At this point, it’s clear that congressional Republicans are not going to vote to raise the debt ceiling unless the Democrats sign off on one of their lunatic schemes to kick the rest of the props out from under the economy in exchange for keeping one prop intact.
Will Democrats, at long last, cave to Republican blackmail to avoid default? I can’t predict what they will do, but if I were a Democrat in Congress I’d say no. Because, first, the policies Republicans want as payment for their vote would be about as damaging to the country as default. And second, it would be political suicide. (Note that even if Dems choose to offer something based on Nancy Pelosi’s plan, I doubt the whackjobs will take it.)
A couple of law professors argue in the New York Times that the President should use the constitutional option — not necessarily based on the 14th Amendment — and raise the ceiling himself. I understand the President has expressed great reluctance to do this, although he hasn’t ruled it out. There doesn’t appear to be a clear consensus among constitutional scholars that he has the authority to do that.
And if he does do it, frankly, I think he’d take a huge political hit for it. I can think of about 97 different ways the Right could demagogue such a unilateral presidential action to death. And they’d get away with it because Americans would have been spared the effects of default.
The real disease that has infected the nation is not runaway debt but right-wing extremism. The debt itself is just a symptom of that. I recently came across a 2009 essay by Thom Hartmann that does a nice job explaining how Reaganomics paved the way for the the economic calamities of our time. Most of you already know all this, of course. But I think this sums it up:
After just the first decade of Reaganomics, we went from being the world’s largest exporter of manufactured goods to being the world’s largest importer; we went from being the world’s largest creditor to being the world’s largest debtor.
And U.S. economic policy ever after has been more or less run according to Reaganomic rules, not Keynesian rules. The exceptions were some of Bill Clinton’s policies that sweetened the economy for a time. But for the most part the “solutions” Washington comes up with to respond to any economic problem is to double down on the policies that caused the problem.
And with the current crop of looney-tune right-wing extremists standing in for Republicans in Congress, think quadruple-down. It’s like they’re trying to prevent forest fires by filling forests with dry twigs and lit cigarettes.
Let’s face it: Until most of the extremists are run out of government, we’re just going to be bouncing from one unprecedented economic crisis to another, and every “solution” will make the United States poorer and more dysfunctional than it was before.
We’ve already gone too far down that road to have any hope of restoring the U.S. as the dominant economic powerhouse it was in most of the 20th century. We’ll be doing well to remain an average first-world industrialized nation, economically speaking.
Americans on the whole are not learning any lessons. The Pew Forum came out with a survey saying that the GOP is making gains among poor whites and young whites, two groups who should be fleeing Republicans like bats out of hell if they had any idea what is really going on. I agree that Dems haven’t done enough to earn their loyalty, but for the young and poor of any color to give their support to the Republican Party really is the sheep giving support to the wolves.
So I say let the damn shoe drop. Let all the consequences be felt. And if Americans remain stupid enough to return the whackjobs to Congress next year, never mind turn the White House over to them, then I’ll say the fight is over. America is done. But if there is any chance the bitter medicine could flush the nutzoids out and send them back under their rocks for a couple of decades, I say let’s take it.