Debt default and denial


In this article about the US House Republicans finally starting to get that defaulting on the debt is bad thing, there was this paragraph that explains a lot how we got to the brink of default, and thereby a lot about the modern Republican Party:

The warnings appeared to have softened the views of at least some House members who, until now, were inclined to dismiss statements by administration officials, business leaders and outside economists that the economic impact would be dire if the federal government were suddenly unable to pay its bills.

Think about that: Republicans refused to believe they were causing history’s most easily avoided economic disaster (just raise the debt ceiling or eliminate the stupid thing, and this whole problem goes away) when told this by economists across the political spectrum, only the most doctrinaire conservatives excepted (which says something about them). They wouldn’t believe the Obama administration, they wouldn’t believe “business leaders”, who must not have been the sufficiently right wing business leaders, and they wouldn’t even believe the rump realists among congressional Republicans. They would only believe one of their own who was sufficiently off to the wacky right, Rep. Paul Ryan.

Rational people realized Ryan’s budget plan was either a disingenuous attempt to reduce the government to tax breaks for rich people and law enforcement to protect them, or else the guy just can’t handle math — yet this was the only one they’d believe.

Maybe we should be glad they believed Ryan, because it seems those who tell other Republicans that something they hate isn’t just a liberal plot, but is actually real, the big tent gets a bit too small to keep admitting the RINO. Let’s hope her fellow Republicans stop being intimidated by Bachmann’s adoring hordes and the Bachmann-wannabes in their caucus, because the risks of defaulting are so clear, and so imminent, and thereby so easy to see, that these debt-deniers make the people who think global warming is a hoax look positively rational.

Unfortunately, basic facts can be missing even among rational people.

I’m referring to Jay Kiedrowski, described in the Star Tribune as “a leadership expert at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs”, who appeared to compare Keith Ellison to Michele Bachmann because he objects to cutting Social Security and Medicare:

“You have people who can take positions on the extremes because they are in safe districts,” Kiedrowski noted. “They depend on the majority of Congress to act responsibly so they don’t have to.”

I said “appeared” because the article is written in such a way that it appears Kiederowski is commenting on Ellison and Bachmann. I recognize he might not have meant them, though how he couldn’t have meant Bachmann I can’t conceive, so maybe that was the Jim Spencer’s characterization. Whether it’s Kiederowski or Spencer saying that, he is factually wrong and Ellison is right. Social Security and Medicare aren’t driving the deficit, and cutting them doesn’t help. They have their own trust funds and their own revenue sources. The only way they could drain the treasury is if the trust funds emptied, and the treasury made up the difference between revenues and benefits. Social Security could be made more solvent if not permanently solvent just by lifting the income cap. Medicare’s problem isn’t its own structure, but rising medical costs that plague not just government programs, but private insurance too, not to mention those paying out of pocket.

In other words, just to be really clear, they don’t cause the deficit, and cutting them won’t cut the deficit. The only reason to cut them is because Republicans seem crazy enough to wreck the economy if they’re not cut — yet to either the leadership expert or the reporter, Keith Ellison is the irresponsible one for refusing to give in to a well-dressed protection racket and cut them. It’s like the tea parties are coming around saying, “Hmm, nice economy you got there Mr. Democrat. Be a shame if anything happened to it. But things break, don’t they. Of course, maybe if you hand over your precious entitlement programs, there might not be some unfortunate accident.”

So of course, the person who refuses to pay the thug is the one showing a complete lack of responsibility.