Playing Chicken

There’s a Gallup poll out saying that 47 percent of Americans are opposed to raising the debt ceiling. 17 percent are in favor, and the rest say they don’t understand the issue well enough to have an opinion.

What the poll doesn’t tell us is how many of those opposed have any clue what the debt ceiling issue is about. Skim through the comments section of just about any rightie blog post on the debt ceiling — and some leftie ones as well — and it’s painfully obvious that most of the commenters believe Congress is arguing about a vote to raise the debt. And they are opposed to raising the debt, so they are opposed to raising the debt ceiling.

I don’t watch television news as much as I used to, so I have no idea if any of the bobbleheads are even attempting to explain what the debt ceiling issue really is about. I assume Rachel Maddow has taken a stab at it, because it’s the sort of thing she does really well. But my impression is that most people in this country aren’t even being exposed to basic explanations of the issue. They just hear “debt” and “raise,” and they’re agin’ it.

Republicans are demagoguing the debt ceiling issue for all they are worth. Obviously, the plan is to get congressional Dems to cave to at least some changes in Medicare, Social Security, etc., and they’re holding the nation’s economy hostage to do it.

Steve Benen:

Look, this is so obvious, it usually goes unsaid, but it’s important to understand. McConnell and other Republicans are eager, practically desperate, to make major changes to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security — changes that the public won’t like. What the GOP needs more than anything is bipartisan cover. They want Obama to make it so, to use McConnell’s word, this isn’t “usable” in the next election, because if Republicans tried to do this on their own, the electoral consequences would be severe.

That leaves Republican leaders with two choices to get what they want. Option #1: the GOP can agree to some tax increases and Pentagon cuts as part of a grand bargain with Democrats. Option #2: the GOP can threaten to destroy the economy, on purpose, unless Democrats give in to Republican demands on entitlements.

Guess which one the GOP prefers?

This really is a game of chicken.

15 thoughts on “Playing Chicken

  1. I’m thinking about raising leeches as health care resources (livestock) for when Medicare and Medicaid tank as a result of shenanigans such as you describe here. May have to be black market leeches, but oh well. I’m sure there will be plenty of demand given the lack of other affordable options. *sob*

  2. The only funny thing about any of this is that the money boys who usually back the GOP, have already told them not to mess around with this, and not to even get close to the deadline. The Republicans are poking their biggest benefactors in the eye. And they are pissed at the Republicans.
    And the Democrats know that.
    But of course, like the petulant children they are, when told to do do something, Republicans are trying to see what they can get in extortion from Mommy and Daddy by threatening to kill the whole neighborhood if they don’t get what they want.
    Now here’s the way this ought to be played:
    Democrats should say firmly, “NO!”
    Let the Republicans demand, “I want, I want, I WANT! Gimme! Gimme!, GIMMEE!!!”
    Say “NO” again.
    Let the Republicans shriek, “I hate you, I hate you, I HATE YOU!!!”
    And send them to bed without their supper.
    Believe me, the money boys will be all for that. They won’t even care if the Democrats spank them, just so long as the money train stays on tracks.

    But, knowing my Democrats, they’ll give in to these petulant shits, and give up something that they didn’t have to, because they don’t know how to play this politics game.
    Republicans come to a game of “GO FISH!” armed with an AK47.
    Democrats come to a gun fight carrying playing cards.

  3. I know I’m oversimplifying, but the problem with losing a game of chicken is that you’ve handed your opponent the key to winning every future game. Who knows where the games will end? The loss of Medicare would translate into a shorter life span and a huge jump in bankruptcy for the elderly. This would quickly reach across the generations and “our children” would get to yard sale what little they did inherit to pay their parents medical bills and eventually their own.

    It’s hard to imagine an event that would be more destructive to the American family than the loss of support for the elderly and infirm. With The rest of the Randian/”conservative” agenda, it seems like a very rapid transition to a society resemblng the worst of the third world with a sizable and growing underclass and an even greater concentration of wealth at the top. Collective bargaining and workers’ rights would be dim memories. I am sure there would be more “surprises” in store.

    I evidently am not in the most rational frame of mind, but, as they say, “It’s better to die on your feet, than live on your knees.” We can’t lose this game at ANY cost.

  4. Well said, thanks. I can hardly add anything except that this is an accurate distillation of the matter, exposing an extremely dangerous charade that relies on attempts to trigger a wrong-minded gut reaction and to extract gain for a few from the misfortune and suffering of many. Once the charade has been denuded, disdainful values, or lack thereof are exposed. I do like the chicken and hostage-taking analogies which seem apt. Apparently others are noticing too.

  5. Playing chicken is an obvious metaphor, but I’m not sure if it’s quite right. At least, if the Republicans are playing chicken, it’s not the Democrats that they’re playing with. After all, in a game of chicken either player has the option of swerving at any time to avoid the collision, no harm done.

    But there isn’t really a swerve option for the Democrats, since the concessions the teabaggers are demanding in exchange for raising the debt ceiling would be just as devastating as not raising the debt ceiling.

    It’s more like we’re approaching a concrete wall at 100 mph and the Republicans have a death grip on the steering wheel. And they’re telling us they’ll only let go if we all agree to shoot ourselves.

  6. Child rearing 101? Why doesn’t Boehner just go to his room and hold his breath until he dies?…then we’ll all be sorry for not loving and understanding poor little Johnnie enough…

    Where is Felix Rohatyn when we need him the most to emcee this upcoming political theather?

  7. Its just another scare tactic that the repugs use so much to scare the American people. The orange man knowes exactly what will happen if the stupid repugs, which I understand is alot of em, do not raise the debt ceiling, he needs to scare them instead of the American people, and tell them exactly whats gonna happen.

  8. Not raising the debt ceiling has serious international ramifications. But, stupid Americans can’t grasped their Fox News heads around this.

  9. I like your comment about the public hearing “debt” and “ceiling” and liking it. The GOP has used that pattern well. Dems need to move away from their nerd tendency to analyze and start asking “do you want to default on US debt?”. Another observation I just read on Firedoglake: Mitch McConnell said that working together meant not being able to campaign on the issue. That eliminates the democratic process; not that Mitch cares.

  10. “”Puritanism – the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” –
    — Henry Mencken

    “Republicanism is the fear that someone, somewhere, who isn’t a filthy rich oil magnate, might be getting some benefit from the Government, no matter how meager”.–Me. OK, way less eloquent.

  11. Here’s the bottom line of the statistics (47% oppose raising the debt ceiling 17% favor). Americans are woefully uninformed. There is a silver lining to this cloud of stupid. Voters are VERY accessible at an EMOTIONAL LEVEL!

    This has to be a central part of our strategy – reaching the voter at a gut level. There are a lot of gut level issues and they can pay off in November elections.

    Pardon me for being graphic but there’s an expression that covers it. “Get ’em by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow.” It’s fine for us bloggers to be cerebral – but that”s not how you sell cars or win elections. You sell cars by adorning them with a pretty girl – you win votes by stirring the base emotions of hope and fear.

  12. Doug,
    Unfortuntely, there’s not much to hope for from the Democrats* while at the same time there’s a great deal to fear from the Republicans.

    *Except squishy corporate centrism. But that’s far better than the R’s.

  13. Pingback: The Mahablog » Why Do Righties Hate America?

  14. One has to wonder about the sanity of too many Americans these days. There’s a bunch of them out here who believe that Obama is the anti-Christ because the number 666 was the winning lottery number in Illinois while he was running for president. And these people are being asked whether the debt ceiling should be raised or shouldn’t be raised???

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