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More bluster from Boehner

House Speaker John Boehner said Monday that an increase in the federal debt ceiling won't get past him and other Republicans without a whopping $2 trillion in budget cuts to sweeten the deal. He's bluffing, as Jonathan Chait explains: Boehner hopes that by playing tough on the debt ceiling, he can force President Obama to make a deal that gives Boehner cover to enact unpopular cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

What Boehner won't do is actually force the federal government to default on its debt. That would be catastrophic for the U.S. and global economies, and the Republicans--with the possible exception of Michelle Bachman--know it. Federal Reserve officials worry that even if the debt ceiling is eventually raised, all the brinksmanship could cause a lot of economic damage of its own. So far this doesn't appear to be happening, but it could.

Like a lot of economic subjects, the debt ceiling is easy to exploit politically in part because it lends itself to voter-friendly analogies that sound great but happen to be exactly wrong. If your personal finances are out of control, one good solution might be to cut up all your credit cards. But if the federal government immediately stopped borrowing money altogether, we would have a nightmare on our hands.

"Just don't borrow any more money" might sound like a perfectly responsible path--and one that follows naturally from support for reducing the deficit. But it's important to keep in mind the difference between a budget deficit and the national debt.

So here's a different analogy: Let's say the federal government is a car, driving from point A, a debt-free existence, and just about to reach point B, the debt ceiling. Deficit budgets keep the car headed in the same direction; a surplus budget would turn it around. A balanced budget means the car is stopped.

The various deficit-reduction plans all have us slowing the car gradually to a halt, some less gradually than others (and, to stretch the analogy, some more insistent than others that the car's poorest passengers should have to pay for the brake job). The Republican Study Committee's plan--that's the far-right one, designed not to pass (though it almost did!) but to make House budget chair Paul Ryan's draconian proposal look moderate by comparison--would balance the budget by 2020. Ryan's plan wouldn't stop the car until 2030.

Refusing to raise the debt ceiling, however, wouldn't mean coasting or even braking to a halt. It would mean throwing the car into reverse at highway speed and hoping for the best. It's a ludicrous idea--but if the driver can convince his passengers that he might really do it, he can get them to do just about anything to stop him. That's Boehner's play--and as Chait says, Obama would do well to call his bluff.

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So...what about that debt thing??

While you continue to blast away at Boehner and anyone else to the right of Che Gueverra, the debt continues to increase exponentially.  It seems reasonable to reduce spending proportional to the amount of debt limit increase.  What about that do you not understand?  Do you find any merit in being firm in the resolve to reduce the debt?  We haven't been able to do it up to this point, so perhaps more drastic measures are called for.  Do you have anything complimentary to say about those who are serious about reducing the debt, or are you more interested in continuing to play political games?  (Nice little juvenile shot at Bachman...lets us know how serious to take you)

Not sure why my Bachman

Not sure why my Bachman reference is juvenile. I didn't toss her name out as an example of someone who generally doesn't get things; I linked it to an article describing how she's taking a hard line on not raising the debt ceiling at all--not in exchange for big spending cuts, not for any other reason. Boehner has acknowledged that we have to do this, which is one thing that makes his move here a bit odd--he's threatening a hostage he's already promised not to shoot. Bachman wants to actually shoot the hostage. THAT's an idea not to take seriously.

Anyone who thinks we shouldn't raise the debt ceiling at all--and again, Boehner doesn't think this; he's just playing political games--should point to a credible plan to balance the budget immediately. Not in 2030 or 2020, immediately. That's just how the math works.

Also: If Boehner's just presenting a reasonable offer that's firm about reducing the debt--no partisan politics here--why are revenues off the  table? Spending cuts are only half the picture. They just happen to be the half that Republicans like. I'm in favor of reducing the debt. I'm against using it as an excuse to further conservative causes that are too unpopular with voters to accomplish on their own merits.

The left isn't serious about reducing the debt

or else it would be going down since they have been the ones in charge.  Therefore, more drastic measures must be considered. 

Is the debt ceiling going to be raised?  Of course it is, but I don't blame Boehner et al for using it as a weapon since it seems to be the only thing that will get the attention of the tax-and-spend liberals that you chronically defend in Pavlovian fashion. 

Our problem is not revenue, it's SPENDING.  Raising taxes on the wealthy--who already pay more taxes than anybody--is an easy "solution" which is not really a solution since the wealthy have the means to avoid taxes by moving their job-creating assets elsewhere.  The economic world is more global than ever and wealthy individuals have the capacity to go anywhere in the world to seek business and profit (and the jobs for lower and middle class people that come with it).  One of the prime financiers of the leftist causes that you support, atheist billionaire George Soros, has made a career of doing this.

Why Bachman?  Because you mindlessly parrot your fellow leftists in characterizing her as stupid and out of touch. 

>The left isn't serious about

>The left isn't serious about reducing the debt or else it would be going down since they have been the ones in charge.

The debt starts going down once we have a surplus budget. If you know of a plan to achieve this immediately--not in 18 years as in the budget Boehner recently passed--please post the link.

>Our problem is not revenue, it's SPENDING.

The problem is deficits.

>Why Bachman? Because you mindlessly parrot your fellow leftists in characterizing her as stupid and out of touch.

Not what I was doing, as I explained above.

Were you as critical of the Obama budget earlier this year?

"The debt starts going down once we have a surplus budget. If you know of a plan to achieve this immediately--not in 18 years as in the budget Boehner recently passed..."

There is no plan to achieve this immediately, and if there were my bet is you would be totally against it since it would necessarily involve entitlement reform.

Were you as critical of the totally unserious Obama budgetary proposal which bled red as far as the eye can see??

I didn't love Obama's budget

I didn't love Obama's budget proposal, and I said so then. But he supports raising the debt ceiling, which is necessary to enact any plan that doesn't immediately give us surpluses. Boehner's the one trying to have it both ways right now, and the debt ceiling is the subject of this post.

Thanks

Steve, glad to hear that you had problems with the debt-increasing Obama budget. I've seen several of your columns that were highly critical of Republicans--Ryan, Boehner, etc.--but I missed the one where you were critical of the Obama budget. Since you are concerned about the debt and deficit, then I am sure you had a post critical of the Obama budget....now, if you would be so kind as to direct me to it I would like to read it. Thanks.

I didn't say I disliked

I didn't say I disliked Obama's budget proposal for the same reasons you do. But I did criticize it, in a post on this blog sometime in February. It's easy to find if you want to read it.

One-track mind

In some of your responses here you seem to show concern about the debt, but, as you admit, your objection to the Obama budget centered more around other things, like cuts to entitlements.

In fact, you use that Feb post to criticize the Obama budget because, even though it continued the vote-buying run-away spending that modern liberals love, it agreed too much with...REPUBLICANS! So, it seems, in your case, all roads weave their convoluted roads back to those RASCALLY REPUBLICANS!

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