Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Why the debt ceiling is no problem

By Frank Moraes

Have you stopped thinking about the Fiscal Cliff and moved right on to the brewing debt ceiling fiasco? You are not alone. I haven't talked much about it recently, but this has been weighing heavily on my mind as well. I liked what I was hearing from the president. Last week at the Business Roundtable, he said, "I want to send a very clear message to people here: we are not going to play that game next year." Yes! You have to be strong with the Republicans. But let's face it: playing chicken with a crazy person is very dangerous because they don't care about the consequences.

Today, Ezra Klein laid out the thinking of the White House, and I must say that I find it very persuasive. And comforting:

Whatever House Republicans might think, the White House is all steel when it comes to the debt ceiling. Their position is simple, and it's typically delivered in the tone of voice that Bruce Willis reserves for talking to terrorists: they're happy to raise the debt ceiling on their own, as would be the case under their proposal to take authority for the debt ceiling away from Congress. But if Congress rejects that offer, then the debt ceiling is Congress' problem, and the White House will not help.

This is a brilliant strategy. It completely diffuses the situation. Remember: the debt ceiling is not about funding programs; it is about paying for existing obligations -- particularly, interest on our loans. Generally, this is missing from the media discussions of the debt ceiling, where it is generally presented as budget issue. But if Republicans threaten to not raise it, the media will get very clear on this point. This will hurt everyone, especially the rich. If the Republicans ever want to win another election outside of Mississippi, they had best not play this game.

Do you feel better? I know I do.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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