When Will Democrats Learn?

Sam Stein reported this today:

There is increasing concern among Democratic officials both on and off the Hill that Republicans will draw out negotiations over raising the nation’s debt ceiling in an effort to institute one of several blunter deficit-reduction measures.

In recent days, chatter among operatives and Hill aides has centered on one specific addition the GOP is pushing in exchange for signing off on a debt limit increase. A cap on overall government spending — bringing it to 20.6 percent of GDP over the course of ten years — has been sharply criticized as too crude and potentially damaging for a fragile economy.

Stein says that this so-called “CAP Act” has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. Missouri’s own Claire McCaskill is a co-sponsor in the Senate, and Stein mentioned that McCaskill’s office did not indicate whether the CAP Act should be attached to any deficit ceiling vote.

It should not be.

Here’s my point: Whether the spending cap idea is good or bad, it’s preposterous that Democrats should negotiate over the idea while Republicans are holding hostage a raise in the debt ceiling next month. 

Something so serious should not be negotiated at the point of a gun. But Republicans have achieved so much by holding a gun to the heads of ordinary Americans, they naturally want to continue with that strategy.

But this time they would be holding a gun to the heads of Wall Street banksters and Democrats need to understand that Republicans will not pull the trigger because of that.  Therefore they should not make any kind of deal over the debt ceiling that would lock in a cap on government spending or anything else of consequence.  Those kinds of ideas belong in the 2012 budget debate, not in a debate about the full faith and credit of our federal government.

The truth is that no matter what teapartiers in the House demand, Boehner, if he wants to act responsibly, needs only a handful of Republicans to pass an increase in the debt ceiling.  There are plenty of Democrats in the House to get a relatively clean bill passed.

If Boehner cannot get a handful of Republicans, then America should know that Republicans are willing to risk a financial calamity in service to their extremist ideology.

In the Senate, it’s fairly obvious now that no Republican senator is willing to filibuster the debt ceiling bill, therefore only 50 votes are needed to pass a relatively clean one. 

Given these realities, Democrats need to stiffen their spine and tell Republicans that they will not be rolled again.  Sending signals like those Sam Stein reported is not a good strategy.

When will they ever learn?


  1. Soon, I hope!


  2. ansonburlingame

     /  April 22, 2011


    Your wrote, “Those kinds of ideas belong in the 2012 budget debate, not in a debate about the full faith and credit of our federal government.”

    Is it possible, just possible, that our debt and deficit crisis is in fact putting the full faith and credit of our government at stake?

    I agree with your political view that failure to increase the debt limit, no matter how many gimmicks are attached thereto, will cause markets to shudder of crash, againg. THAT alone will be blamed on Republicans and they will lose the short term political battle as a result.

    But if Democrats do as you suggest to play chicken (again, as in the government shutdown run up) and call their bluff, what I ask are the long term consequences as we continue to struggle down the debt and defict road.

    Failure to increase the limit and you will be screaming about the “cliff” that Republicans caused us to go over.

    Failure to deal with debt and deficit in the short to mid term will, in my view cause us to go over a much bigger cliff than the above one and I still see no willingness on the part of Democrats to address that problem in a real and meaningful way.

    BUT, I have yet to digest the Obama deficit reduction plan and compare it to that of Republicans. But you can believe how suspicious I am, really about both of them.



    • Anson,

      The truth is that no one knows what the full ramifications would be of not raising the ceiling. It’s never happened before. But common sense dictates that the results won’t be good, even if they wouldn’t be catastrophic.

      Look, the difference between you and me—and between Republicans and Democrats generally—is one of characterizing the threat of our debt problems. It is not a “short-term” problem in my view and in the view of many economists. It is a medium- and long-term problem. Thus, because we have some time to address it, it’s important for our present economic well-being not to panic and pull back drastically on government spending. Ryan’s plan actually increases the deficit over the next ten years, for God’s sake!

      As for addressing the problem in the medium and long term, a deal can be worked out on that issue, beginning with the debate over the 2012 budget. That’s where this debate probably belongs, not on playing chicken with our credit worthiness. Obama and the Democrats will have to put up a credible plan to deal with the deficit over time, and Obama’s outline was just a start. The details will get filled in during the negotiations, presumably.

      And by the way, it’s not Democrats playing chicken with the debt ceiling. It’s Democrats arguing for a clean bill, free from all the associated arguments over the budget. It’s Republicans who are claiming that it’s their way or the cliff.



  3. ansonburlingame

     /  April 22, 2011


    Before I go any farther in current debt and defict arguments I have just posted a blog, Some Question about Federal Budgets.

    I am sincere in seeking answers to bring me up to speed on current arguments based on the results of arguments over the last six months. I really don’t know where we stand TODAY.

    I also believe that the actual results of the arguments over the last six months have accomplished little or nothing is reaching agreements on SHORT term debt and deficit issues, much less medium of long term.

    Any comments to my blog to clarify the issue for me would be appreciated.



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