avoid the fire and you try to stop me from swerving because you are worried about the ditch, then you become the radical. We are at such a moment.
The last word goes to The Who: