At the beginning of the summer, not all that long ago, the Republican Party loaded two guns, one labeled "no deficits!" and the other labeled "no taxes!" Then they called up all the TV stations, wandered into the White House with reporters in tow, carefully pointed both guns at their own feet and shouted to Obama: don't make us shoot! We'll do it, man! We'll do it!
There, you now understand the entire Debt Ceiling debate. You're welcome.
There are conflicting accounts, but the only thing that seems clear from the reports of yesterday's debt limit talks is that Eric Cantor thinks he's in a pissing match with the President.
Republicans said tense negotiations over raising the $14.3 trillion debt limit at the White House ended when President Obama stormed out of the meeting with a stern warning to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.): “Don’t call my bluff.”
“It ended with the president abruptly walking out of the meeting,” Cantor told reporters upon returning to the Capitol Wednesday.
[A] House Democratic leadership aide described the majority leader’s account of Wednesday’s meeting as “Cantor’s Gingrich back-of-the-plane moment” — referencing a moment in 1995 when then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) complained about being seated near the back of Air Force One and was quickly depicted in the media as a crybaby.
“Obama was concluding the meeting, giving the closing remarks and talking about meeting tomorrow, Cantor interrupted him and raised for the third time doing a short-term, and Obama shut him down,” the aide said. “Cantor was playing the role he’s been playing throughout this whole thing — being not productive.”
Fine, so Cantor feels slighted or something. Whatever. Here's the thing: Eric Cantor and the "tea party" Republican bloc have spent the last few months vowing that they were going to both (1) block the raising of the debt limit and (2) not allow one thin dime of new taxes to be levied against corporations or the rich. They turned the raising of the debt limit—nearly a yearly occurrence, under Bush, and with zilch in the way of fanfare—into some new unholy amalgamation of the Battle of the Bulge, Custer's Last Stand, and a particularly plotless Michael Bay film. We must balance the budget! We must not raise taxes! And it must happen right now, because after ten years of sitting on our collective asses and ballooning the deficit with our own ridiculous demands, we conservatives finally realized all of this the very moment a Democrat moved into the White House!
But those two demands just can't happen. The budget deficit isn't going anywhere while revenues are so anemic. Even Alan Simpson and (God help us all) Bill O'Reilly have said as much, so the congressional Republicans are way off the proverbial farm on this one. Here's Simpson's take:
Simpson saved some of his harshest criticisms for Republicans, saying their stance on revenues is baffling.
"The stuff that’s going on in my party, where the—pettiness overcomes the patriotism—it’s just disgusting to me," he told ABC News. "Reagan raised taxes. We’ve never had less revenue to run this country since the Korean war."
Taxes on the wealthy are at their lowest rate in modern history, the chasm between the nation's rich and poor is at pre-Depression levels, and, just as an aside, we're in a giant, jobless recession. What the ideologues are proposing is a flat impossibility, but they've staked their very reputations on somehow delivering it to their increasingly reality-impaired, cult-like base.
Eric Cantor has, for reasons I can only surmise to have something to do with having an ego the size of a small moon, taken on the role of being point person for these ridiculous demands in the White House negotiations. Which means, in turn, that at the end of all this drama his entire future political career may rest on somehow not caving in on either one of these two contradictory promises: if he does, the "Tea Partiers" are going to have his head.
As a country, we're screwed. The choice being discussed during this week's White House meetings have been between tanking the entire nation's economy for no good reason and bruising some very ambitious Republican egos, and anyone who thinks "the entire nation's economy" has the upper hand in that fight hasn't been paying much attention to politics.