This is not only incredibly arrogant of Bill Kristol, it’s also completely wrong.
To govern is to choose. To vote is to choose. To vote against John Boehner on the House floor this week in the biggest showdown of the current Congress is to choose to vote with Nancy Pelosi. To vote against Boehner is to choose to support Barack Obama. It is to choose to increase the chances that worse legislation than Boehner’s passes. And it is to choose to increase the chances that Obama emerges from this showdown politically stronger. So when the Heritage Action Fund and the Club for Growth, and Senators Vitter, Paul, et al., choose to urge House Republicans to join the Democrats to defeat Boehner, they’re choosing to side with Barack Obama.
No, the opponents of John Boehner’s “I’ll cut a little bit now and maybe a little bit more maybe at some point perhaps in a possible future maybe” plan have not sided with Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi.
They’re siding with fiscal reality. One could argue that ratings agencies like Moody’s and Standard and Poors are being unusually prickly with their demands, but it is undeniable that we have to at least take their requirements seriously. What are the requirements? Simple:
First, S&P writes that unless there’s a credible $4 trillion deal within the next three months, they will downgrade us. By “credible,” S&P explains, they mean a plan that will actually be put into place (i.e., not one where the tax increases happen but not the spending cuts). Not $2 trillion, not $1 trillion, but $4 trillion. And it has to be credible…
Second, the door is left open for raising the debt ceiling without a deal, but not without conditions: The negotiations leading to the debt-ceiling increase have to make it clear that a $4 trillion deal is coming within the next three months.
If Republicans do not have the political will to insist that Washington, DC act responsibly with money that is not their own, and it appears they do not, then they should at least use the downgrade threat as a substitute spine until they can grow their own.
The issue here, folks, is not a victory quarter-lap. It’s not who backs down whom nor which party gets to put a couple chalk tallies in the “win” column. It’s about whether our country has a financial future that doesn’t involve a tin cup and a sandwich board. It’s about a government that consumes so much that the “savings” to next year’s budget in the Boehner plan that Kristol so adores would disappear down its gaping maw in just five and a half hours. That is the only issue that matters to me and I don’t particularly care what sort of heavy-handed or flat-out dirty tricks the GOP has to pull to get us a real plan with real savings (hint: start here and negotiate to half).
To quote Firefly, “Here’s how it is…”. There has never been a better opportunity in my lifetime to stop the heretofore inexorable growth of government than we have right now. All the pressure is on the President. His big-money campaign donors are starting to sweat the default, so much so that he’s reportedly send them perfumed letters of consolation and reassurance. If the Republican Party can’t bring its very best political game now, with so dire a fiscal situation right in front of us, then it has all the wrong people in Congress and we might as well start cleaning house. It’ll take us at least 12 years to get a whole new team in place. The sooner we start, the sooner we’ll be done. Sure, the country will likely be a complete shambles when we get there but that’ll be entirely our fault for letting things go so wrong for so long. At least when we’re done, we’ll have cleaned up the mess so our kids and grandkids won’t have to later on.
(And unless there’s a major change in the course of the debt ceiling talks, I don’t imagine writing another post like this on the subject. I’m pretty much done with it, and I imagine you’re tired of hearing about it from me).
UPDATE: Michelle Malkin asks, essentially, why we should care about ratings agencies that haven’t been all that accurate over the past decade. It’s a good question and I agree with her that we shouldn’t use Moody’s or S&P as our polestar. However, it is true that any debt deal with enough cuts and long-term, enforceable limits on the size of government to make them happy would be overwhelmingly good for us. It’s also true that the ratings agencies themselves still have a “brand” that the public recognizes and which Republicans can use as another weapon against Democratic intransigence. If nothing else, Democrats can hide behind the excuse “Well, we didn’t want to cut as much as we did, but Moody’s wouldn’t accept anything less!”. The Democrats did noe hesitate to built default up as a real threat to try to get a half-baked tax increase from Republicans (and I also agree with Michelle that it’s not quite that much of a threat). Republicans can, and should, turn that same threat on Democrats, and multiply it by the power of a spending cut demand from the selfsame ratings companies the Democrats used to build the threat in the first place.
Later on, Boehner and McConnell (or whoever is leading the House and Senate at that point) can reveal that they merely used the Democrats’ own ruse against them and talk all the smack they want about how wrong Moody’s and S&P have been. For now, though, their reports can help. Might as well use them.
UPDATE 2: More from Michelle. The upshot is that this is pretty much a done deal,whatever the deal is. Really, the numbers aren’t all that important. Boehner’s deal was never going to include substantial budget cuts because John Boehner doesn’t believe the government should do anything but grow larger. The deal was never going to tie the debt ceiling increases to real spending limits because the rank and file of the Republican Party still relies on spending increases to get themselves re-elected. What I find truly nauseating is the wave of haughty dismissal from the GOP leadership and their fans among the internet commentariat toward those with even a spark of Tea Party fight in them. Again, Republicans have decided it’s more important to beat down the wills of fellow conservatives than to batter away at Harry Reid and Barack Obama.
Category: The Economy and Your Money