Republicans Revive Empty Debt Ceiling Threats in Suicide Move

The National Journal is reporting that John Boehner and his unruly herd of Republicans are preparing once again to issue empty threats on the country's debt ceiling - putting up a brave front and demanding that Medicare be dismantled, or Social Security privatized, or food stamps cut back further for them to give the president a debt ceiling increase. Huh? What debt ceiling increase? Two months ago, we talked about how the president's policies resulting improving economy (and raising taxes on the rich) made the bottom fall out of the GOP's debt ceiling square dance, as the president paid down the debt and cut the deficit in half (when measured against the size of the economy).

But fret not, think Boehner and Ryan, maybe the President's policies took that candy from their petulant hands back in May, but we will reach the debt ceiling again. At some point. So they have helpfully come forward and offered "options" - i.e. the Ryan budget rehashed - that the president can
have if he wants to raise the debt limit when it's reached clobber the Republicans with in 2014:
For a long-term deal, one that gives Treasury borrowing authority for three-and-a-half years, Obama would have to agree to premium support. The plan to privatize Medicare, perhaps the most controversial aspect of the Ryan budget, is the holy grail for conservatives who say major deficit-reduction can only be achieved by making this type of cut to mandatory spending. "If the president wants to go big, there's a big idea," said Rep. Steve Scalise, chairman of the Republican Study Committee.

For a medium-sized increase in the debt-limit, Republicans want Obama to agree to cut spending in the SNAP food stamp program, block-grant Medicaid, or tinker with chained CPI.

For a smaller increase, there is talk of means-testing Social Security, for example, or ending certain agricultural subsidies.
Isn't that nice of Republicans to remind voters of why they hate the Republican party (i.e. the Ryan budget) mere months before an election year, considering that the debt ceiling will not be reached, at the earliest, until October?

Let me outline what has already happened on the debt ceiling: President Obama made it clear in December that he is not playing this game, and subsequently, the GOP folded like a cheap wallet in January, "suspending" the debt limit for a few months, which was then followed up by the news devastating for Republicans and fantastic for the rest of the country that we were paying down the debt and rising revenues would mean that the debt ceiling got pushed further back. Ironically, the Republican sequester - difficult and short sighted as it may be - is actually helping push the debt ceiling debate closer to the election, giving the president and the Democrats even more leverage.

Even in these "offers," there is GOP acknowledgment that there isn't any more discretionary spending to cut. That is the reason they say they must now go after mandatory spending and the big three - Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, along with food stamps. I can pretty well foresee the devastating blow coming from the president: he's going to and say, as he always has, that he would be willing to accept Chained CPI in the context of other reforms designed to strengthen Social Security to be more sustainble and increase benefits to those who need the most, and demand that Congress needs to do its damn job.

He will offer that to the Republicans as a last chance for them to save face. Because he knows, as well as John Boehner his team on the Hill, that big business will not tolerate Republican intransigence on the debt limit. They can work with the President and look like they got something, or be rolled over in a very public humiliation - their choice. The President will be able take the case to the American people and correctly point at the Republicans for once again holding the global economy hostage to try to force their draconian social Darwinism down the throats of the American people. I doubt very much even the most incompetent Speaker in recent history can't see this one coming from a mile away. The Republicans know that their posturing is just that - empty threats.

So, I say to Republicans: Game on. Or perhaps, please proceed.

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