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“The Double Play Game”: Do Republicans Believe In Their Own Crisis?

You would think Republicans would be the ones trying to scare the country about the imminent expiration of the Treasury’s borrowing authority. After all, they’re the ones trying to use the debt ceiling (and the government shutdown) as leverage to get their way on policies that would be laughed out of Washington at any other moment.

The leverage only works if the country is really worried about the potential economic catastrophe that would result from a failure to lift the ceiling. In the Republican fantasy, that would pressure Democrats to end health care reform, cut spending on entitlements and say farewell to all their liberal dreams.

But instead, the reverse is happening. It’s Democrats who are warning the country about the unimaginable consequences of default, and many Republicans who are minimizing it.

This phenomenon could be seen last week at the beginning of the shutdown, when right-wing lawmakers started pooh-poohing the effects of a closed government. Fox News called it a “slimdown,” and several House members said less government might be good for the country. Now, 10 days before (a potential) Default Day, several House members are deriding the notion that it would be a very big deal.

Senator Tom Coburn, flatly contradicting the clear explanation from the Treasury, said the country would continue to pay its interest and redeem bonds, so why worry? Mick Mulvaney, a congressman from South Carolina, repeated the well-known canard that the Treasury could prioritize its payments and that there would be no default.

And Ted Yoho of Florida, who is quickly replacing Steve King and Louie Gohmert as the congressman to whom reporters flock for the jaw-dropping quotes so beloved by Twitter, said that not raising the debt ceiling would actually be beneficial.

“I think we need to have that moment where we realize [we’re] going broke,” Mr. Yoho told the Washington Post. “I think, personally, it would bring stability to the world markets.”

If you think that remark is not only detached from reality but also utterly aberrant, take a look at the Pew Research poll that came out today. It shows that 54 percent of all Republicans (and 64 percent of Tea Partiers) believe the country can go past the debt-limit deadline without causing major problems. In that sense, Mr. Yoho better represents his party than Speaker John Boehner, who claims to believe that default would be terrible, but is nonetheless demanding concessions in exchange for preventing it.

That the very people who are causing the crisis are dismissing it shows the double game that’s being played here. Republicans don’t want the country to understand how big a threat they are posing to its well-being. A growing number of Americans already blame them for the whole mess, as the same poll shows. If people truly understood how bad a default would be — if they understood credit markets and interest rates, and how they would be affected by the global loss of faith in Treasury bonds — the anger would be much greater, and Republican control of the House would be threatened.

In the cynical game of spin and messaging that this crisis has become, the goal is to scare Washington Democrats while keeping ordinary people calm. It’s not working, though — Democrats have correctly refused to be intimidated, while businesses and average Americans are growing increasingly nervous. As they should be.

 

By: David Firestone, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 7, 2013

October 11, 2013 - Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Default, Government Shut Down | , , , , , ,

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