Jonathan Chait is exhorting us to “stop fretting: the debt-ceiling crisis is over!” And indeed, it appears Speaker Boehner is finally willing to bring a vote to the House floor, even if it is the Senate bill, and even if it will not earn the support of the radicals. Speaking of whom, Heritage Action, Jim DeMint’s headquarters, is on record urging the radicals to vote against any such bill. Conventional wisdom says Boehner puts his job as Speaker on the line as soon as he brings a vote. Maybe, maybe not. The person who perhaps should be more worried is Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, who is in the process of being “primaried.” And who faces rhetorical onslaughts like these by radicals with media audiences:
Someone told me #DitchMcConnell was like “the devil himself.” I pointed out he’s worse. The devil is more honest.
— Steve Deace (@SteveDeaceShow) October 16, 2013
Chait suggests we see the debt-ceiling deal as “a huge Democratic success — or, at least, the closest thing to success that can be attained under the circumstances.” This is a victory, Chait argues, because Obama did not cave and give a ransom, thereby refusing to institutionalize extortion into everyday American politics. The delegitimation of debt-ceiling extortion would indeed be a victory, but we should not get ahead of ourselves. We will only know for sure come January and February — when the continuing resolution keeping government open runs out and the debt-ceiling is reached once again. As usual, I’m with Martin Wolf: the only real victory would have been to eliminate the debt ceiling altogether. As a structure of law, the debt-ceiling makes no sense. Congress has already enshrined the spending; the debt-ceiling only makes possible the paying of bills and financing of debt already put in motion. It is an obstacle without a purpose; a risk with no reward. Unfortunately, the radicals prefer to think “the debt ceiling is a built-in balanced budget mechanism.” This is because default would mean “prioritization” — the government would pay only those it can afford to pay: creditors, presumably, at the expense of Social Security and Medicare recipients. Such prioritization would save the US Treasury. More to the point, it would cut entitlement spending like the radicals want. But it would almost certainly push the domestic economy into a recession.
The deadline for Social Security payments is November 1.
All in all, at the moment it appears that, yes, the United States will live to see another day. We shall see at what cost. Survival can often extract so much.