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When conservatives inevitably attempt to extract concessions from Democrats in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, it will almost certainly be portrayed in the traditional press as a case of Republicans getting what they want (cuts to earned benefit programs) in exchange for something Democrats want (an increase to the debt ceiling.)

However, Greg Sargent and Jamelle Bouie do a good job of explaining why that framing of the situation is so unreasonable. Refusing to raise the debt ceiling doesn't prevent the government from spending money or increasing the deficit. The government won't shut down as a result. Failing to raise the ceiling simply means that the government cannot pay out on obligations it already took on. Those obligations include not only payments to foreign creditors, but also to domestic bondholders as well. Social Security and Medicare recipients would fail to receive their checks, federal employees would fail to be paid, and the full faith and credit of the United States would be called into question by our own Congress, thereby doing more damage to the economy than any ratings agency downgrade. None of this should be treated as a matter of political negotiation, nor was it ever considered a matter for partisan negotiation until very recently. Failure to increase the debt ceiling doesn't hurt Democrats or Republicans--it hurts the entire country and the world economy.

What that in turn means is that when Republicans attempt to extract concessions from Democrats in exchange for raising the ceiling, it won't be a matter of political negotiating but one of blatant hostage-taking. Worse, it will be hostage-taking in order to enact conservative priorities that just recently failed in the marketplace of ideas that was the 2012 election. Republicans hold the House due to gerrymandering, but well over a million more voters preferred Democratic House candidates. And as a matter of pure politics, the hostage drama takes on an even darker dimension. As with the fiscal cliff deal, it's entirely likely that whatever regressive legislation makes its way out of the hostage negotiations will be voted down by a majority of Republicans as being inadequately conservative, forcing Democrats to shoulder the burden of cutting Medicare and Social Security. That in turn will be gleefully used by the Republicans to run against those same Democrats in 2014. When the realities are taken together, this situation becomes less a matter of political partisanship than a matter of partisan piracy.

But even all of this misses a crucial point that Sargent and Bouie don't directly address: the fact that the spending Republicans already authorized but are unwilling to actually pay for includes federal disbursements made for conservative priorities. After removing the distorting effect of capital cities, Republican Congressional districts received an average of $111 million each from the stimulus. It was Republicans who supported the insanely expensive invasion of Iraq (a majority of Democrats voted against it.) It was the Republicans, obviously, who supported George Bush's budget-busting tax cuts. It was Republicans who primarily pushed for the radically expensive expansion of the boondoggle-filled homeland security apparatus. One of the many reasons that red states tend to be recipients of more tax money than they pay in is the large numbers of military bases in red states, which are themselves part of a big-government jobs program. Republican states and big ag contributors are the primary recipients of farm subsidy federal largesse, and the same goes for big oil subsidies. It's also worth noting that the sort of military and big corporate subsidy spending preferred by Republicans (to say nothing of tax cuts) does far less to stimulate the economy than does the stimulative sort of spending on the poor and middle class preferred by Democrats.

In short, Republicans have already raided the federal treasury for a huge portion of the money they simply refuse to pay the bills for now, choosing to pretend the issue is a matter of Democratic spending. This is not dissimilar to when Ronald Reagan exploded the deficit with tax cuts and military spending, forcing Bill Clinton to take steps to balance the budget while Republicans blamed Clinton for fiscal excess.

In this respect, the Republican position is to go on a massive spending spree, quit their jobs by decreasing revenue, and then threaten to throw the bills they racked up into fire unless their spouse stops feeding the kids.

There may be words for that sort of political philosophy, but it scarcely deserves to be called "conservatism."

Cross-posted from Digby's Hullabaloo

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Comment Preferences

  •  Republicans Have This Strange Dance They Do (5+ / 0-)

    which is if they want to cut taxes they say it will increase revenue.

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 04:12:11 PM PST

  •  social security and Medicare recipients (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ferg, nextstep, VClib

    aren't creditors.  as a legal matter, we don't have to pay them.  ditto for payments on executory contracts.  ie, there are a lot of payments we could not make without running afoul of the obligation to pay on our obligations.

    •  Living in a first world country is so over rated (0+ / 0-)

      A standing army is like a standing member. It's an excellent assurance of domestic tranquility, but a dangerous temptation to foreign adventure. Elbridge Gerry - Constitutional Convention (1787)

      by No Exit on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 05:05:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  All of the ambien in the world and I still (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Youffraita

    wouldn't be able to sleep if any part of my character remotely resembled the shameless assholes that call themselves republicans.
    As an agnostic I can say with utter confidence that if there are demons I know exactly who they are and what they look like.
    Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...;-|>

    "We're right in the middle of a fucking reptile zoo! And somebody's giving booze to these goddamn things!"-Hunter S. Thompson ;-)>

    by rogerdaddy on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 04:25:02 PM PST

  •  So ... if Republicans don't raise the debt ceiling (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slothlax

    and the nation defaults on its Treasury obligations, does that mean that congressmen who refused to raise the debt ceiling can be prosecuted for issuing fraudulent securities?

    Just a thought. :)

    •  They'll claim "it's Obama's fault!" (0+ / 0-)

      That's their standard go-to line for EVERYTHING they choose to paint as "bad for America"...

      Help American return to sanity - vote the GOP OUT OF the House Majority and reduce their numbers in the Senate in 2014 elections. America requires Democratic action in order to survive!

      by dagnome on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 05:30:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  quaoar - the US will never default (0+ / 0-)

      There is more than enough revenue to always pay interest on the debt and to pay maturing Treasury securities. Anyone who suggests that the US will default on its Treasury obligations is using a scare tactic. It will never happen.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 06:28:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  A step further... Cantor shorted US Treasuries (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mike101, antirove, retLT

      last time the debt ceiling was an issue (McConnell may have also along w/other republicans). He along w/other republicans voted in congress to crash the economy in order to make a personal profit.  Is that sedition?
      Fortunately US Treasury bills and bonds are the safest investment on the planet and even though a thug company downgraded the US, treasuries were so sought after that interest rates fell causing Cantor and the other sociopaths to actually lose money.
      Right now, if Obama can hold his tongue, it will be a heavyweight battle between the dominionist billionaires (koch's, de Vos', Simmons, Petersons, Waltons) against the banksters/grift houses who want their derivatives and treasuries paid back.  The banksters couldn't give a crap about anything but being paid but the dominionists want to subjugate humanity.  Neither pod of sociopaths gives a hoot about the Constitution.

  •  The two groups most dependent on govt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slothlax, retLT

    are military and elderly, and the biggest drivers of spending are mainly directed at these two groups.  Yet both are also the most conservative voting blocs.

    SMH.  

    “Th’ noise ye hear is not th’ first gun iv a revolution. It’s on’y th’ people iv the United States batin’ a carpet.” - Mr. Dooley

    by puakev on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 04:37:57 PM PST

  •  It seems pretty straightforward to me (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lily O Lady, mike101, retLT, paradox

    I don't know why the TV Democrats aren't making this argument more effectively.  Congress already spent the money and is now voting on whether or not to pay the bills they accumulated.  Why do we even have to vote on whether or not we pay our bills?  How is that a point of contention?

    The Republican House appropriated this money and doesn't want to pay the bill, even though it can.  Its like running up a credit card debt and saying to the bill collector not the you won't pay the bill, even though you have access to more than enough money to make the payment.

    There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

    by slothlax on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 04:47:55 PM PST

  •  It's a Strategy Published In 1976, 2 Santa Claus (7+ / 0-)

    Theory by Jude Wanniski.

    4 years before Reagan.

    Dems play Santa by passing social programs, so Repubs play Santa by passing tax cuts, and of course spending on their corporate & military interests. The purpose is to rack up enough debt that the Dems would have to stop and begin playing Scrooge by cutting their own programs.

    It's not hypothetical, it's been Republican policy since disco.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 04:58:37 PM PST

  •  I'd like to see this covered in the MSM (0+ / 0-)

    They don't give a tuppenny damn about cutting debt, just about giving tax breaks to their fatcat funders, feeding the military contractors, and funding programs designed to help government bully the hell out of the people they detest. Their posturing on the debt is just that, posturing.

    Gooserock's comment is also very accurate. (At the moment it is right above mine ^^ , but that can change!)

  •  Accept the sequestration but give OMB (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib, antirove

    authority to more carefully make cuts within the different agencies (but with the same agency totals).

    As 1/2 the cuts will be from the military, we are unlikely to get a better opportunity to cut defense spending this decade.  Hopefully, these cuts should focus on spending outside the US to minimize adverse US job impact.  The adverse effect on GDP has been grossly over stated.  Total Federal spending would still increase year over year, this decreases the rate of growth. Total cuts would be less than $100 billion in a $16,000 billion economy - 0.6% of GDP.

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 05:16:39 PM PST

  •  A superb explanation (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    iowacaucus, Lily O Lady, psnyder, mike101

    I think this diary needs to be repeated again and again.  Most
    people do not have the understanding of what the debt is that the Republicans do not want to raise the ceiling for.  I think they think it is for Democratic wild spending.

    Keep spreading this concrete information.  It matters.

  •  Why not tax the countless trillions banksters got (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    antirove, retLT

    during the Wall-Street bailouts? They would’ve been jumping out of skyscrapers if we hadn’t come to their rescue.
    It’s funny how taxing Wall-Street (i.e. the beneficiaries of the largest government rescue in US history) never occurs to ‘our’ leaders. Just another example of conservatives not wanting to pay their bills.

    •  Oh they want their bills paid-using other people's (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mike Taylor, retLT

      hard earned money. And they'll make money betting against our ability to pay the debts they generated in our name as well as sacking for themselves whatever money we manage to scrape together.  Their own mountains of money is never to be touched by government hands ever again, as long as Republicans can keep this deal going for them.

      When life gives you wingnuts, make wingnut butter!

      by antirove on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 10:58:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is why I think we need (0+ / 0-)

    to call the GOP on its austerity budget:  You voted against a spending bill?  Fine.  We won't spend any money in your district.  You are cut off from federal funds and (if I were king) from state funds too.

    Make it on your own.  You claim to be able to.

    Of course that's snark.  I am angry at the GOPers, and especially the Teahadists -- but not so much that I would hold everyone in their district hostage.

    Perhaps we should just refuse to fund the GOP politicians.  Let's let 'em make it on their own.  Minimum wage, no health benefits on the public dime, no per diem, no use of the company car (as it were).  Basically: let 'em live on what they wish on the rest of us.  Out of generosity: if they qualify, they can have food stamps, too.

    To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

    by Youffraita on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 11:39:26 PM PST

  •  I don't understand the evasion of the last 'graph (0+ / 0-)

    If they're not conservatives anymore, well what are they?  Why don't you say?  

    [sigh]  I think I know--call them the radicals they are and you're afraid to be labelled a crank, someone who has lost their objectivity.

    Also, too, if they're the dangerous radicals they are and Obama fails to see it, well, that's extremely bad political malfeasance.  You wouldn't want to be labelled a Firebagger too, now would you David?

    Next time use the truth that's right in your hands.  It will seriously fuck with your head if you don't, dude.

    I've stuck with the truth I know and now I'm a Firebagger--absurd, but that's what they call me.  God I feel absolutely terrible politically.  For our leadership not to recognize what the Republicans have become and keep making deals with them is so revolting.  God.

  •  They are deadbeats. (0+ / 0-)

    From Joe Walsh, who wouldn't fulfill his obligations to his children, to the whole caucus that won't pay for the things that they have authorized, they are the real takers.  They take on obligations and then refuse to pay.  They bought two wars and now they won't cough up for the cost.

    They are con (wo)men.  They expect something for nothing.  Does this sound familiar?  It's the same kind of claptrap they use for beating up on the poor and middle class.  They make me retch.

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 07:47:19 AM PST

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