Friday, January 04, 2013

Debt ceiling "negotiations"

By Frank Moraes 

Greg Sargent at The Plum Line reports this morning that media are already covering the upcoming raise in the Debt Ceiling in Republican terms: "Media Shouldn't Get Rolled by GOP Debt Ceiling Spin." He refers to Politico reporting on Mitch McConnell's new demands, "Democrats now have the opportunity -- and the responsibility -- to join Republicans in a serious effort to reduce Washington's out-of-control spending." Two quick things to notice here. First: there is no "out of control spending"; this is the same old conservative canard that is illustrated by my second point. It is the Democrats' responsibility because... Republicans don't know what to cut; they just know the government is too damned big!

Sargent argues that we shouldn't see the raising the debt ceiling as a negotiation. This is because a negotiation involves two or more parties deciding what they will give for what they will get in return. The common media framing for the debt ceiling is that the Democrats will give spending cuts for the Republicans raising the debt ceiling. But the Republicans already want to and will eventually raise the debt ceiling. Both Boehner and McConnell have admitted that not doing so would be terrible for America. So this is not a negotiation, unless you use the Obama definition where you give up something you want in return for the other side taking something they want.

Of course, the media has a very big interest in making the debt ceiling into a big negotiation: it is good for ratings. People will get worried. There will be lots of coverage. But cable channels could take a different approach. They could cover the process of raising the debt ceiling as a hostage negotiation. The Republicans hold a gun to the head of the United States economy. And McConnell shouts, "Gut Social Security, or America gets it!"

Because this is what is really happening.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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