Sunday, August 07, 2011

The S&P downgrade and the GOP's apparent disdain for America

Three things caught my eye this morning on the S&P downgrade of U.S. debt.

The first was the helpful timeline provided by Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly describing how we got to this point. Benen
provides facts that point to the Republicans as the villain in this drama. If you don't like his facts, offer your own, but do try to stick to facts.

The second is the comment by publisher Steve Forbes, a one-time GOP presidential hopeful, who said the following of the downgrade:

I think in a narrow sense it is a political move... an outrageous move. The government can pay its debts, it is legally obligated to do so, its got the wherewithal to do it. But I am surprised S&P would play politics -- the U.S. government can pay the interest and principle on the bonds -- but in a broader sense we do have severe economic troubles, but we will be able to pay the interest and principle on the bonds.

The third was Greg Sargent's comment that, holding aside whether we should give any credibility to the downgrade, it is hard to see how the Republicans can claim victory in any of this, citing the S&P report:

The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America's government and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable, than we have previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy.

Despite this year's wide-ranging debate, in our view, the differences between political parties have proven to be extraordinarily difficult to bridge, and, as we see it, the resulting disagreement fell well short of the comprehensive fiscal consolidation program that some proponents have envisioned until quite recently. Republicans and Democrats have only been able to agree to relatively modest savings on discretionary spending while delegating to the Select Committee decisions on more comprehensive measures. It appears that for now, new revenues have dropped down on the menu of policy options. In addition, the plan envisions only minor policy changes on Medicare and little change in other entitlements, the containment of which we and most other independent observers regard as key to long-term fiscal sustainability.

As Sargent points out, S&P explicitly cites the GOP threat of default as leverage for policy ends as an indication American governance is becoming less stable and predictable.

To sum up: The downgrade was precipitated by clearly identifiable Republican actions over the past 30 years; it was a cynical, politically motivated action on the part of S&P; and, the current inability of Washington to effectively govern the nation can be traced to irresponsible GOP maneuvering beholden to a radical right-wing ideological agenda.

Obama is right on this one. The GOP drove the country into a ditch, have done everything they can to make sure the current administration can't get it back on the road, and are having great fun blaming the president for the shape we're in.

I am always amazed that Republicans claim the high ground on how much they love their country. It seems to me they have little claim to this high ground as long as they continue to be such an obstacle to improving the state of the nation. How else to explain their actions?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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