DEBT-CEILING MADNESS. Throughout the on-going debt-ceiling negotiations, the GOP has proved that they are more than just the party of "no." Ensnared by the reckless fanaticism of the Tea Party, House Republican extremists are determined to hold the economy hostage for political gain. As I told MSNBC’s Ed Schultz on Wednesday, this game of brinksmanship is just the latest installment of what Republicans have been about from the start: running against Obama in 2012. It’s the American people that ultimately pay the price.
But even John Boehner’s plan to temporarily raise the debt ceiling in return for deep spending cuts was not enough to sway his own caucus. Thursday’s failure to garner enough GOP votes on Boehner’s plan shows that "chaos caucus" will stop at nothing to tank the economy and inch us closer to calamitous default. As John Nichols points out, House Republicans find themselves faced with a choice: falling in line with Boehner’s plan or "the sweet sound of the base cheering for absolutism–and chaos." As I pointed out weeks ago in the Washington Post, by standing firm on their pledge to never to raise taxes, cut defense spending or pass meaningful progressive tax reform, they starve the US economy of much needed revenue that could actually put Americans back to work — the most effective way to reduce the deficit — and help to boost the stagnating US economy. But you won’t hear that in Washington. Inside the beltway, the crisis of the hour is the deficit. And yet poll after poll shows that Americans are more concerned about jobs. As I told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough on Monday, while Washington is besieged by deficit hysteria and a president all too willing to sell out, Americans are fighting a familiar fight for basic income. There is way too much "kumbaya" in this President for the moment we are living in. Real leadership does demand compromise, but real leadership cannot be defined by it.
By not pushing for revenues in any debt-ceiling compromise, President Obama and Democrats have moved this debate even further to the right. In "The Rise of the Austerity Hawk Democrats," Contributing Writer Ari Berman rightly points out that by not insisting on a "clean bill" to raise the debt-ceiling and pushing for ludicrous spending cuts and changes to entitlements, President Obama has completely undermined the case for progressive governance.
As the August 2nd deadline nears, and if Congress is unable to cut a deal, President Obama will be faced with only one option: invoke Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which says that “the validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.” This option is one that the president alone may exercise. As I argued in the Washington Post, this is not just a constitutional option, but a constitutional obligation.