The Naked Case for GOP Debt Ceiling Thuggery

Washington Post opinion writer dares Republicans to demand their way in the debt limit debate.

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There are times when Washington hackery is so flagrantly, well, hackish, the mind reels.

Marc Thiessen has evidently expanded his affinity for torture into the economic as well as national security realm. In this Washington Post column, Thiessen all but dares the GOP congressional leadership to break bad with the White House: Cough up everything we want, or the economy loses a testicle.

[ Vote now: Will there be a debt ceiling deal?]

Thiessen is so far removed from reality that he seems to have persuaded himself that this style of negotiation is actually an act of mercy:

President Obama does not have the luxury of letting the debt-limit talks fail and then blaming the GOP for a government default. If the dire predictions of his treasury secretary are to be believed, the consequences of a default would be so calamitous that Obama cannot allow it to happen. He must sign whatever debt-limit increase Republicans give him.

This kind of ideological thuggery is one thing; the underlying rationale Thiessen offers in its defense is a thing of beauty:

Let’s be clear: Compromise here isn’t spending cuts for a tax increase; compromise is spending cuts for a debt-limit increase. Republicans elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010 campaigned on a promise to reduce the national debt. They are now being asked to turn around a half a year later and vote to raise the national debt.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]

Got that? Agreeing to a debt increase is a compromise, not a mutual necessity of statesmanship. Try that with your credit card company or the bank that holds your mortgage: “I’m doing you a favor by meeting my payment deadlines. What are you going to do for me? Nothing? Well, here comes my car through your front window, pal.”

If the GOP listens to this fool, the country will suffer. [See a slide show of 6 consequences if the debt ceiling isn't raised.]

The debt limit has become a partisan cudgel when, really, it is a collective responsibility—not merely the federal government’s, but the country’s. This is not one administration’s “spending spree coming home to roost,” as Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who is normally sane, put it in National Review Online. This is more than 30 years of national overconsumption and underproduction coming to roost.

It’s time for all of us to start paying the proverbial piper. Increasing the debt limit is just the beginning of a long climb out of a deep hole.