“The President’s speech today will be viewed by terrorists as a victory,” said Chambliss, who recently golfed with the president, in a statement. > more ... (1 comments)
Ezra Klein is conducting a debate with a couple of people (including Jon Chait) who argue that the president should set aside the debt limit as an unConstitutional limit on the authority of the Treasury. Ezra opposes such a move:
No one is worried that the American government doesn’t have the financial capacity to pay its debts. Any default would be temporary, and the result of political jockeying. But what would potentially devastate the markets is a process that suggests they’ve misunderstood the strength of the American political system, that suggests we can’t reliably do easy, obvious things like paying our bills and thus won’t be able to do harder, more challenging things like fixing our health-care system. And that’s when the market begins wondering if we really will be able to cover our debts later, and that’s when they begin charging us higher borrowing rates and diversifying into other currencies. [...]
But that confidence is, I suspect, largely dependent on this debt-ceiling fight looking pretty much like past debt-ceiling fights. So long as bond traders are calling their political fixers and hearing reassuring things about how they’ve seen this before and this is just how Washington works and there’s no way that Boehner and Obama won’t come to a deal before Social Security checks stop going out, they’ll give us time to work it out.
He goes on to argue that the uncertainty over the legal ramifications could cause instability on the market:
“Yes, the first round of debt-ceiling negotiations failed, but we always knew that was likely to happen. Now we’re moving to a fairly predictable second round. Bond rates aren’t spiking. The market hasn’t been caught by surprise and forced to dramatically reassess its confidence that this will ultimately be resolved. Now’s not the time to overturn the chess board.”
I think this is a reasonable argument, and I’d agree that now is not the time to actually abrogate the debt ceiling. However, let’s think about the situation. Republicans have taken a position that a debt default isn’t such a bad thing, that it’s just another thing to be used as leverage to get the sorts of cuts they like. Increasingly, they’re arguing that any revenue-raising elements at all are off-limits. As usual, they want a “compromise” that just gets them everything they want. Assuming they are going to stick to these stances–which they possibly might not, but I honestly have no idea and neither do you–then you have a scenario that’s all too familiar these past few years.
This is ultimately a question of strategy. Broaching the “Constitutional Option” now would be a mistake, admittedly. However, hinting at it, keeping it open as a possibility, doing the preparatory legwork to enact it as a last-minute fait accompli in order to forestall a default if the talks fail, is not only prudent, but good politics as well. It would change the trajectory of the debt negotiations considerably by removing much of the Republicans’ leverage, and the cost would be pretty minimal. Sure, the bond vigilantes might have a cow, but I suspect that they’d prefer it to a default. And doing it at the after the talks fail at the last minute would probably make court action against it impossible, since no judge is going to want to make a ruling that immediately causes another recession.
Now, it’s entirely true that ignoring the debt ceiling would expose how dysfunctional our political system has become, the toxic degredation of partisanship and the rise of ignorance. That could hurt US credit in the bond market. But Ezra baffles me here. Who are we fooling? Given how our political system has operated over the past decade, I’m not sure our bonds merit a AAA rating at this point. If it takes GOP-enabling Wall Street bondholders losing their shirts to get this hammered home, that’s just how it goes.
I feel I have to talk about this opening sentence:
The first 10 minutes of the documentary “The Undefeated,” a film about Sarah Palin, features a spate of celebrities saying disparaging things about the former Alaska governor.
I’m not angry about this so much as just completely baffled. I’m not nearly famous enough to merit a documentary about me. But if I did, I’m pretty sure I would not start it with ten minutes of people talking about what an incompetent asshole I am. (Which is not to say they would or anything.) If I had a choice, I’d probably prefer to start it with people saying positive things about me. Or to let me speak for myself. I know Palin is little more than a resentment manufacturing machine who would likely lose her home state to Obama and has no future in politics, but this is just weird even if you’re going for that.
I’m not sure if most people know about the work Michael Deaver did for Ronald Reagan during his presidency. In short, if you hate the expectation that the president is supposed to be this bombastic superpatriot cheerleader whose every word, gesture and action is supposed to be an epic and grand moment, Deaver’s the one you should blame most for it. Anyway, I remember hearing a story about him after he died. It was about a time when 60 Minutes did a very critical piece about Reagan’s presidency (I know! Hard to believe, right, given how universally adored and worshiped right-wingers would have us believe he was). The piece ran, it was as tough as can be, but shortly afterward Deaver called up the reporter on the piece (I believe it was Lesley Stahl), and personally thanked her for running the piece. Stahl was incredulous, but Deaver explained that while the words were critical of Reagan, CBS had just showed images of Reagan walking onto aircraft carriers, giving speeches, and waving to crowds for eight minutes, and that people would emotionally respond more to images than to what was said about him. I think he was right.
So, what does this have to do with Palin? Well, it’s the same psychological nuance in play, only this time it would cut against Palin. It’s one thing to seize on a quote from Keith Olbermann and David Letterman, remove it from its context, and use that as proof that the left hates Palin. But to show contextualized rants against Palin for such a long period of time…I understand the idea she’s going after here, to show how much the elites hate her. But I’m guessing Mike Deaver would advise against it is all I’m saying.
And I have to point out this truly wonderful, almost-Rovian moment of projection:
“What would make someone be so full of hate? … This is the first that I’ve seen much of that. It kind of takes you back,” [Palin] told THR. “It makes you want to reach out to some of these folks and say, ‘What’s your problem? And what was the problem? And what is the problem?’”
The Sixth Circuit has ruled in favor of the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. One of the judges who joined in the opinion was a George W. Bush appointee. More impressive a result to me than a retired district court judge making sweeping Constitutional judgments based on ideological web videos, which was sort of what happened with the last go-round.
I think what bothers me in this debate is that it’s a theoretical debate disguised as a legal conflict. The notion that the individual mandate is forcing people to buy insurance is a rhetorical coup but nothing more. Laws are practical applications of shared principles, that’s it. So, if the principle is that everyone should have health insurance, and there are people who can afford to but choose not to, saying that it’s not okay to voluntarily opt out is an entirely valid application of the law. After all, if they don’t, it’s the rest of society that’s on the hook for their well-being. Conservatives used to say they agreed with the underlying principle, and supported things similar to the ACA in Massachusetts, as well as the defunct Wyden-Bennett bill. They’ve since decided they don’t agree that everyone should be insured. Fair enough. But the reasoning they use here is necessarily stupid. A number of conservatives don’t like the minimum wage on the principle that the market ought to determine wages. But an argument that the minimum wage is unConstitutional on the principle that it forces businesses to pay workers a certain amount of money would never succeed because pretty much everyone agrees that the Commerce Clause lets the Federal Government set such a wage, they’ve been doing it for decades, and there’s a bunch of precedent behind it. This is not even remotely a legal question, it’s a question of priorities and principles. So, right-wingers mostly just grumble about it, occasionally try to fight against laws and ballot propositions that raise it, and fail even in red states like Montana and Arkansas. Now, obviously, these situations are not exactly the same. But with the minimum wage, it’s treated purely as a difference in principle, not a legal battle. Which I’m okay with. But for HCR, conservatives have set in motion a legal battle which is basically that they don’t like the principle behind the mandate. Okay, so a lot of people on both sides of the spectrum believe that stuff should be illegal because they dislike it. But lawyers should know better, and it’s good to find a conservative one who still does.
The first time this cycle a politician has gotten busted for using a song without permission. You’d think they’d learn to pick up a phone and ask eventually, but I guess not. Anyway, while I understand the sentiment she’s going for, the lyrics reveal that American Girl is actually a melancholy song about a girl who leaves home for a boy with a headful of hopes, loses him, and finds herself alone and depressed at the end, standing alone on her balcony as the cars go by. Not exactly the sort of narrative that politicians want to put forward, but as with Reagan and “Born In The USA” by Bruce Springsteen, politicians generally figure that one on-the-nose line is enough. In that case, I have a recommendation for Bachmann’s next campaign song:
Oh, and I can hear the complaints from right-wingers already about how liberal singers won’t let them use any songs. Well, might I recommend the catalog of Ted Nugent, and…did Mike Love do any solo work apart from the Beach Boys? Pretty sure he was a Republican. Oh, wait, how about this?
Okay, that might be the the most awesomely terrible combination of bad lyrics and a horrible singer ever in the world. BUT HE’S DEFINITELY RIGHT-WING (though the song is a little hippyish for today’s GOP, I guess).
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