Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

23 July 2011

Twelve Republican Stupidities

[For a “fill-in-the-blanks” sample e-mail to your representatives in Congress, click here. For a concise explanation why Uncle Sam’s default would be absolutely catastrophic, click here. For an explanation why even a $4 trillion debt reduction would barely cover interest on the national debt, click here and read the fourth paragraph inside the blue box. If you’re as fed up with Rupert Murdoch’s Evil Empire as I and most of the civilized world are, and if you seek an alternative to WSJ, click here.]

Congress and the President are now entering the final stage of negotiations to determine whether the United States of America will become a banana republic in about ten days. So it’s a good time to review the twelve Republican stupidities that got us where we are today:

1. They thought they could turn what has always been routine and pedestrian congressional action—extending the debt limit—into political extortion on a grand scale. And they thought no one would notice or object.

2. They thought that, in divided government, only one side would have to compromise.

3. They had no fallback plan.

4. When their extortion plan began to fail, they argued that a national default is no big deal. They didn’t notice that no one was or is buying that lie.

5. Although Dubya had inherited a surplus from Bill Clinton and was responsible for the vast majority of our present debt, they thought they could get us to believe that all the debt was President Obama’s or Democrats’ fault.

6. They led us and the world’s lenders to believe that our $14 trillion debt is our gravest national problem. Then they refused ever seriously to consider any reduction over $4 trillion in ten years, which would barely pay the interest on our debt.

7. They thought (and still think) that we can drastically reduce the greatest debt in our national history without increasing revenue in any way.

8. They elevated pledges to an unelected hyperpartisan goon, Grover Norquist, above their responsibility to govern in the people’s and the nation’s interest. And they thought no one would notice.

9. Having made our molehill of debt into a mountain for all the world to see, they are now thinking of a mere half-trillion-dollar reduction—about 3.6%. They fail to realize that such a token gesture will impress no one: not their constituents, not political independents, not the bond markets, not the credit-rating agencies, and not our trading partners, all of whom (including China) are having troubles of their own and making rational, hard, adult choices to resolve them.

10. They were the last to walk out of discussions and thought no one would notice.

11. They fail to understand that all this political theater, plus kicking the can down the road yet again, are almost as damaging to our international prestige, interest rates and the dollar as an actual default.

12. They think the American people are too stupid or brainwashed to blame them for all this.

* * * *

The conditions under which long-time Republican apologist David Brooks pronounced [last two paragraphs] his own GOP “not fit to govern” are now fully satisfied. Do we really want to give these bumbling extortionists the wheel of our car of state when it’s headed for a catastrophic crash?

If you think not, maybe it’s time to e-mail your thoughts to your House member and/or senator. You can use the sample letter appended below. All you have to do is fill in the blanks.

Sample E-mail to your Representatives in Congress:

Hon. [full name of House member or Senator]:

I am writing to complain of the United States’ imminent fiscal default and to urge you to avoid it by raising the debt limit high enough to let the 2012 elections decide how to reduce our national debt.

Up to now, raising the debt limit has been a routine matter. Under presidents of both parties, congresses run by both parties have raised it repeatedly. But this year Republicans have attempted to bulldoze divided government by using the debt limit as a means of national extortion.

That effort has self-evidently failed. There is no serious debt reduction on the table now. Furthermore, the largest amount of debt reduction ever under serious discussion—$4 trillion over ten years—would have done little more than pay the interest on our national debt.

Now that the GOP’s extortion attempt has failed, there is no point in killing the hostage, which would be all of us. A default would be catastrophic and would seal our national fate. A messy scenario in which Congress and the President continued to bicker about debt reduction and its means until late next year would be almost as damaging. It would destroy international confidence in our national finances and our dollar, if not reduce our national credit rating.

The current failed negotiations make absolutely clear that the American people are divided and undecided on (1) how important the national debt is compared to jobs and unemployment and (2) how to reduce the national debt. Only elections can decide these points, and they are less than fourteen months away.

I urge you to increase the debt limit forthwith, with enough leeway to reach the 2012 elections, and let Congress and the President get back to the people’s business, including jobs and our ailing economy.


[your name]

* * * *

P.S. Please feel free to copy, modify, link to, transmit and personalize this sample letter at will. I pledge not to enforce my copyright against anyone who uses this sample letter in any good-faith attempt to help avert national default.

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