Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Debt ceiling miscellania

Tick tock. Eight days till the deadline. Still no deal. And only two options left in sight: Boehner's plan, and Reid's.
  • Democrats won't vote for Boehner's plan. But that's okay, because neither will House Republicans.

  • The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities analyzes Boehner's plan, concluding that, "[i]f enacted, it could well produce the greatest increase in poverty and hardship produced by any law in modern U.S. history."

  • Standard & Poor's reportedly weighs in: Boehner's plan would lead to a debt downgrade, while Reid's preserves the US triple-A rating. Odds this will affect Republican behavior: zero.

  • For rating agencies, the key difference between the two plans is that Boehner's only extends the ceiling a small amount, putting us back in the same deadlock six months from now. To their credit, Republicans recognize this problem , which is why they opposed a short term solution just one month ago.

  • Felix Salmon recaps how we got here. His takeaway:
    "The lion’s share of the blame here belongs with the Republicans in general, the House Republicans in particular, and the Tea Party caucus within the House Republicans most of all. But it’s not like these people’s existence or intransigence was any great secret. And so the White House tactics over the course of the past few months look dangerously naive."
    Felix is right. Everything that happens from here on out is the Republicans' fault. But Obama was foolish to let himself get sucked into this game, and now we'll all pay for his mistake.

  • Others, like David "Village Idiot" Brooks, seem keen to blame Obama for everything. Krugman dredged up a nice Lincoln quote for this crowd: "[Y]ou say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, 'Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!'"

  • David Brooks notwithstanding, the worst piece of debt ceiling journalism today is this article from NY Times writer Jackie Calmes, lamenting Obama's lost Grand Bargain. It's pretty much a case study in "Why journalism school should teach policy." She approvingly notes Obama's and Boehner's willingness to "confront their parties' sacred cows," but makes no attempt to say why that's a good thing or analyze the bargain on its merits. Nonetheless, she bemoans the missed opportunity to strike a huge deal, and in doing so perfectly encapsulates the media's sick fetish for centrism. Hey, Jackie: there's a reason that absolutely everyone was happy when the Grand Bargain died. It sucked.

  • Tonight, John Boehner told us that "The bigger the government, the smaller the people." And Jon Cohn reminds us that this isn't technically accurate: "Actually, that's not true. Statistically speaking, the world's tallest people live in the Netherlands, where government spending accounts for about half of gross domestic product." It's not a coincidence, either. A better social safety net leads to better nutrition and taller citizens.

  • Nate Silver extrapolates a market crash from today's drop -- down 4,400 points by August 2. Okay, that's unlikely, if for no other reason than it would be forestalled by a panicked Congress, suddenly more amenable to compromise. But his analysis should be a note of caution for all those deriving encouragement from the present calm in the markets.

  • Speaking of, the House Republicans have been emboldened by present calm in the markets. The debt ceiling hasn't collapsed yet; therefore, the debt ceiling is a liberal fiction.

  • Finally, a word from Tom Toles:

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