Debt ceiling crisis: blame the mainstream debt scolds

Nice post from Chait yesterday explaining the huge mistake many deficit hawks made in treating the Republican party as an organization that actually cares about reducing deficits:

The failure to understand the crisis we were entering was widely shared among centrist types. When Republicans first proposed tying a debt ceiling hike to a measure to reduce the deficit, President Obama instead proposed a traditional, clean debt ceiling hike. He found this position politically untenable for many reasons, one of them being that deficit scolds insisted that using the debt ceiling to force a fiscal adjustment was a terrific idea, and that connecting the deficit debate to a potentially cataclysmic financial event was the mark of seriousness.

Alright, I do a lot of quoting of my favorite bloggers, surely you skim over some, but this next bit from Chait is a good a summary I’ve seen of the current state of the politics of economic policy.  Read it:

The political assumptions here turned out to be badly wrong. The main problem is that the Republican Party does not actually care very much about the deficit. It cares about, in order: Low taxes for high-income earners; reducing social spending, especially for the poor; protecting the defense budget; and low deficits. The Obama administration and many Democrats actually do care about the deficit and are willing to sacrifice their priorities in order to achieve it, a desire that was on full display during the health care reform debate. Republicans care about deficit reduction only to the extent that it can be undertaken without impeding upon other, higher priorities. Primarily “deficit reduction” is a framing device for their opposition to social spending, as opposed to a genuine belief that revenue and outlays ought to bear some relationship to each other.

Boehner for Boehner

The evidence at this point would seem to indicate the John Boehner’s first priority is saving his speakership.  Everything else is secondary.  Understandable, but given the circumstances, clearly the actions of a very small man.  I caught a bit of his speech yesterday afternoon and it was almost 100% fabrication.  He was basically lying the whole time.  Sure, politicians lie in speeches, but this was truly breathtaking.  Clearly, he was counting on journalists not calling him out on things which were simply empirically not so (my guess is he was right on this).  First, Chait:

The basic problem is this. Lifting the debt ceiling requires a bill that’s acceptable to 217 members of the House, 60 Senators, and President Obama. The easiest way to get a bill like that would be to write something that passes the House with maybe 10-20% of House Republicans supporting it, and the rest of the votes coming from Democrats. Unfortunately for Boehner, such a scenario would probably result in House Republicans kicking him out of his job. So we’re stuck relying on a vote coalition containing most of the House GOP caucus, which means relying on people who are extremely reluctant to raise the debt ceiling or to compromise at all.

So basically, we’re risking mass financial havoc so that… John Boehner can remain as House Speaker

And Ezra (with a fabulous analogy):

Lately, Boehner has not been governing. What should have happened Friday is obvious: Having failed to pass a conservative resolution to the debt crisis without Democratic votes, he should have begun cutting the deals and making the concessions necessary to gain Democratic votes. That, after all, is what he will ultimately have to do anyway, as whatever he passes will also require the approval of the Senate and the president.

But Boehner went in the opposite direction. He made his bill more conservative. He indulged his members in the fantasy that they wouldn’t have to make compromises. It’s as if Pelosi, facing criticism for dropping the public option, had tried to shore up her support by bringing a single-payer health-care bill to the floor. Even if that would have pleased her left wing, what good would it have done her? Her job was to prepare her members to take a vote that could lead to a successful outcome. Pretending that that outcome could be far further to the left than it actually could be would ultimately make her job harder.

And that’s exactly right.  Here’s the Post’s news report:

The House GOP leaders offered party members a reworked plan Friday morning designed to appeal to arch-conservatives…

Seriously??!!  At this point and he thinks its time to make the most extreme members of the House GOP caucus (and that’s saying something!) happy?!  What a truly appalling failure of leadership.  I used to think that Boehner and I disagreed, but that he actually cared about the welfare of the country.  Maybe he does care about the welfare of our country, but he clearly cares a lot more about the welfare of John Boehner.

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