A not so clever move in a broken political game
Jul 30, 2011

A not so clever move in a broken political game

Previously: A clever move in a broken political game

Unlike a couple weeks ago, the Aug 2nd deadline really, really, is approaching fast. There was a time when playing empty political games to try and win a bit of public opinion was, perhaps, even logical. That time has now passed. Instead of getting serious or even pretending to get serious, Republicans have spent a week on utter nonsense while the Democrats did not much of anything, even explicitly making reference to the need to wait for the House Republican proposal to work itself through.

The proposal the Republicans worked on and finally passed was dead in the water. Obama has repeatedly promised to veto any legislation that punts the problem with a temporary extension and then round two (or three) of these shenanigans before the next election. But it wasn't going to make it to Obama because the Senate Democratic leadership had vowed to kill it there and so they did; it took all of two hours after passing the House to die in the Senate. The rational for not allowing a short term extension is very valid, by the way, because a) this is just a silly procedural thing, they can easily work on long term problems regardless of the debt ceiling in the next six months and b) if the political system is this screwed up right now, it is hard to imagine that in election season they could ever do anything that is not just pure political gamesmanship.

The reason the bill took so long to pass in the Republican controlled House is because the Republican leadership had difficulty getting the Tea Party caucus minority to actually agree to this nonsense; not because it was nonsense, but because it didn't go far enough. In response, the Tea Party was thrown a symbolic bone: a constitutional amendment to force deficit neutrality was added. Please. Leave alone the silliness of such an amendment, leave alone the difficulties in getting a large plurality of states to ratify it, this is obviously going to get insta-killed in the Senate and insta-killed by presidential veto if not killed in the Senate. It only makes a bizarre kind of sense being included when one realizes the inevitability of the bill being killed regardless; when that is the case, you can add whatever silly extra to appease political subunits that you want. As great as an inter-party leadership squabble is, John Boehner doesn't even need to worry about the Tea Party right now. He can pass a bill palpable to mainstream Republicans and Democrats in the House. Baring oddities like presidential fiat via fourteenth amendment or an up/down vote, this is the only path forward. Who cares what the Tea Party caucus thinks, they are irrelevant in passing meaningful legislation and are only relevant when passing irrelevant legislation like this nonsense they spent the last week on.

All this should be kept in the context that there is no debt crisis, per say, just a political one. The debt ceiling has been raised over seventy times since 1960, by all presidents multiple times. Reagan, the political hero of the right, raised the debt ceiling 17 times for a total debt increase of 199%, far more than Obama. There is no market movements that raise into question the sustainability of US debt, interest rates are low, and buyers of bonds are plentiful. It is pure politics. And in the face of the Euro debt crisis which is a real crisis and determined by legitimate issues with the debt and the market reaction to them, it is an insult to the Euros to pretend this is a debt crisis.

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