Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Coming Cataclysm

Martin Longman runs through some of the game scenarios for the debt ceiling.  The fundamental issues are as follows:

- The GOP can't govern.  They can't get their Teanderthal wing to do jackshit, so they do nothing.
- Trump is neither popular nor competent, so he can't whip the party behind a debt ceiling increase.
- Mike Mulvaney is a fucking idiot.

So, any debt ceiling increase is likely to need Democratic votes.  A lot of them, possibly.  In the past the majority party simply bites the bullet and passes the increase without any help from the minority party.  In this case, there are enough Mulvaney-level morons to make it very unlikely that Ryan and McConnell can pass a debt ceiling increase without Democratic votes (this is especially true of Ryan).

What, then, should Democrats ask for in return for their votes.  The typically craven play would be simply to ask for a clean extension.  It's responsible, sober and the usual shitty politics that distinguishes Democratic strategy.

A likely play would be a debt ceiling increase that guarantees some spending on certain things Democrats like: Planned Parenthood, SNAP, the EPA.  That's not terrible in this day and age, but you'd better get a nice return and figure out a way to get credit for it.

The bold play would be to hold out for a commitment that the debt ceiling is a fiction.  Once Congress passes any spending bills, the US government commits to paying those costs, even if it raises the debt limit.  Basically, it would give up the very idea of the debt ceiling and the almost annual crisis it engenders.

What's more, they should hold fast to this demand, even if it launches a recession.  I know, I know, recessions are like wars, they tend to spiral out of control.

Trump and the GOP are remarkably unpopular.  They are unpopular despite a relatively healthy economy and peace.  If a recession cracks open, you have the potential to realign the country in a significant way.  As Jon Chait notes, the last two times the GOP held complete power in DC, they created the conditions for the two worst financial crises of the past 100 years.  Both of those crises led to Democratic governance and significant reforms.

Play the long game, Democrats.  For once, play the long game.

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