Debt ceiling madness: Standing on the brink of economic apocalypse
There may soon be a deal, and maybe even a "grand" one (or maybe this more realistic one), that will see America's debt ceiling raised. It has to be, if economic apocalypse is to be avoided, but the default deniers in the GOP are resisting to the end and seem to have no problem, probably because they have no idea what's really going on here and what the consequences would be, accepting, as Sen. Jim DeMint ignorantly put it, "serious disruptions" to the economy.
Of course, there wouldn't just be "disruptions." Defaulting would wreak havoc on the economy and on millions and millions of Americans:
If Congress fails to raise the national debt limit by early August, the Obama Treasury Department will have to choose between defaulting on obligations to the country's creditors -- triggering higher interest rates and perhaps damaging the country's credit rating for months and years to come -- or freezing outlays to contractors, entitlement beneficiaries and others who are also expecting prompt payment as well. In either case, the macroeconomic impact will be staggering.
This according to Mark Zandi, Moody's chief economist and former McCain advisor.
Now, if there's no deal, there's another option, a constitutional one:
Last month, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner suggested that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional because of Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which states that "the validity of the public debt of the United States... shall not be questioned." If the Obama administration were to embrace this view, the country could avoid default in the event that the debt ceiling is not raised by the Aug. 2 deadline.
This may not be the preferred option, and it may just be the option of last resort, but what else is there to do when the other party has succumbed to sheer madness?
And mad it is. House Republicans are actually considering filing articles of impeachment against Obama should he end up having to go the constitutional route. That's how wildly disconnected from reality they and their priorities are, how blindly partisan they are, how closed to compromise in the name of any sort of common good they are, how unable or unwilling they are to dealing in any meaningful way with the country's long-term fiscal problems, not to mention the debt ceiling crisis they themselves have created.
Look, there are good reasons to criticize the president. To say the least, he has handled the debt ceiling issue poorly. He seemed (and still seems) to have all the leverage, with Republicans torn between the party's corporate establishment (which understands that the debt ceiling needs to be raised) and the Tea Party (which fervently opposes any compromise on the debt ceiling and will launch a primary challenge against any Republican who violates its extremist demands). Boehner is the one in the difficult position, not Obama. And yet it is Obama who is the one giving in, and who is prepared to give the other side almost everything it wants just to get a deal done. No, not what the extremists want, but certainly what Republicans should be prepared to accept and what would, for them, constitute victory.
Obama has even put Social Security and Medicare cuts on the table. This has justifiably incurred the ire of many liberals, including this one. It appears that Obama is desperate to do a deal -- or, if not desperate, willing to go to great lengths, willing to give up a great deal, to avoid risking a debt ceiling crisis, even if it would be the Republicans to blame for it. (The White House is pushing back against the story, saying that it "overshoots the runway" and that the president wants to strengthen Social Security. But that's awfully vague and keeps everything on the table.)
But, seriously, impeachment? Republican craziness is piling up, higher and higher, at a time when what is needed is maturity and sobriety, a willingness to work for the American people, including for future generations of Americans, by putting aside ideological extremism and working towards a deal that makes sense to both sides.
Yes, Obama deserves to be criticized -- though we'll have to see exactly how much he gives up if and when a deal gets done -- but we mustn't forget that this is all happening because Republicans simply refuse to work constructively with the president and the Democrats, that is, refuse to help govern the country in any productive way. They're such extremists, and so ignorant of what they are doing, that they're taking the country to the brink of economic apocalypse and are willing, it seems, to pull it into the abyss.