Democrats Can Head Off Debt Ceiling Armageddon RIGHT NOW, So ... They Should Do That!
Americans sometimes believe some weird things, like thinking the moon landings were faked, that a malaria drug can cure COVID-19, or even that you can sit in a bathtub as the water goes out and not be sucked down the drain, a pernicious myth that has led to countless tragedies. So it shouldn't be too surprising that a new Politico/Morning Consult poll shows that if the US were to default on its national debt, more Americans say they would blame Democrats than would blame Republicans.
The poll, taken between September 18 to 20, asked respondents, "If the United States were to default on the national debt, would you tend to blame the Democratic party more, the Republican party more, or both parties equally?" Thirty-three percent said they would blame Democrats, and only 16 percent would blame Republicans. Irritatingly, a whopping 42 percent said they'd blame both parties equally.
That's just kind of maddening to people who've been paying even the least bit of attention. Mitch McConnell, after four years of routinely suspending the debt ceiling to add some $8 trillion in debt for Donald Trump, has instructed Senate Republicans not to agree to any increase in the debt limit now that a Democrat is in office. It's a cynical political move that merely threatens to throw the US economy back into recession, probably taking the rest of the world with it. So this is absolutely not in any sense a "both sides" thing.
Happily, it's fairly safe to say that this polling shouldn't really be giving Republicans any ideas about riding this debt thing to victory in the 2022 midterms, for several reasons. For one thing, most people are not political junkies who watch Rachel Maddow and know that the debt limit is a stupid law passed because Congress was cheesed at getting involved in World War I just months after Woodrow Wilson campaigned on the slogan "He kept us out of war." The debt limit has never once prevented deficit spending or reduced that national debt, but nobody's paying attention but us geeks.
As a rough barometer of how much Americans pay attention to politics in a non-election year, we'd also note that in the same poll, nearly a quarter (23 percent) of respondents said they knew "nothing at all" about the recent California recall election.
But most Americans do know that Democrats have the presidency and slim majorities in Congress, so if they're asked about virtually anything involving government, of course they'll say "Democrats" or "both sides."
That's certainly the analysis put forward by Sen James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), who seemed fairly tickled Democrats might take the blame for his party's fuckery:
"The American people will say, 'I'm mad at everybody'," Senator James Lankford told Reuters. "But I don't know that it becomes the fault of the group that's in the minority in the House, in the minority in the Senate and not in the White House."
That said, there's not much chance Republicans will get the chance to blame Democrats for crashing the economy, because everyone in both parties knows, as we've discussed earlier, there's no way in hell Democrats are going to allow a default.
This week, House Democrats passed a bill suspending the debt ceiling through the end of December 2022 and also funding the government for three more months, to prevent a government shutdown and an eventual debt default. Now that bill goes to the Senate, where McConnell is likely to block it. But for all the talk of fiscal Armageddon if the US defaults on its debt, it's just not going to happen, because Democrats are the good responsible Student Council kids who actually care about governing.
If they really can't get 10 Republican votes next week to avoid a filibuster, Democrats will raise the debt limit via the budget resolution process. As the Source of All World Knowledge explains, that's perfectly cromulent under the weird Senate rules governing reconciliation, and wouldn't get in the way of Democrats' also using reconciliation to pass the Build Back Better bill this year as well.
So why haven't Dems just gone ahead and raised the damn thing, to take it out of the news? The reasoning we've seen is that Dems want to give Republicans a chance to be bipartisan first (and to have a talking point about Republican obstruction when R's filibuster). Also, a bipartisan bill would allow the debt limit to be suspended, while reconciliation would require the ceiling to be raised to a specific number, which Republicans could then wave around in campaign ads about those spendy spendy Dems next year. Maybe someone would care?
Frankly, we think it would probably be better for Dems to just pass the debt limit increase by reconciliation right now and get all the gloom and doom scenarios off the news sooner, because if that Politico/Morning Consult poll demonstrates anything, it's that voters aren't really paying attention to any of this crap anyway, so how about removing it from the conversation altogether. Whatever small political points might be gained by painting Republicans as obstructionists probably won't outweigh the effects of pundits fretting about default, and in a year, nobody is likely to remember any of it anyway.
But we are not political consultants, so we guess it may be another week or so until Democrats get there.
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