Tag Archive: Debt Ceiling

Oct 20 2013

The Doomsday Debt Ceiling

The last imbroglio over raising the debt ceiling may be over for the moment but the threat is still hanging on the horizon. Its use as a bargaining tool by the minority to circumvent laws they don’t like and elections they lost is an extremely dangerous tactic that effects not just the American economy but could bring down the global economy and irreparably harm the value of the dollar and America’s reputation of being a good investment. Even the financial and business sectors have called the debt ceiling toxic to economic health. The CEO of JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon, when asked about the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling responded, “you don’t want to know.” Martin Wolf, the chief economic commentator at The Financial Times called the debt ceiling law a “doomsday device” that should be repealed. In simple terms he explained why it is too dangerous to use:

The first is constitutional. In a recent article, Neil Buchanan of The George Washington University and Michael Dorf of Cornell (pdf) argue that a binding debt ceiling would create a “trilemma” for the president: “Ignore the debt ceiling and unilaterally issue new bonds, thus usurping Congress’s borrowing power; unilaterally raise taxes, thus usurping Congress’s taxing power; or unilaterally cut spending, thus usurping Congress’s spending power.” Thus, a binding debt ceiling would force the president to violate his obligation to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”. The authors conclude that the president should choose the “least unconstitutional” course and ignore the debt ceiling. But, inevitably, whatever the president did would create a constitutional crisis. No responsible Congress would seek to put the president in that position.

The second reason why the debt ceiling is so dangerous is that the administration could not obey it in a non-destructive way. At some point between October 17 and the end of the month, the administration would lack the money to pay its bills. All choices would be dire.

Mr. Wolf explains that the claims of “prioritisation” by the Treasury Department to pick and choose which bills to pay would still be a default (pdf). Mostly, it is not possible since Treasury uses two different computer systems to pay its foreign and domestic bills. The states that the economics effect of choosing which to pay and which to allow to default would effect the Treasury bonds aming them a risky investment. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank heads meeting in Washington last week issued warnings of the grave dangers to the global economy.

In an interview with Bill Moyers’, Mr. Wolf gives his analysis of the debt ceiling crisis.



Transcript can be read here

Oct 17 2013

Go Ahead, Celebrate – You’re Celebrating Failure

Not you at the Stars Hollow Gazette. You know who.

Well it seems this continuing debacle every 3 months has ceased, for now. However, I really can’t get over this pathetic celebration over the really low bar involved with regard to avoiding what I call a political default on the public debt. This is the same embarrassing type of celebration that ensued in 2011. We need to get real. Despite the government being opened up again, there’s nothing to celebrate. We’ve already lost. After all, the debt ceiling was a precious gift Obama bestowed onto John Boehner in the 2010 tax deal as he put his full faith in Speaker John Boehner hands, as he took the full faith and credit of the United States hostage.

Of course, it was a deal struck between both of them to put who they called the “extremists” of both their parties in check, for a grand bargain like in 1983 when Tip O’Neil and Ronald Reagan cut social security. President Obama and Speaker Boehner weren’t fooling everyone, though. Just those involved in their hyper deluded, hyper partisan, claptrap. To some of us, this was entirely predictable and preventable. Now people are suffering because some people, blinded by their hyper-loyal partisan illusions, couldn’t or didn’t want to see what was there. Maybe their lack of sight reveals they don’t really care? It doesn’t matter though. This will continue to be what we go through when some of this crap continues again in 4 months in February, regardless.

This austerity government will reopen at sequester levels of funding; a sequester I predicted would be born out by the stupid Super Committee from the super austerity Budget Control Act of 2011, which I saw was inevitable since the 2010 tax deal led to the first, now ongoing, debt ceiling debacle; a miniature crisis to crisis government with no plans to invest in its citizens’ future. Anything else is possible though, from government shutdowns over the false prospect of defunding Obamacare, to any austerian Senator or Congressman using the threat of default for whatever demands they want.

We, the so called professional left as the White House derisively called us, warned about this. Anyone who denied this can either apologize now or forever restrain from speaking about matters regarding politics, civics, political deals, and the debt ceiling. We told all of you back in 2011 around this same time when that debacle was coming to its end – until this one and the next one 4 months down the line – that this was no victory.  

Oct 17 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Hostages Get A Reprieve

President Barack Obama signed the bill early Thursday morning that reopens the government and raises the debt ceiling, officially ending the 16-day shutdown, the White House said.

CNN Breaking News

If anyone thinks that the latest budget crisis is over, or that there was a victory, they are living in the bubble of a fool’s paradise.

This has cost the economy billions, hurt countless individuals in many ways for a deal that merely kicks the can down the road. Come January, unless a long term budget deal is passed, another continuing resolution (CR) will be needed. February is even more ominous when again the US hits its borrowing limit.

Obama should have stood his ground last year when he caved and gave the Republicans the sequester which is far more damaging to the economy than the ACA. Look what happened to the Republican brand. That could have been last year and the Democrats might have stood a better chance of increasing its majority in the Senate and gaining even more than 8 seats in the House.

There is no sense in rehashing what can’t be undone. The Democrats now need to deal with repairing the damage of the last 5 years continuing to hold firm on the budget, ending the sequester cuts for more reasonable spending that will benefit the majority of Americans and finally killing the biggest threat to the US and World economies, the debt ceiling cap.

Time to take the bullets out of the gun.

Oct 15 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Countdown to Default

Chris Hayes, the host of MSNBC’s All In, has the most concise and informative summary of the countdown to default.

Transcript can be read here

With days until default, a breakthrough?

With just three days to go until an unprecedented, possible U.S. default, there is some hope at this hour of a deal to re-open the government, raise the debt ceiling, and put an end to the shutdown. Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Scott Rigell join Chris Hayes to discuss inner dealings and where we’re at the road to re-open the government.

Oct 12 2013

Economic Populist: Premium Bonds Would Disarm Default Threat

Just as the GOP Shutdown was getting underway, 2 October, Matt Levine at Bloomberg was calling on the administration to Mint the Premium Bonds!.

The creepy trick that has swept the nation* is the platinum coin option, in which Treasury mints a $1 trillion platinum coin, deposits it at the Fed, and suddenly has an extra $1 trillion of money to spend without incurring any debt (and, thus, without breaching the debt ceiling). This is a good trick as tricks go, and it’s been extensively advocated by Josh Barro, Paul Krugman, Matt Yglesias, Joe Weisenthal, basically every economics blogger really. I am unaware of any good arguments that the platinum coin wouldn’t work, but it does have the problem that it is really really really really obviously a trick. I mean, it’s a trillion dollar coin, come on. So it’s sort of sub-optimal symbolically, and would make people really mad. It’s a crisis-enhancer, although with the benefit of avoiding immediate default.

So there is an alternative that Matt Levine is putting forth:

Instead of just rolling those Treasuries — paying them off at 100 cents on the dollar by issuing new Treasuries at 100 cents on the dollar — it should pay them off at 100 cents on the dollar by issuing new Treasuries at 275 cents on the dollar and using the extra money to pay its bills. The 10-year yield today is around 2.6 percent, so you could sell a 10-year with a 23 percent coupon for 275 cents on the dollar.**** The 30-year is about 3.9 percent, so a 14 percent coupon should get you there. Etc. Math here.

Now, given my previous writing on Fixed Interest Payment Consol Bonds … would this work too?

Yes, in a functional sense, of course it would. Its a similar, though not identical, answer, but it goes through the same loophole. Premium bonds are, by law, counted on their face value. So any bond with a face value substantially below its issue price that is used to roll over maturing long term bonds would “roll back” the debt ceiling count.

Oct 11 2013

Economic Populist: Will the White House Accept A Government Default, When It Doesn’t Have To?

Over at Wonkblog Ezra Klein, one of MSNBC’s favorite neoliberals, writes:

The problem with President Obama’s shutdown strategy



 

The political theory here is clear: Obama is trying to marshal public opinion against the GOP. If enough Republicans are getting angry calls from their constituents and seeing polls that look disastrous for their party, they’ll find a way to back down.

 

But it can backfire badly. Every second Obama stood at that podium made it a bit harder for the Republican Party to retreat. The more he repeats that this is their shutdown and they need to end it, the more their party suffers if they can’t find a way to prove the president wrong. Obama’s efforts to move public opinion toward  him also moves  Republican opinion against him.

 

… the White House is still pursuing a strategy that makes it harder for Boehner and the Republicans to back down. Their gamble is that the power of public opinion will overwhelm the power of presidential polarization. And if the Republican Party loses totally — loses in a way where they can’t tell themselves it was a win — that’ll be the end of these tactics.

The problem with this kind of brinksmanship tactics is that they may lead to an economic collapse ~ and given Europe’s ongoing problems with the scourge of harsh austerity policies in the context of a monetary system built broken, that might be a worldwide economic collapse.

Now, the threat of the economic collapse does not come from the Government Shutdown, it comes from the risk of default on the government debt, due to the US Treasury running out of juggling options before it needs to sell a new issue of Treasury bonds to avoid a default on payment of government obligations.

And the puzzling point is that the Administration insists that the risk of default is real, even though the Administration itself can take the threat of default off the table.

Oct 11 2013

Grand Bargain Circus – Red Clowns Wrangle

Jean-Léon_Gérôme_-_Duel_After_a_Masquerade_Ball

Greetings Circus fans!  Welcome back to the Circus that, like rust, never sleeps.  For the past couple of days the red clowns have separated into rival gang factions to fight out their final strategery.  Watching clowns enter into public backbiting and recriminations is always amusing for the audience and the pie has been flying.  

It seems that according to the folks at the  Beltway Bigtop Office of Promotions that the Hot Potato of Blame has fallen into Boner T. Redclown’s Ring 1 and cannot be returned to Harry T. Blueclown’s Ring 3 due to a preponderance of audience belief.  

The Beltway Bigtop Office of Promotions now says that this shutdown was planned, long in advance by a consortium of red clown groups and heavily funded by red clowns from the Koch Klowns organization:

The current budget brinkmanship is just the latest development in a well-financed, broad-based assault on the health law, Mr. Obama’s signature legislative initiative. Groups like Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks are all immersed in the fight, as is Club for Growth, a business-backed nonprofit organization. Some, like Generation Opportunity and Young Americans for Liberty, both aimed at young adults, are upstarts. Heritage Action is new, too, founded in 2010 to advance the policy prescriptions of its sister group, the Heritage Foundation.

The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort. A group linked to the Kochs, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, disbursed more than $200 million last year to nonprofit organizations involved in the fight.

Great amusement for the audience has resulted!  While the Koch Klowns have been climbing the rigging and shouting that Kochs are not to blame, the rank and file red clowns have been quite agitated at each other due to the fact that their gambit to force the Ringmaster and the blue clowns to capitulate has failed to be an early success. The blue clowns and much of the audience have had many a moment of amusement as the red clowns have piled into a clown bus and have been chasing Cruz T. Redclown around the arena:

Clown Bus by guthrieschroederRep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) on Monday echoed Peter King’s statement that the person to blame for the current government shutdown is Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

“If I had to cast blame anywhere, I would say it was Sen. Cruz and those who insisted upon this tactic that we all knew was not going to succeed,” Dent told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“What he did essentially, Sen. Cruz, basically, he took a lot of folks into the ditch. Now that we’re in the ditch, you can’t get out of the ditch, the senator has no plan to get out of the ditch, those of us who do have a plan to get out of the ditch and will vote to get out of the ditch will then be criticized by those who put us in the ditch in the first place.”

As one group of the red clowns played “chase the scapegoat,” other set to work on what the red clown leaders strategery:

Representative Pete Sessions of Texas, chairman of the Rules Committee, tells us Speaker John Boehner doesn’t yet have his debt-ceiling proposal finalized. For now, no legislation is headed toward his committee, and it’s all about messaging. … “I’d say if you ran the clock on it, 48 hours,” Sessions adds, when asked how long it’ll take Boehner to unveil the leadership’s plan.

Scary Clowns at PDC2008 Party at Universal Studios by D.Begley

But even as Boner T. Redclown was busy juggling and formulating his strategery, out of a dark corner of Ring 1 came the nearly-famous Ryan T. Redclown who was once Mittens T. Redclown’s second in a clown duel with the Ringmaster.  It appears that Ryan T. Redclown has been working on a little strategery of his own as he loaded the cannon with an op-ed from the Clown Street Journal which he fired off at the Ringmaster and the blue clowns in Ring 3.

In an editorial voice sweeter than the Circus’ cotton candy, Ryan T. Redclown turned away from the stage and projected his message at the audience in calm and reasonable tones.  Why, his message was just like that of the Ringmaster:

obama ryanIf Mr. Obama decides to talk, he’ll find that we actually agree on some things. For example, most of us agree that gradual, structural reforms are better than sudden, arbitrary cuts. For my Democratic colleagues, the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act are a major concern. And the truth is, there’s a better way to cut spending. We could provide relief from the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act in exchange for structural reforms to entitlement programs.



Who knows what this means? But it’s interesting, especially when you compare it to what the president said today:

I’ve put forward proposals in my budget to reform entitlement programs for the long haul and reform our tax code in a way that would close loopholes for the wealthiest and lower rates for corporations and help us invest in new jobs and reduce our deficits. And some of these were originally Republican proposals, because I don’t believe any party has a monopoly on good ideas. So I’ve shown myself willing to go more than halfway in these conversations, and if reasonable Republicans want to talk about these things again, I’m ready to head up to the Hill and try. I’ll even spring for dinner again.

Why, it sounds like Ryan T. Redclown is eager for yet another round of Grand Bargain Fever with the Ringmaster!  Oh, wait, what’s that, oh my, I think there’s going to be music in the air…  Yes indeed!  The Grand Calliope is being drawn in by horses to play soothing music…

Yes, the Ringmaster is cautiously optimistic that a Grand Bargain short term deal can be made and a faction of the red clowns looks like they might go for it…

Calliope,_the_wonderful_operonicon_or_steam_car_of_the_muses,_advertising_poster,_1874The Obama administration on Monday indicated it could support a temporary increase to the nation’s borrowing limit to give Republicans and Democrats, locked in a bitter fight over funding government operations, more time to negotiate a longer-term solution. …

Other Republicans said the time had come for conservatives to relent in trying to link government funding with measures to dismantle the health law. Senate Democrats have rejected multiple bills approved by House Republicans to fund federal agencies while also delaying or scaling back the health law.

“The question now is whether the people who fell for the Cruz folly will recognize that it was built on a false premise,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), referring to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and other conservatives who pushed Republicans to call for defunding the health law as a condition of financing government operations. “The whole thing was a joke from the beginning.”

Oh, looky there!  The red clowns are admitting that the whole attack on the Ringmaster’s “One Big Accomplishment” was nothing but a clownish prank to start with!  The question that is being promoted is, on whose terms will the audience be robbed, the red clowns’ or the Ringmasters?  In point of fact, since the red clowns and the blue clowns and the Ringmaster are all in the pay of the Beltway Bigtop funders, it has always been the funder’s terms that will ultimately decide the terms of the robbery of the audience.
 

The Market That Didn’t Bark

Clown dog

Speaking of those Beltway Bigtop funders, many of the red clowns are at pains to assuage their fears about the possiblilty of a default, saying that a default wouldn’t be that bad:

“It really is irresponsible of the president to try to scare the markets,” said Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky. “If you don’t raise your debt ceiling, all you’re saying is, ‘We’re going to be balancing our budget.’ So if you put it in those terms, all these scary terms of, ‘Oh my goodness, the world’s going to end’ – if we balance the budget, the world’s going to end? Why don’t we spend what comes in?”

Many of the Beltway Bigtop funders, whose entire existence revolves around the stability of markets are suddenly less than thrilled with the red clowns’ strategery:

Veteran Republican fundraisers are increasingly alarmed by the defiant stance of hard-line conservatives amid the federal government shutdown, prompting fears that many key donors may be restrained in their giving going into the 2014 midterms.

The growing unhappiness among longtime GOP check-writers and party elders underscores the deepening divisions over the ascendant tea party wing, which fueled this past week’s shutdown and is demanding Democratic concessions in exchange for reopening the government and raising the nation’s debt limit.

While the funders are nervous, it appears that the markets themselves are not.  Perhaps it is a result of the intoxication that comes of having looted the economy, gotten away with it and still being left to run rampant, but the markets are not making movements commensurate with the dangers inherent in a default:

The paralysis in Washington continued to weigh on markets. Analysts have expressed particular concern that the fight over the budget will stymie efforts to raise the budget ceiling, resulting in a US default with damaging economic consequences.

However, the market still considers a US default unlikely, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital.

“If the markets were really fearful of a default…. we wouldn’t be down a half a percent or three-quarters of a percent,” Cardillo said. “We would be down a heck of a lot more.”

vampire squid by snigl3tPerhaps the Titans of Wall Street  are feeling secure because they have been so amply provided for by the Circus and their appointed retinue of government lackeys.   Perhaps they feel that they can rely upon the safety net that bailed them in before:

What the Fed did with Bear Stearns was highly controversial. They utilized the [exigent circumstances clause] without technically breaking any laws. Are we saying that we will bailout a stupid investment bank, but we won’t bailout the US Treasury using the same clause? That would be madness.

Or perhaps they’re not worried because, well, they pay for the clown show as a distraction and they know that their hired clowns will fall into the roles that are assigned them.

The blue clowns will, rather than making their own demands and fighting for what 99% of the audience wants, claim to be battered spouses in a relationship with an awful abuser:

Remember how Republicans “won” the 2000 election? Remember how they tricked the country into going to war in Iraq? They used non-democratic means to get what they couldn’t get legitimately, and it worked, so they did it more. They got used to getting their way using bullying, so they did it more. Now it’s flat-out hostage-taking. And they’re doing it more.

Again and again, Republicans take a hostage and demand something they could not get through elections or the legitimate constitutional legislative process. … They continue these tactics because it is getting them what they – and the billionaires and giant corporations who fund them – want. They do it because it works. And then they do it again, because it worked.

But who do the blue clowns’ actions serve?  When time after time, they “compromise” with the red clowns, who are, after all, only doing what their funders demand, are they not giving the funders what they want, just more slowly than they want it?

Perhaps the market’s failure to react in horror to the horrors that are being presented is merely a reflection of the fact that they own the Beltway Bigtop and the clowns work for them.

Who should the audience root for, red clowns?

When Paul Ryan talks about “reforming” entitlements, he’s talking about eliminating them, because he does not now believe — nor has he ever believed — that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are legitimate functions of the national government. He will get rid of them piecemeal if he has to do so, but he is as dedicated to their elimination as he ever was when he was mooching off my money. When Paul Ryan talks about “reforming” the tax code, he doesn’t mean making sure the people to whom all the money has been shoved upwards over the past four decades start paying their fair share again. He means “broadening the base” — You pay more. Jamie Dimon doesn’t. — and he means “lowering the rates” — on the people who buy him his $4000 bottles of wine — and he means “simplifying the code” — eliminating loopholes for the 20 minutes it takes before tax lawyers open up a hundred new ones.

Or blue clowns?

“This is a confidential document, last offer the president – the White House made last year to Speaker Boehner to try to reach this $4 trillion grand bargain.  And it’s long and it’s tedious and it’s got budget jargon in it.  But what it shows is a willingness to cut all kinds of things, like TRICARE, which is the sacred health insurance program for the military, for military retirees; to cut Social Security; to cut Medicare. And there are some lines in there about, “We want to get tax rates down, not only for individuals but for businesses.”  So Obama and the White House were willing to go quite far.”

Colourful Clowns

Oct 11 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Warnings on Default

There are a few fools in the House and Senate who don’t understand the consequences of the US defaulting on its debt payments. Flirting with default is not an option to solve a budget impasse. It’s a recipe for global financial disaster.

The right’s antics could cause a Depression: The terrifying default aftermath

by David Dayen, Salon

Normally with a financial crisis, there’s at least agreement on the need for a response. Not with these lunatics

The biggest threat from the twin calamities of the government shutdown and the debt limit breach is not actually the real-world effect; it’s what happens the next day, and the day after that. In other words, the most frightening thing about default, which is much more problematic than the shutdown, is what happens afterward. [..]

And all of these outcomes pale in comparison to what would happen if the government defaulted on any of its debts. Put the misguided statements of debt limit denialist Republicans aside. Based on current cash on hand at the Treasury Department, roughly 32 percent of the funds owed (pdf) between Oct. 18 and Nov. 15 would have to go unpaid. That’s a massive reduction in federal spending, and would cause a significant hit to Gross Domestic Product. Prioritization of payments, which may be unconstitutional, would certainly be a logistical nightmare, forcing Treasury to rewire its payment system (pdf) and pick and choose between up to 100 million monthly invoices.

If one of the missed payments is to a holder of U.S. debt, then you have a default event that could cause credit markets to freeze, the U.S. dollar to plummet, and financial institutions to struggle to secure short-term lending on which they rely. With the dollar and the U.S. Treasury bond serving as a benchmark for world markets, Businessweek says that the resulting global apocalypse would dwarf the implosion of Lehman Brothers that precipitated the 2008 financial crisis. And it would injure the perceived stability of U.S. debt maybe forever, raising our borrowing rates as investors decide a country that threatens to default for no good reason isn’t worth putting their money into. [..]

Armed with the knowledge that Congress won’t meaningfully help recover the economy, the White House needs to think very hard about forsaking the various options they could use to try and avert a debt default. It’s not just that the alternative is a disaster; it’s a prolonged disaster.

IMF piles pressure on US to reconcile differences and prevent debt default

by Larry Elliot and Jill Treanor, The Guardian

Shares and oil prices rise in hope of six-week extension as OECD warns US deadlock threatens world economy

The International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development both issued sharply worded warnings to Republicans and Democrats amid signs that America’s Asian creditors were becoming alarmed at the potential consequences of the impasse. [..]

Speculation about a deal emerged after Jack Lew, the US Treasury secretary said there would be chaos if the US defaulted – a message rammed home by the IMF’s Christine Lagarde and the OECD’s secretary general Angel Gurría.

Lagarde, the IMF’s managing director, said there would be very dangerous consequences for the US economy and very dangerous consequences outside the US economy if the default was not prevented.

She distanced herself from the infighting in Washington, noting: “The IMF does not make recommendations about how, politically, this can be resolved. We don’t take a political view. We just look at the economic consequences.

“When it affects the largest economy in the world, we are bound not only to look at the immediate domestic consequences but at what happens elsewhere, so that we can have a dialogue with our members to help them prepare. I hope we will be able to look back in a few weeks and say what a waste of time that was. But we have to look at the risks no matter how unlikely they are to materialise.”

On Wednesday, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren addressed the Senate warning that “this is no time to act out dangerous fantasies.

“We’re in this position for one reason, and one reason only: because Congress told the government to spend more money than we have – and Congress told the Treasury to run up our debt to pay for it – but now Congress is threatening to run out on the bill,” Senator Warren said.  “…The idea that we can somehow renege on our debts without paying a huge price is a fantasy-and a very dangerous one.” [..]

“This fight is about financial responsibility. Financially responsible people don’t charge thousands on their credit cards and then tear up the bill when it arrives. Financially responsible nations don’t either….If we default on our debt, we could bring on a worldwide recession-a recession that would pummel hard-working middle class people, people who lost homes and jobs and retirement savings and who are barely getting back on their feet,” said Warren.

Talks between White House and Republicans fail to end US shutdown

by Dan Roberts, The Guardian

Hopes that a deal might be in sight disappear as Barack Obama and House speaker John Boehner fail to see eye to eye

Discussions between Barack Obama and House speaker John Boehner broke up after 90 minutes with little apparent progress, although there was a marked change in tone on both sides that suggests a deal could still be close. [..]

But the Republicans refused to lift a separate threat to spending authorisation, which has led to a partial shutdown of the government since 1 October.

Obama had insisted on at least a temporary reprieve from both threats before he would agree to negotiate over Republican demands to repeal his healthcare reforms and cut spending.

On Thursday night, it appeared the president had chosen to stand his ground and may have initially refused to accept the partial climbdown from Boehner.

The game continues and no one is hitting the brake.

Oct 10 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: The “Creators” of the “American Taliban” Losing Control

The business community is worried that they no longer have any influence over the Republican Party and place the blame for this current crisis squarely on the Tea Party faction of the House.

As the government shutdown grinds toward a potential debt default, some of the country’s most influential business executives have come to a conclusion all but unthinkable a few years ago: Their voices are carrying little weight with the House majority that their millions of dollars in campaign contributions helped build and sustain.

Their frustration has grown so intense in recent days that several trade association officials warned in interviews on Wednesday that they were considering helping wage primary campaigns against Republican lawmakers who had worked to engineer the political standoff in Washington.

Such an effort would thrust Washington’s traditionally cautious and pragmatic business lobby into open warfare with the Tea Party faction, which has grown in influence since the 2010 election and won a series of skirmishes with the Republican establishment in the last two years. [..]

In the two previous battles over the debt limit, many chief executives were reluctant to take sides, banding together in groups like Fix the Debt, which spent millions of dollars on a campaign urging Democrats and Republicans to work toward a “grand bargain” on the budget. But with shutdown a reality, and the clock ticking toward default, some of those same executives now place the blame squarely on conservative Republicans in the House.

The handful of Tea Party extremists, who believe that it’s OK to crash the world’s economy for their ideology, are out of control and unreasonable, not that they ever weren’t. But now the creators of this American version of Al Qaeda are scared. Yeah, they are scared. When you have the Koch brothers writing letters (pdf) to the US Senate insisting that the company was not involved in any ploy to shut down the government in efforts to defund Obamacare and Heritage Action, an arm of the Koch bothers’ Heritage Foundation, telling the House to raise the debt ceiling, you know they’re rattled.

Michael Needham, CEO of the powerful group Heritage Action, said that he opposed conditioning a crucial vote to increase the government’s borrowing authority on the group’s main goal: defunding Obamacare.

Under questioning at a breakfast with reporters, hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Needham, a product of the Stanford Business School, conceded that failure to raise the debt ceiling would indeed disrupt the global economy. [..]

That could give Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at least a smidgen of room to maneuver if and when they decide to strike an overall deal: the White House could get a “clean” debt ceiling vote (though of short duration) and the GOP could get a concession or two on the continuing resolution to fund the government’s annual spending.

Taking the cue, the reluctant leader of the pack, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA))and other members of the GOP leadership are meeting this afternoon at the White House to discuss a short term solution to raise the debt ceiling but not ending the government shutdown

Republican House leaders Thursday offered the president and Senate far less than they want in the ongoing financial standoff, presenting a six-week hike of the debt limit, but no deal to reopen the shuttered federal government.While the plan would grant six more weeks before the nation faces the chance of a default, it is contingent on the president agreeing to give up one of his key stances — that he will not sit down and negotiate until the government is reopened and the House stops using the $16.7 trillion debt limit as a lever to extract concessions. The limit is expected to be reached Oct. 17.

Nope, says the White House:

“The President has made clear that he will not pay a ransom for Congress doing its job and paying our bills,” an administration official said in a statement.

“It is better for economic certainty for Congress to take the threat of default off the table for as long as possible, which is why we support the Senate Democrats’ efforts to raise the debt limit for a year with no extraneous political strings attached,” the official continued, adding that Obama still want a straight up-or-down vote on a measure that the Senate passed to reopen government.

“Once Republicans in Congress act to remove the threat of default and end this harmful government shutdown, the President will be willing to negotiate on a broader budget agreement to create jobs, grow the economy, and put our fiscal house in order,” the official said. “While we are willing to look at any proposal Congress puts forward to end these manufactured crises, we will not allow a faction of the Republicans in the House to hold the economy hostage to its extraneous and extreme political demands. Congress needs to pass a clean debt limit increase and a funding bill to reopen the government.”

This doesn’t sound very promising. Boehner’s problem is that unless he violates the Hastert Rule and goes the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the Democrats for help, there is no way he can get a clean debt ceiling bill to the House floor. Boehner is betting the faith and credit of the US on Obama agreeing to his terms. The president is betting that Boehner will be forced to cave, abandon the Hastert Rule, and put a clean debt ceiling bill up for a vote.

Reid and Obama are also unsure whether Boehner can actually push his proposal through the House in the first place. They aren’t convinced hard-line conservatives and tea party aligned House Republicans won’t balk, forcing Boehner to turn to House Democrats for support. But any Democratic support would be tied to reopening the government.

Here’s the House GOP plan, and the thinking behind it: Republicans would vote to lift the debt ceiling until Nov. 22 – just before the Thanksgiving recess – while prohibiting the Treasury Department from using extraordinary measures to lift the borrowing limit. The legislation will also set up a negotiation over the borrowing cap and government funding. At this time, there are no spending cuts attached to the legislation. There is also no vote scheduled.

The game of chicken continues leaving not just the average American at great risk but putting the business community at loggerheads on who to fund to represent them in the long run. This game will have consequences. Question is for whom? And how dire?  

Oct 10 2013

President Obama Gave Speaker Boehner the Debt Ceiling to Play With in 2010

Disclaimer: This forum rules as do the moderators. You know who I am talking about.

And here we are again! It started in 2010. The Bush tax cuts were about to expire. There was leverage to negotiate a debt ceiling raise or to just let them expire. How do I know there was leverage? I know Republicans like tax cuts for the rich, and there was a deal for the purpose of extending them with Republican votes. It passed with those Republican votes, which led to this whole thing because there was no debt ceiling raise included.

Maybe others are unaware of this? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter though; the uninformed shouldn’t dictate fantasy as reality in a reality based community. This is the actual reality and why we are worried about a global financial calamity with regard to a possible political default on the public debt, which is a choice and otherwise impossible for a sovereign currency issuer.

Obama on the Debt Limit – December 2010

Q Mr. President, thank you. How do these negotiations affect negotiations or talks with Republicans about raising the debt limit? Because it would seem that they have a significant amount of leverage over the White House now, going in. Was there ever any attempt by the White House to include raising the debt limit as a part of this package?

THE PRESIDENT: When you say it would seem they’ll have a significant amount of leverage over the White House, what do you mean?

Q Just in the sense that they’ll say essentially we’re not going to raise the – we’re not going to agree to it unless the White House is able to or willing to agree to significant spending cuts across the board that probably go deeper and further than what you’re willing to do. I mean, what leverage would you have –

THE PRESIDENT: Look, here’s my expectation – and I’ll take John Boehner at his word – that nobody, Democrat or Republican, is willing to see the full faith and credit of the United States government collapse, that that would not be a good thing to happen. And so I think that there will be significant discussions about the debt limit vote. That’s something that nobody ever likes to vote on. But once John Boehner is sworn in as Speaker, then he’s going to have responsibilities to govern. You can’t just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower.

You know, we on the left knew what this would lead to. You don’t trust John Boehner with the full faith in credit of the United States unless one is completely clueless or an economic nihilist. The resulting signs we are starting to see of a financial panic in response to the prospects of a default on top of the ongoing depression, the jobs crisis, the continuing climate and ecological crisis all converging into one huge Epochal crisis, point to a special kind of disdain for the public that all our elected leaders have for us.  I mean, we have enough problems without adding to them through a self induced global financial then economic crisis caused by the President’s pursuit of a deficit terrorist grand bargain whether through incompetence or outright corruption.  

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