A Three-Month Extension on the Budget Ceiling: Institutionalizing Crisis Mode

January 18th, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Two points leading to two conclusions:

First, as I said before, and Paul Krugman said today, as far as the actual numbers go, there’s no need to be in fiscal crisis mode.  It would take $1.4 trillion to stabilize the debt-to-GDP ratio over the next decade, which in functional times would not be a particularly heavy lift.

Second, breaking news from Politico tells me this:

House Republicans will vote next week on a plan to raise the nation’s debt ceiling for three months…

Put these two points together and you come to one of two conclusions.

One, the R’s recognize that the debt ceiling must be raised, a victory of sorts against those who would use the threat of default as leverage.

Or two, the House Republicans would like us to lurch from manufactured fiscal crisis to manufactured fiscal crisis on a quarterly basis.

Re one, OK…I guess.  But what a terribly cramped view of success.  Sure, I’ll feel better if I stop banging myself on the head with a hammer, but is that much of an accomplishment when there are real problems with which I should be dealing?  Is “we won’t breach the debt ceiling and default for at least three months!” a substitute for “we’re putting a bunch of unemployed people to work repairing the nation’s failing public infrastructure“?

So I lean towards conclusion two: I can only conclude that these men and women want to signal to America and the rest of the world that:

–they are incapable of functional governance that includes meeting spending obligations; bills, btw, that Congress already signed off on;

–while whining about uncertainty in markets, they are intent on greatly amplifying uncertainty;

–they’re not at all concerned about the debt, because revisiting this crisis quarterly is likely to lead our creditors to insist on an interest rate premium when they buy our bonds, adding to our debt burden;

–permanent crisis mode is critical to their slash and burn agenda.

Both conclusions are valid, and–despite the fact that this idea would almost surely die in the Senate–there is evidence that grown-up R’s are trying to figure out how to achieve compromise while dealing with their radical wing.  But it’d be a whole lot better to put down the head-banging hammer and get to the real work.

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2 comments in reply to "A Three-Month Extension on the Budget Ceiling: Institutionalizing Crisis Mode"

  1. Nick Batzdorf says:

    It’s definitely a victory, but my knee-jerk reaction is that the Republicans are setting a trap: look at how those irresponsible Democrats voted not to raise the debt ceiling.

  2. R. Nemo says:

    The House Republicans are just trying to get out of the trap they created for themselves. But they cannot. Essentially it is all lose, lose for them. There is no upside. Each cycle Obama says no. Each cycle they look like bigger fools. Especially if it takes Dem. votes to pass; and tea baggers vote NO. If you only get 80 Repug. votes to raise the debt ceiling–Bonier looks like a 3 time loser.

    I am enjoying the show!