Conservatives and Republicans have completely lost their minds about the debt ceiling

Go outside and play, children. Grown-ups are trying to govern.

There was a time when a handful of legislators could cast a political protest vote against raising the debt ceiling in this country and it didn’t make a bit of difference because, at the end of the day, everybody knew that the majority of lawmakers, including Republicans, would vote to raise it. They have to. They are paying for things they have already spent money on. Barack Obama did this as a Senator in 2006 and admits now that it “was just an example of a new senator making what is a political vote as opposed to doing what was important for the country”.

But what’s happening now is completely different. Republicans and conservatives are actually contemplating defaulting on the bills we owe. And that changes everything.

Make no mistake, this is about refusing to pay for things we have already spent money on. President Obama put it perfectly several times in a press conference yesterday:

The debt ceiling is not a question of authorizing more spending. Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize more spending. It simply allows the country to pay for spending that Congress has already committed to. These are bills that have already been racked up and we need to pay them.

So while I’m willing to compromise and find common ground over how to reduce our deficits, America cannot afford another debate with this Congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they’ve already racked up.

If congressional Republicans refuse to pay America’s bills on time, Social Security checks and veterans’ benefits will be delayed. We might not be able to pay our troops, or honor our contracts with small business owners. Food inspectors, air traffic controllers, specialists who track down loose nuclear material wouldn’t get their paychecks. Investors around the world will ask if the United States of America is, in fact, a safe bet. Markets could go haywire. Interest rates would spike for anybody who borrows money — every homeowner with a mortgage, every student with a college loan, every small business owner who wants to grow and hire. It would be a self-inflicted wound on the economy. It would slow down our growth, might tip us into recession, and ironically, would probably increase our deficit.

So to even entertain the idea of this happening — of the United States of America not paying its bills — is irresponsible. It’s absurd. As the Speaker said two years ago, it would be — and I’m quoting Speaker Boehner now — “a financial disaster, not only for us, but for the worldwide economy.”

So we’ve got to pay our bills…And they better choose quickly, because time is running short. The last time Republicans in Congress even flirted with this idea, our AAA credit rating was downgraded for the first time in our history; our businesses created the fewest jobs of any month in nearly the past three years; and, ironically, the whole fiasco actually added to the deficit.

He’s exactly right about the impact of the last debt ceiling game of chicken the Republicans tried to play. Have a look at now-legendary “Bikini Graph” from The Maddow Blog’s Steve Benen:

The red arrow marks May 2011 when Speaker John Boehner started the “absurd” talk about reneging on our country’s financial obligations.

Here are a couple more graphs from Bloomberg.

This one shows that same job growth data a bit more clearly:

Here is the consumer confidence data from Gallup:

When President Obama says the Republicans are threatening to throw us back into a recession, he’s not kidding. Just the threat of it nearly did in 2011 and we have the data to prove it.

The stupidity being displayed on this issue by conservatives is breathtaking. Redstate.com’s Erick Erickson actually seems to believe that the federal government won’t stop paying the bills, as if some magical fairy will flit down, sprinkle some pixie dust and all will be well except that Barack Obama won’t be President anymore:

I am in favor of not raising the debt ceiling unless the President and Democrats come up with meaningful spending cuts and reforms.

Contrary to a lot of the Democrats’ spin, the federal government will not default if the debt ceiling is not raised. Only if Little Timmy Geithner decides to not pay certain debts will the government default. It is his choice.

By the way, when you resort to calling administration officials things like “Little Timmy Geithner”, you disqualify yourself as a serious pundit. CNN, please take note of this.

The website Business Insider’s piece “The Republicans Are Already Making Some Terrifying Comments” is aptly titled:

[A] new report fro Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei paints a picture of a House caucus eager to go past the brink, if that’s what it takes to force spending cuts.

Some of the lines from the report include:

– “The idea of allowing the country to default by refusing to increase the debt limit is getting more widespread and serious traction among House Republicans than people realize.”

– “Republican leadership officials, in a series of private meetings and conversations this past week, warned that the White House, much less the broader public, doesn’t understand how hard it will be to talk restive conservatives off the fiscal ledge.”

– “GOP officials said more than half of their members are prepared to allow default unless Obama agrees to dramatic cuts he has repeatedly said he opposes”

Not all of the commentary is off the record.

For example:

“For too long, the pitch was, we’ll deal with it next time,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a conservative from Utah. He said GOP lawmakers are prepared to shut things down or even default if Obama doesn’t bend on spending. “No one wants to default, but we are not going to continue to give the president a limitless credit card.”

This is exactly what happens when political novices are elected to Congress. They are handed a heavy responsibility and seem to have absolutely no clue what to do with it or how dangerous it is for them to handle it incorrectly. For the sake of the U.S economy and the sake of the world economy, we had better hope they get a clue.

Let’s let President Obama give it another shot, again from yesterday’s presser:

I just want to repeat — because I think sometimes the American people, understandably, aren’t following all the debates here in Washington — raising the debt ceiling does not authorize us to spend more. All it does is say that America will pay its bills. And we are not a dead-beat nation. And the consequences of us not paying our bills, as I outlined in my opening statement, would be disastrous.

The President seems disinclined to negotiate with Republicans at this point and, given the results of the November 2012 election, it’s clear he has a mandate not to do so. Here’s how he put it yesterday:

Republicans in Congress have two choices here: They can act responsibly, and pay America’s bills; or they can act irresponsibly, and put America through another economic crisis. But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy. The financial well-being of the American people is not leverage to be used. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip. {…}

What I will not do is to have that negotiation with a gun at the head of the American people — the threat that “unless we get our way, unless you gut Medicare or Medicaid, or otherwise slash things that the American people don’t believe should be slashed, that we’re going to threaten to wreck the entire economy.” That is not how historically this has been done. That’s not how we’re going to do it this time.

Republicans would be wise to understand that if we go off this cliff, and this is the true fiscal cliff in terms of what will happen to our economy, it will not be President Obama that Americans will blame. They may hope that Americans are too stupid to know who is putting our country at risk. But they are wrong.

We have a job to do in 2014 and that’s to put people in charge who actually have a clue and aren’t willing to trash our country’s position, economy and reputation simply to make some ideological point. It’s time to send the children back home.

[CC image credit via Pixabay]

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  • kirke123

    according to the constitution the congress does not have the right to stop payments for funds already approved. however the pubs are making this an additional spending problem.
    the president must pay bills and has the constitutional right to do so, and even with this conservative court, the constitution speaks loudly.

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