House Republicans proved this week there is no such thing as a “moderate” in the bunch. They are all Freedom Caucus maniacs, willing to blow up the global economy by letting the nation default on its debts. They all fell into line with Barely Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s hostage-taking, voting for his bill that ties lifting the debt ceiling to dangerous spending cuts. There won’t be any dissent from the Senate Republicans, with the original debt ceiling hostage-taker, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, cheering on the maniacs. Like the House maniacs, he is trying to force President Joe Biden to bow to extortion and negotiate cuts that cause jobs losses and an economic slowdown, even if a default were avoided.
Given that, it’s not just time for Biden to start gaming out how to solve the problem unilaterally, it’s time for him to start preparing the American public for that eventuality. Right now, the public is mostly aware of the issue of the debt ceiling, but not really knowledgeable about alternatives to legislation, according to a March Civiqs survey.
Moody’s Analytics latest report warns that those cuts, if enacted, could result in a loss of 780,000 jobs by the end of 2024, compared to clean debt ceiling hike. They say the cuts would also “meaningfully increase the likelihood” of a recession. This is a feature, not a bug, of the Republican plan. By all appearances they want to destroy the economy and blame it all on Biden.
Civiqs asked about just one of those alternatives, the platinum coin. It’s the “one neat trick,” as Bloomberg’s Joshua Green calls it, for Biden to make the problem disappear. He could direct the Treasury to use its money-printing authority and mint a $1 trillion coin, then deposit it at the Federal Reserve and draw against it to pay debts.
The results show that while a slim majority of people (51%) say they’ve heard a lot about the debt ceiling, a lot of them haven’t heard about this alternative to legislation: 14% say they support the coin, 37% oppose it, and 49% have no opinion or don’t know enough to say.
The nearly half who don’t know enough to say are the people Biden needs to start working on.
“My impression is that this is not something that’s really on many people’s minds yet,” Civiqs’ Drew Linzer told Bloomberg. “People’s tendency when pollsters ask them a question is to make up an opinion if they don’t already have one. If half of them don’t even do that, it means it’s a pretty distant thought for them.”
It doesn’t have to be a platinum coin, though that’s a perfectly legal and mostly reasonable solution. “I think it’s not gotten enough attention,” Liam Donovan, a Republican lobbyist and debt-ceiling expert, told Bloomberg. “If you look at the White House position, they kind of have to be prepared to act unilaterally or they’re setting themselves up to look pretty foolish. It’s a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ answer.”
Precisely. It doesn’t have to be the coin. There are other options, including the one deemed by Michael C. Dorf, law professor at Cornell Law School, the “least unconstitutional option.” That would involve Biden taking Section Four of the 14th Amendment literally, and using it. He could declare that Congress is failing in its constitutional duty to pay the debts it incurs, so he must act to uphold its clear directive: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”
While there’s plenty of political utility in pointing out that the Republicans are economic terrorists threatening to blow everything to smithereens, that’s not going to make them suddenly see the error of their ways. Biden, and Democrats, need to start talking about how the nation can be saved without Congress.
The past week seems to have packed in a month’s worth of news. Markos and Kerry tackle it all, from Joe Biden’s big announcement to Tucker Carlson’s early retirement from Fox News.
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