S&P Debt Downgrade Leads To Same Old Washington Blame Game

The immediate reaction among the political class to the debt downgrade was the play the same old stupid games.

Not surprisingly,  Standard & Poor’s announcement that it was downgrading U.S. sovereign debt has led to a round of political finger pointing as Republicans and Democrats seek to blame the opposing party for what happened:

Standard & Poor’s delivered an unambiguous message to investors Friday that has serious implications not only for the nation’s economy but also for President Barack Obama, the tea party and anyone else with skin in the 2012 elections:

America’s political system is subprime.

The partisan battle lines were quickly drawn: Republicans blamed Obama for reckless overspending, and Democrats said tea party intransigence blocked the sort of “grand bargain” that might have fended off a downgrade. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) called on Obama to fire Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Pragmatists in Congress took the report as a wake-up call to go for a big deficit-reduction plan, and the fret set crooned in unison, “We told you so.”

Still, it was hard not to read the S&P analysis as a report card on Obama’s oft-repeated pledge to cure Washington’s hyper-partisanship, the promise that won him the White House in 2008.

And much as the credit agency knocked the U.S. credit rating to AA+, it didn’t give passing marks to Obama’s efforts either — producing a soundbite-worthy nugget for any Republican ready to use it: under Obama, we’re not triple-A anymore.

“If Team Obama believes the first downgrade in our history occurring on his watch … is not going to be a boulder in his political backpack, they are delusional,” veteran Republican strategist Mary Matalin told POLITICO Friday night.

GOP presidential contenders wasted no time jumping in. “America’s creditworthiness just became the latest casualty in President Obama’s failed record of leadership on the economy. Standard & Poor’s rating downgrade is a deeply troubling indicator of our country’s decline under President Obama,” said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Added former House speaker Newt Gingrich: “The Obama disaster continues. Highest food stamp level and lowest credit rating in history in the same 24 hours.”

It wasn’t just the right that jumped on the story as a way to gain political advantage, the left is going it too. Matthew Yglesias used it as an opportunity to attack John Boehner:

The person who looks bad here, in my view, is John Boehner. President Obama wanted to do a “grand bargain.” The Gang of Six Senators wanted to do a “grand bargain.” And it looked for a moment like Speaker Boehner was going to be part of a grand bargain. But ultimately he decided that he didn’t want to sign a deal that would fracture his caucus, so the grand bargain talks fell apart. And yet the little bargain that did eventually pass the House ultimately couldn’t pass with Republican votes alone. So what did Boehner really achieve? If he was ultimately destined to strike a deal with the White House that needed Democratic votes to pass the House, why not go for the grand bargain? According to Boehner “When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the white House, I got 98 percent of what I wanted. I’m pretty happy.” How happy is he now?

While Greg Sargent’s target of choice is Mitch McConnell:

S&P explicitly cites the use of the threat of default as leverage for policy ends as a sign that American governance is becoming dangerously unstable and unpredictable. But folks, Mitch McConnell has repeatedly said that use of default this way is a good thing. McConnell said this:

“I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting. Most of us didn’t think that. What we did learn is this — it’s a hostage that’s worth ransoming. And it focuses the Congress on something that must be done.”

McConnell also said this is something that should happen again in the future:

“What we have done, Larry, also is set a new template. In the future, any president, this one or another one, when they request us to raise the debt ceiling it will not be clean anymore. This is just the first step. This, we anticipate, will take us into 2013. Whoever the new president is, is probably going to be asking us to raise the debt ceiling again. Then we will go through the process again and see what we can continue to achieve in connection with these debt ceiling requests of presidents to get our financial house in order.”

The problem is that this analysis, whether it comes from the left or the right, ignores what S&P actually said and the reasons that our bond rating has been downgraded:

We lowered our long-term rating on the U.S. because we believe that the prolonged controversy over raising the statutory debt ceiling and the related fiscal policy debate indicate that further near-term progress containing the growth in public spending, especially on entitlements, or on reaching an agreement on raising revenues is less likely than we previously assumed and will remain a contentious and fitful process. We also believe that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration agreed to this week
falls short of the amount that we believe is necessary to stabilize the general government debt burden by the middle of the decade.

Our lowering of the rating was prompted by our view on the rising public debt burden and our perception of greater policymaking uncertainty, consistent with our criteria (see “Sovereign Government Rating Methodology and Assumptions” June 30, 2011, especially Paragraphs 36-41). Nevertheless, we view the U.S. federal government’s other economic, external, and monetary credit attributes, which form the basis for the sovereign rating, as broadly unchanged.

(…)

The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy. Despite this year’s wide-ranging debate, in our view, the differences between political parties have proven to be extraordinarily difficult to bridge, and, as we see it, the resulting agreement fell well short of the comprehensive fiscal consolidation program that some proponents had envisaged until quite recently. Republicans and Democrats have only been able to agree to relatively modest savings on discretionary spending while delegating to the Select Committee decisions on more comprehensive measures. It appears that for now, new revenues have dropped down on the menu of policy options. In addition, the plan envisions only minor policy changes on Medicare and little change in other entitlements, the containment of which we and most other independent observers regard as key to long-term fiscal sustainability.

S&P didn’t just downgrade our debt, they downgraded our entire political system, and it’s hard to argue that they’re wrong in any of their conclusions. The past six weeks of debt ceiling negotiations, as well as earlier incidents such as the near government shutdown we experienced in April, the manner in which the Bush tax cuts were extended in December, the utter rejection of the rather reasonable recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission, and even the 2009 health care reform debate are all examples of the manner in which our political system has become dysfunctional even when it comes to the rather basic legislative duty of budgeting. In fact, as Fred Bauer notes, what Standard & Poor’s is asking of the United States isn’t at all unreasonable:

S&P makes the following recommendations for the United States: increase revenue, improve the economy, and ensure that government can fulfill its routine fiscal responsibilities. Those aren’t exactly bad points. High-wire political knife-fights may make for riveting blogging and TV, but they do not always reflect the utmost of fiscal prudence. Perhaps the US government should not dance to the tune of (far from infallible) ratings agencies, but S&P does have a worthy point in this: in order for our government to work in the long term, it must have some kind of governable consensus. We must also have an economics anchored in reality and not in ideology, and a fiscal politics of compromise and empiricism instead of flamboyance and wrath.

Daniel Drezner, Kevin Drum, and Robert Reich are among those who are questioning S&P’s assessment of the American political system and arguing that it does not justify the extreme reaction of ratings downgrade. While their points are mostly well-taken, the general attitude of their arguments strike me as the equivalent of the “hear no evil, see no evil, say no evil” mentality. S&P has given us some really bad news, but ignoring it isn’t the proper response, neither is using it as just another opportunity to score political points. In fact, that type of reaction just serves to reinforce the point that the report makes about the dysfunction in American politics.

As David Weigel notes, the solutions to the problems raised by Standard & Poor’s are not impossible, and they’re well within our reach, the question is whether our political system will allow them to be implemented:

We actually have all the tools we need to recover the bond rating. The question is whether our political actors do that, or whether they see the openings to craft political narratives. Obama shouldn’t have spent so much! (That spending included around $400 billion of tax cuts in the stimulus and $500 billion in the November 2010 Bush tax cut extension.) The Tea Party blew up the process! (More true — I don’t see how the passage of Cut, Cap, and Balance, with its requirement that the states force a Balanced Budget Amendment into effect over the next few years, after which point we need supermajorities for tax hikes… yeah, not quite sure how this gets us out of this!) It’s easier to imagine a round or 10 of political point-scoring than, for the first time, some sober assessment of what’s going on.

The best thing that could come out of this downgrade would be that it could indeed serve as a shock to the system, and that everyone involved in the processes of government would see this is a moment to end the partisan games and come up with real, long term solutions to our problems. They won’t be easy, and they will require both sides to give in a little bit on some of their scared cows. Entitlements will have to be reformed, drastically. Health care costs will, somehow, have to be brought in line. The entirety of the Internal Revenue Code will need to be reformed (and, yes, that might mean that some people might see their taxes go up at some point in the future). The absurd practice of baseline budgeting will have to be ended. And all spending will have to be on the table for cuts. At this point, it’s going to be hard to do any of this without some pain being felt. However, if we do nothing and just continue with the way things are, we will have let this Sputnik Moment pass us by and there will be more downgrades to come in the future.

The ball is in your court, Washington. Don’t mess this up.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Deficit and Debt, Economics and Business, Social Security, Taxes, Tea Party, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Chad S says:

    Pretty clearly, the S&P blamed the GOP for the failure to increase tax revenues.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    More quasi-evenhanded Mataconis evasion.

    It’s the Tea Party, stupid.

    Did the Democrats threaten to default? No. Did the Democrats refuse to compromise? No. Are there Democratic politicians denying the need to raise the debt ceiling? No.

    This is on the Tea Party. This is their doing.

    And it’s the fault of the GOP for yet again being willing to cater to extremists.

  3. steve says:

    This is the key phrase.

    “and, as we see it, the resulting agreement fell well short of the comprehensive fiscal consolidation program that some proponents had envisaged until quite recently”

    We were close to an agreement that could have avoided a downgrade, but it included revenue increases. I will assume you read the rest of the S&P analysis. They offer two future scenarios. One includes not letting the Bush tax cuts expire and having a further downgrade.

    Interesting that the countries they offer as AAA candidates are all socialist countries.

    Steve

  4. john personna says:

    It seems you want it both ways, Doug. You called out “debt kamikazees” yourself. But blame cannot be assigned?

    Also Boehner was fairly adult during negotiations, but his immediate post downgrade comments were anything but. The dust hadn’t settled on his debt plan, and it was Obama’s downgrade. Unbelievable.

  5. ponce says:

    It’s the Tea Party, stupid.

    Obama and the Democrats aren’t blameless.

    Why didn’t they demand a raising of the debt ceiling when they agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts?

  6. Gustopher says:

    “the utter rejection of the rather reasonable recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission” — the Simpson-Bowles Commission never had any recommendations, and never released a report. The chairs released their own report after the commission failed to release one.

    Is it really that hard to get this fact right?

    And, further, if the Chairs’ recommendations were so reasonable, why could their report not be accepted by their commission?

  7. anjin-san says:

    A pox on both houses, eh Doug?

    If this is the best you have to offer, you should really consider devoting your full attention to the law. We all know you have ability, but you are not about anything.

  8. Continue playing your pointless partisan games, anjin. That’s exactly what has gotten us into this situation.

  9. Console says:

    To an extent, S&P is right, but I’m sort of annoyed at this whole debt talk in general. Fact is, if you get healthcare cost “in line” then america is fine in the long run. With everything else you’re just talking about tweaking around the edges. America proved it wasn’t ready to have a serious conversation about the deficit during the healthcare debates. Everything afterwards was just noise.

  10. ponce says:

    That’s exactly what has gotten us into this situation.

    I think this is what the Republicans will nonsensically run on next year.

    And there just my be a majority of Americans who buy it.

  11. Ron Beasley says:

    I watched FOX “news” for awhile this morning and you heard about half of what S&P had to say. A lot about spending cuts – nothing about new revenue. A lot about criticism of the Democrats – nothing about the criticism of the Republicans.

  12. michael reynolds says:

    Doug:

    Sorry, but Anjin’s right. You’re smart and you’re a good writer. But you want to float above the battlefield denouncing one and all. You don’t have the courage to follow your own analysis. We’ve got month after month of you denouncing the Tea Party and its favorite candidates, denouncing Tea Party extremism, denouncing their kamikaze approach.

    And then suddenly, boom, it’s bi-partisan.

    It’s only bi-partisan because you don’t have the ability to re-examine your assumptions. Not even when you’re the guy essentially telling you it’s time to re-examine your assumptions. Doug Mataconis won’t go where Doug Mataconis goes. It’s weird.

    You need to believe the Democrats are just as bad because otherwise your core political identity is wrong. If the Democrats are actually the more mature, reasonable party — the party more in line with the mature Doug Mataconis — then what are you doing at CPAC, and what are you doing writing for a Republican blog, and what are we to make of your contemptuous dismissal of Democrats?

    So, you despise bigots and gay bashers, you think we need to close tax loopholes or even raise taxes, you think we need to reform entitlements, you think we need to cut military spending, you’re against the drug war, you’re against torture, you’re against religious prejudice and you are, yourself, secular.

    But you just can’t connect the dots. You can’t face the terrifying reality that you are far, far more aligned with the Democrats than the Republicans. In the end tribal identity and an inability to face past errors squarely leave you on the wrong side. And that disconnect hurts your credibility.

    You’re a closeted Democrat.

  13. john personna says:

    Comments that Obama could have asked for more, sooner, have merit, but The Grand Bargain was what we needed just now. Dems were a bit more supportive of that. Obama certainly tried.

  14. anjin-san says:

    Continue playing your pointless partisan games, anjin.

    Ok Doug, why don’t you tell me what you are about? Have at it. Because I am not seeing it. If you are going to dismiss my observation, can you do no better than a boilerplate line about partisan games?

    If you read anything I write, you probably know I am not a mindless partisan. I was dragged kicking and screaming to the place I currently occupy on the political spectrum. The utter bankruptcy and failure of the GOP over the last 15 years is what got me here. I would love to see a viable GOP to provide a legitimate alternative to Democrats. If Chuck Hagle were the GOP nominee, I might well vote for him over Obama.

    Try shoving your ego out of the way and listening to some guys who are older and more experienced than you are.

  15. jan says:

    It’s been a 24/7 mantra of Obama’s to talk about the mess he ‘inherited’ from Bush, whenever an explanation is called for as to what’s happening to our incredibly shrinking economy, work force, capital, and now our credit rating. However, in the business community here is a female CEO who says “I got hired to fix messes!” In other words, the buck stops with her, not the previous boss. I think that’s called “accountability”, something the private sector is held to more often than not, while the public sector and political elites exercise their digits in finger pointing.

    After George McGovern retired from public office he invested in a 150-room inn in CT in 1988, plowing his and his wife’s money into renovations. However, in 1990 he had to declare bankruptcy, losing the inn in ’91. Although he attributed this business failure partly to the recession, he admitted that part of it had to do with the “cost of dealing with federal, state and local regulations,” which made it much more difficult for small businesses to thrive. Later, McGovern wrote, when reflecting on this experience, the following:

    “I … wish that during the years I was in public office I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender.”

    A politician’s dream – a businessman’s nightmare

  16. An Interested Party says:

    Hmm…so even though it was the Tea Party crowd that decided to play a game of extortion with the debt ceiling vote to try to get their policy prescriptions enacted (prescriptions that wouldn’t have gotten passed any other way), this whole mess should stop at the President’s desk and he should have to take the blame for the intransigence of a minority of the other political party….well, isn’t that rather cute…

  17. jan says:

    Bryon York has written yet another spot on assessment of the wrath being directed at S &P. The “who’s who” on the left are apoplectic over the audacity of this rating company to chastise the U.S. in such an undeserved way.

    The more I think about it, though, it seems long overdue.

    How York is deciphering the S & P’s report is this:

    The bottom line of the report seems to be this: S&P’s analysts doubt that all of the spending cuts in the recent debt-ceiling deal will actually take effect.

    Could they possibly be looking back at cuts that didn’t materialize under the deals both Reagan and Bush1 made with the dems? Hmmmm…..

    But, continuing with York’s assessment….

    And even if all those cuts do take effect, they would not be enough for the credit agency to restore the U.S. to its former AAA rating. And even if the Bush tax cuts on higher earners were allowed to expire, that would not be enough for a restored AAA rating without more spending cuts and taxes. And if none of the second round of cuts built into the debt deal actually occur, the U.S. rating could fall again to AA.

    S&P analysts were clearly unsettled by the intensity of partisan fighting that led to the debt deal. But beyond politics, the numbers are what they are.

    After the US downgrade the liberals attack the messenger

    I also find it ironic that during the debt ceiling debate debacles S & P came out and semi-endorsed Harry Reid’s plan, which hadn’t even been scored or introduced on the Senate floor yet. Some people on the right inferred this was political intervention, which a neutral rating company shouldn’t engage in. But, the WH, liberals, the press said nothing.

    Now, that blame has been portioned out, not only to the partisanship in DC, but also to the fact that the debt is not being dealt with effectively, and there is little trust that needed cuts will be made, Obama and his minions are crying out that S & P’s analysis and downgrade is ‘politically motivated’ rather than economically motivated.

    This hypocrisy is what stirs and adds to the dysfunction of DC. Hopefully the progressives will stop with the diversion of calling anybody who disagrees with them “hostage-takers, terrorists,” and instead get on with restructuring and reforming our less than vibrant economy.

  18. mattt says:

    Anderson Cooper had John Chambers, head of sovereign ratings at S&P, on last night:

    “COOPER: Why did S&P downgrade the United States’ credit rating today?

    CHAMBERS: Well, I think there were two reasons.

    The first reason is the one that you’ve outlined, being our view of the political settings in the United States have been altered. We’ve taken them down a notch, the rating down a notch. The political brinkmanship we saw over raising the debt ceiling was something that was really beyond our expectations, the U.S. government getting to the last day before they had cash management problems…”

    In other words, the fact that the Tea Party caucus and GOP in general used the debt ceiling as a political hostage was the primary reason for the downgrade.

    Transcript: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1108/05/acd.02.html

    Also Chambers, in response to a question on how the US can regain its AAA rating:
    “But I think a key debate will be coming up regarding the extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, because if you did let them lapse for the high-income earners, that could give you another $950 billion….”

    In other words, S&P feels we have both spending AND REVENUE PROBLEMS. So, yes: thanks John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and the Tea Party Caucus for the loss of America’s AAA rating.

    Doug, let me ask you: when *is* it appropriate to blame the ideology or organized maneuverings of a political party for a negative outcome? How can there be accountability, without blame?

  19. jan says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Hmm…so even though it was the Tea Party crowd that decided to play a game of extortion with the debt ceiling vote to try to get their policy prescriptions enacted (prescriptions that wouldn’t have gotten passed any other way), this whole mess should stop at the President’s desk and he should have to take the blame for the intransigence of a minority of the other political party….

    The tea party movement is like any other movement, such as the peace movement promoting peace, not war. The teas believe strongly in the virtue and value of having a smaller, less intrusive government. They nominated people, sent them to Congress, and these freshmen Congress men/women then represented their constituencies appropriately, just like the progressives in Congress listened to and voted the way their contituences wanted them to. To now call it ‘extortion’ is simply sour grapes on your part.

    I don’t know how effective this namecalling of the teas is going to be. You may indeed sully them (which is what progressives are excellent in doing), or, this tack may backfire and you may end up antagonizing more people, enlarging the movement. There are lies being promulgated, on the left, sordid hyperbole that really has no helpful legitimacy in solving the problems that effect everyone.

    By diminishing another, it is supposed to raise yourselves up??? Maybe not, in this case…..

  20. Ahmad says:

    @jan:

    However, in the business community here is a female CEO who says “I got hired to fix messes!” In other words, the buck stops with her, not the previous boss. (Jan)

    Do you actually know how Politics works? Or are you one of those deluded people who thinks business and politcs somehow work the same way?

    Imagine you needed the support of your fellow directors to purchase a new company whilst all of them wanted your job, and they were looking to undermine you at every opportunity in order to get you fired so one of them could get your job. Welcome to the World of Politics ie

    Politics = backstabbing. Its really THAT simple.

  21. mattb says:

    @jan:

    Hopefully the progressives will stop with the diversion of calling anybody who disagrees with them “hostage-takers, terrorists,” and instead get on with restructuring and reforming our less than vibrant economy.

    I totally agree Jan! In fact, I think that the first progressive who should stop using the phrase is that pinko commie Mitch McConnell:

    “I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting. Most of us didn’t think that. What we did learn is this — it’s a hostage that’s worth ransoming. And it focuses the Congress on something that must be done.”
    source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-debt-deal-the-triumph-of-the-old-washington/2011/08/02/gIQARSFfqI_story_1.html (final paragraph)

    http://politicalwire.com/archives/2011/08/03/extra_bonus_quote_of_the_day.html

  22. jan says:

    @mattt:

    The Chambers transcripts were not reflective of the entire official document put out be S & P. Consequently, the world is looking at the statement submitted by S & P and not merely an interview.

    And then there is also the matter of interviews done by different interviewers — the one done by Anderson Cooper, contrasted by the one done by Neil Cavuto.

    When asked why it downgraded, S&P’s Chambers told Cavuto in an interview on FOX News Saturday morning that “political gridlock in Washington, D.C. makes us think it would be difficult for elected officials to put the deficit on a sustainable path.”

    Chambers also confirmed a controversial decision by S&P to include “debt at the state and local level,” which he says, along with federal debt, has been “on an upward path.”

    Basically, Chambers confirmed, in this media format, that it was a combination of gridlock and an upward path of debt. Mattt you’re just extrapolating and politicizing a progressive analysis from one interview, instead of viewing the downgrade for what it was — too much debt and dualing ideologies on how to deal with it

  23. EddieInCA says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Continue playing your pointless partisan games, anjin. That’s exactly what has gotten us into this situation.

    At the risk of being banned from this website, I say “F**K YOU, Doug”.

    “Pointless partisian games?” Are you f**king kidding me? You’re too smart, and too well-read to write such bullshit sentences like the ones you wrote above.

    WTF?

    Obama offered a deal for 4 Trillion dollars that would have kept the USA from being downgraded.
    The Democrats conceded on every major issue.
    The House GOP refused to negotiate.

    All the while you and James stated that it was a smart negotiating tactic, while many of us told you and James that it was dangerous.

    Now that its’ blowing up, it’s suddenly “Both parties are responsible.”

    Go f**k yourself, Doug.

  24. EddieInCA says:

    Has anyone else noticed the silence from Jan when someone directly rebuts her talking points?

  25. mattb says:

    Jan, comparing CEOs and US Presidents displays a fundamental misunderstanding of at least one — if not both — of those positions.

    1. First CEO’s do blame previous CEO’s all the time — especially when addressing analysts and shareholders after a bad quarter. There is an unspoken rule that unless the previous CEO was totally incompetent or a convicted criminal you never mention them directly. That’s primarily so that the next office holder doesn’t do the same thing to you.

    There is a very specific language of blame in corporations. So instead of saying things outright, they CEO and PR people will say things like: “Company was on the wrong path.” “Profits are low this quarter because we are still in the process of correcting our direction.” “We have moved to make the necessary cuts that Company X previously wasn’t willing to make.”

    2. President =/= CEO. CEO’s have far more power. This is built directly into the constitution. At best, the president is a COO (Chief Operating Officer). If the President was the CEO there would have been no negotiations over the debt deal. They (presidents and COO) set operating policy and oversee day-to-day operations, but when it comes to issues of Finance, they have input, but are never the final deciders (that power rests instead with the CEO and CFO).

    BTW, I would hate a President that is a CEO or has the power of a CEO. That would essentially eliminate two branches of government — turning the position into an elected Kingship (since the closet parallel to Shareholders and the Board are the electorate).

  26. jan says:

    @mattb:

    I think that the first progressive who should stop using the phrase is that pinko commie Mitch McConnell:

    I can see you’re doing real well in the anti-defamatory department, Mattb —not!

    “I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting. Most of us didn’t think that. What we did learn is this — it’s a hostage that’s worth ransoming. And it focuses the Congress on something that must be done.”

    McConnell wasn’t calling anyone names. He was describing a situation saying that some members felt the default issue (debt ceiling passing automatically) was a hostage (amount of debt ceiling to be raised) you might take a chance of shooting (not raise at all). Most, though, didn’t think that. What they learned was that the hostage (amount of debt ceiling to be raised) was worth ransoming (used as a bargaining tool) to focus the Congress on something that must be done. …that being making serious cuts to the debt. Consequently, the republicans consistently proposed a dollar’s cut for a dollar’s raise.

    Like I said no name calling, just an analogy. I’m surprised you couldn’t see that. But, then again it’s another good example of how you read into things what you want, and what serves a political purpose.

  27. Ahmad says:

    @jan:

    too much debt and dualing ideologies on how to deal with it (Jan)

    Jan are you really a CEO or an 8 year old who should be playing with her dolls?

    The debt is there because THERE IS TOO LITTLE REVENUE. Obama & the Democrats wanted a $4Trillion deal that included additional tax revenue. The backstabbing Republicans & Tea-Partys puked at that thought [1], presumably to undermine Obama’s Presidency…

    U.S. House Speaker John Boehner called Standard & Poor’s decision to downgrade the U.S. credit rating “a wake-up call” for the Democratic Party. [2]

    Perhaps you’re one of those people who like to rewrite history to suit your own ideology, rather than face BARE FACTS.

    References:
    1. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/11/us/politics/11debt.html?_r=1
    2. http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/08/06/Boehner-SP-sent-Dems-wake-up-call/UPI-39821312663081/

  28. jan says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Obama offered a deal for 4 Trillion dollars that would have kept the USA from being downgraded.

    Obama has offered nothing but vapid words. But, since that’s all you’ve even gotten out of Obama, you take that as a signed, sealed and delivered piece of legislation. Pathetic!

  29. jan says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Has anyone else noticed the silence from Jan when someone directly rebuts her talking points?

    The cement has hardened in people’s ideology here. I comment the best I can. But, it becomes a matter of roaches running out at night seeking nibbles. Finally, you just turn out the light and leave.

  30. Ahmad says:

    @jan: Obama has offered nothing but vapid words. (Jan)

    Jan you MUST BE a Republican/Tea Partier since you reject bare facts for your own fancifuls!

  31. mattb says:

    @jan: First of all Jan, you demonstrate a lack of a grasp on Irony. Second, could you please explain to me the difference between McConnell’s “allegorical” use of the metaphor and others use of it as “name” calling. Or, put a different way, if Joe Biden had said that I can only think about how apoplectic you would have gotten. Oh wait, I don’t have to think about it, I can read what you wrote on another thread.

    But, because this was a member of “your tribe” you have a ready excuse.

    Basically, you have once again demonstrated just how bankrupt the positions you take are. You simply don’t care about facts, you simply want to be right all the time. You always find an out for people on your side while never allowing the possibility of an out for people on the other side.

    Your posts exemplify the worst sort of childish tribalism and lack of a willingness to acknowledge a shared reality. Progressives are clearly always wrong and conservatives are always right. It must be nice living in a world where you’re always right, where your cause is always just, and where you can explain away any and all contradiction in the positions you take and the material you write.

    BTW Jan, would it be wrong for me to quote you in the future as supporting a hostage taking strategy given that you wrote the following quote:

    What they learned was that the hostage (amount of debt ceiling to be raised) was worth ransoming (used as a bargaining tool) to focus the Congress on something that must be done. …that being making serious cuts to the debt.

  32. EddieInCA says:

    @jan:

    Jan said:

    Obama has offered nothing but vapid words. But, since that’s all you’ve even gotten out of Obama, you take that as a signed, sealed and delivered piece of legislation. Pathetic!

    Don’t let the facts deter you from your delusions:

    http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2011/jul/27/boehners-grand-bargain-undone-left-right/

    But as he twice approached a $4 trillion deficit-reduction deal with President Barack Obama that would have rocked both parties’ bases, Boehner was reeled back in by his caucus’ conservative wing. The muscular, tea party-fueled group not only forced him to abandon a “grand bargain” with Obama, it made him scramble Wednesday to secure the votes for a far more modest deficit-ceiling plan, which in turn is all but doomed in the Senate.

    http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/obamaboehner-grand-bargain-still-available-whouse/

    WASHINGTON, July 28 (Reuters) – The White House said on Thursday a “grand bargain” of up to $4 trillion in deficit cuts discussed by President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner was still on the table, but its chances were not good.

    “The chances aren’t great that we end up, between now and Aug. 2, that we end up with a sweeping grand compromise … that is not likely, but it is available if the political will is there,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0711/58662.html

    Speaker John Boehner’s decision not to “go big” on a debt limit deal is the starkest demonstration yet of the limits of the Ohio Republican’s power.

    The internal GOP backlash against his efforts to secure a package of $4 trillion in spending cuts and revenue-raisers revealed that Boehner sometimes is little more than the first among equals — capable of synthesizing Republican sentiments but unwilling to drive them.

    Now, Jan… Do you want or care you revise your comment since it’s so obviously wrong? Nah, I didn’t think so.

    The modern GOP doesn’t need facts when fantasy will do.

  33. @michael reynolds:

    you think we need to reform entitlements

    While you’re right on most of the other points, the idea the Democrats have been in favor of entitlement reform is a joke. While the Democrat leadership has been much more successful at restraining them, there is very clearly a large Democrat equivalent to the Tea Party that’s as willing to destroy the country to prevent any reducting in entitlement spending as the Tea Party is to destroy it over tax reform.

    you’re against the drug war, you’re against torture

    Likewise, the Democrats have done nothing to meaningfully scale back on either the Drug War or the Bush Administrations torture policy. In many case, they’ve even doubled down.

    I would wager this is why Doug Mataconis insists on the “a pox on both houses” stance: partisans on the other side seem to respond to criticism of the Tea Party by reasoning “the Tea Party is wrong in this instance, there for the Democrats are right about everything else”.

    And it also has to be remember that for all the disaster Tea Party brinksmanship has led too, it wasn’t until they showed up that there was any real action on the defict took place.

  34. mattb says:

    +1 to the points that Stormy just made.

    A quick perusal of leftwing media shows many commentators as passionate about maintain the current system (or pretending that if we just address taxes and military spending Social Security and Medicare will pay for themselves) as Tea Party and Right Wing Media is about cutting taxes and these programs.

    There are ideologs on both sides. That said, the ones on the left currently have less pull than those on the right. Further, I think there is a lot of truth to the argument that Obama ISN’T one of status quo democrats (regardless of how the right portrays him).

  35. mattb says:

    @jan: One last note on the entire hostage thing. I was just perusing Politico and came across the following statement from a democrat:

    Said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.): “By refusing to negotiate in good faith, Republicans turned the debt ceiling debate into a hostage crisis and last night we saw its first casualty.”

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0811/60794_Page2.html#ixzz1UIOip7gE

    If you are being consistant, I’d hope you would defend Senator Coon’s use of the allegory of “hostage” and not mistakenly see this as an example of that political name calling that you were decrying just a few posts ago. Or can you explain how this is different than McConnell’s use of the term.

  36. John Cole says:

    Both sides do it will be the death of the nation. We get downgraded, S&P points the finger directly at Republicans and the people Doug has been calling terrorists for the last few months, and then, when the republicans make up bullshit attacks and the Democrats merely echo Doug’s own sentiments and the STATED opinion of S&P, and all of a sudden it’s “the same old blame game.” BOTH SIDES DO IT.

    You are truly hopeless.

  37. michael reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    I agree that we have our extremist faction on entitlements, but it doesn’t include the president who is, after all, the head of the party. And it doesn’t include a lot of senior Dems and the difference between us and them is that we are not held hostage by our crazy wing.

    On torture you’re wrong. Obama issued an executive order returning us to where we had been. He didn’t authorize prosecutions, that’s true, but we are still fundamentally different.

    On the drug war, anywhere you see medical marijuana or moves against mandatory sentencing or efforts to eliminate disparate sentencing (cocaine vs. crack) you see Democrats. I’d agree: way too little. So I’d have to agree with you on this point, not on entitlements or torture.

  38. MM says:

    @EddieInCA: Jan is not interested in having a discussion. Jan is interested in dropping approved talking points and insulting others.

  39. mattb says:

    Clive Crook at the Atlantic has an interesting take on the “Pox” on both houses thing:

    If I were a rating agency (Crook’s: the name might need work) then US debt would be rated less than AAA until a law is passed to prevent any future hostage-taking over the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling itself has to go.

    I can hear cries of outrage from liberals over the previous paragraph. What do you mean, Washington’s willingness? It was the GOP that took the economy hostage. Don’t blame both sides, blame the wrongdoers. Yes, I agree. It’s the Republicans that forced my hand on this occasion. But, speaking purely as a rating agency, I am also struck by the reaction of many Democrats to this defeat. Obama gave in to hostage-takers. You should never negotiate with such people. You stand your ground, at any cost. Let them wreck the economy: then, maybe, people will see what they are dealing with.

  40. @michael reynolds:

    On torture you’re wrong. Obama issued an executive order returning us to where we had been. He didn’t authorize prosecutions, that’s true, but we are still fundamentally different.

    No he didn’t. He issued an order that the CIA abide to the same interrogation standards as the armry. While that may have eliminated one particularly egregious form of torture (waterboarding), it leaves all of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” that were written into the army interrogation manuals during the Bush administration. The one big change he did make versus Bush is stopping openly torturing people and limited things to secretly torturing people. Out of sight, out of mind apparenlty.

    Meanwhile, he’s continued the indefinite detention policy. Only he doubled down; not only can people be imprisoned without charge or trial, they can be summarily executed too. He’s continued the warrantless surrveilance policy. Only he doubled down; not only is he monitoring communications from outside the country, he’s monitoring domestic communications too.

  41. An Interested Party says:

    To now call it ‘extortion’ is simply sour grapes on your part.

    No, dear, considering that the debt ceiling vote was something completely perfunctory before now, and that the Republicans in general and the “teas” in particular could not get what they wanted any other way, what they did here was extortion…as it will be when the Dems do the same thing in a future Congress to get, say, tax hikes…I doubt if you will be whistling your sour grapes tune then…

    You may indeed sully them…

    Wrong again, darling, as their own actions are doing far more to sully them than anything that anyone else could possibly say about them…

  42. Ron Beasley says:

    Obama could take care of the rating issue easily. He simply tells the world he will veto any extension of the 2001/2003 tax cuts regardless of whether he wins or loses.

  43. jan says:

    @An Interested Party:

    No, dear, considering that the debt ceiling vote was something completely perfunctory before now,

    And, that is where you are so wrong. The debt ceiling no longer can be considered automatic or perfunctory. We’re not talking about adding a few billion. It’s now a matter of trillions. Where is the money coming from? Oh yes, those elusive rich guys. It’s just the same old progressive drum roll.

    Sorry. People aren’t buying the progressive claptrap anymore.

  44. jan says:

    @mattb

    Or can you explain how this is different than McConnell’s use of the term.

    Because McConnell didn’t personalize his remarks by referring to a party or a person. He was purely referencing an analogous situation. Whereas Coons said: “By refusing to negotiate in good faith, Republicans turned the debt ceiling debate into a hostage crisis and last night we saw its first casualty.”

    I’m being very consistent. You are squirming, and desperately trying to create some moral equivalence in dem and republican rhetoric when there is little to none.

  45. An Interested Party says:

    We’re not talking about adding a few billion.

    Nor were we ever in recent history…over the past decade, the debt ceiling was raised multiple times by hundreds of billions of dollars, often just short of a trillion dollars…the thing that has most definitely changed between now and then is that a Democrat is sitting in the White House…

    Where is the money coming from? Oh yes, those elusive rich guys.

    Actually, that is the same old claptrap pushed by conservatives as a way to try to smear anything to the left of what they think…the debt will have to be fixed with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases…

  46. jan says:

    @An Interested Party:

    the debt will have to be fixed with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases…

    In the past the dems have raised taxes first with promises of cuts later (which didn’t materialize). Why don’t we take turns, and do the cuts first, with a wait and see if we need to raise taxes.

  47. EddieInCA says:

    @jan:

    In the past the dems have raised taxes first with promises of cuts later (which didn’t materialize). Why don’t we take turns, and do the cuts first, with a wait and see if we need to raise taxes.

    I would argue, and the facts would be on my side, that we already cut taxes (See Bush Tax Cuts) and the GOP President and Congress went on a spending binge with two wars (one unjustified) and a huge new entitlement program.

    How about since we already cut taxes, we just bring them back to 2000 levels?

  48. jan says:

    @EddieInCA:

    I would argue, and the facts would be on my side, that we already cut taxes (See Bush Tax Cuts) and the GOP President and Congress went on a spending binge with two wars (one unjustified) and a huge new entitlement program.

    How about since we already cut taxes, we just bring them back to 2000 levels?

    Bush ‘cut’ taxes, and wanted to make them permanent, but didn’t have the votes to do this. However, many of these cuts actually benefited lower income people, taking a good portion off the tax rolls entirely. They were then extended, just before their expiration in Dec. 10. Now if you wanted to reinstitute these taxes, back to 2000, that would mean lowering the income tax threshold, which would include those not paying income tax. Would you like that?

    As far as the spending binge, those figures are in dispute depending on what charts, graphs you support. The ones put out by the Heritage Foundation tell a different story as to who was the biggest spender — Bush vs Obama. I agree with you, though about the prescription drug benefit enacted by Bush. However, it will be nothing in comparison to the costly health care plan that awaits us in the future, and is scaring physicians to retire early and/or establish proprietor type office practices.

  49. michael reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Interesting. I appreciate the education on that point.

  50. anjin-san says:

    I’m being very consistent.

    True. You regurgitate GOP talking points while lying about being a Democrat. Lather, rinse, repeat.

  51. Lit3Bolt says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Hold not a mirror to the “independent” pundit, michael. The cognitive dissonance and void of convictions is too vast for mere mortals like us to absorb.

    In the meantime Doug, thank you for the lazy, masturbatory articles advocating vague non-solutions that work perfectly in the World of Dougcraft. You’ve certainly proven you’re above petty things such as politics by saying “both sides do it.” Indeed, in a 2 party system I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of such a novel way of assigning blame for political failure. I mean, you’ve blamed liberals, you’ve blamed conservatives; time to conclude “Washington is broken,” propose that everything be reformed and on the table, and call it a day.

    By the way, I denounce Al Sharpton (for what, I’m not exactly sure). So now you have to take me seriously.

    PS Oh, yeah, and being a strident non-partisan? That’s a partisan position.

  52. Hey Norm says:

    So far in these discussion our friend Jan has quoted:
    The American Thinker, a far-right blog that was also on the birther bandwagon and is often quoted by Limbaugh as well
    A. Shlaes, a discredited right wing ideologue and amateur economist.
    Byron York, a right wing sycophant Who writes for the Washington Examiner and appears on Fox News.
    Neil Cavuto of Fox News.
    And the Heritage Foundation, an uber-right wing think tank funded by the Koch Brothers that was forced to admit it fudged the numbers in it’s scoring of Paul Ryans Tea Party Manifesto.
    It’s pretty clear, when you see where she is getting her opinions, why she is so confused.
    As they say, you are what you eat…or read.

  53. Ben Wolf says:

    The ratings agencies, particularly S&P are criminal organizations, Doug. I can’t believe a self-professed libertarian is lending so much credence to its opinions when S&P played a deliberate role in occluding the signalling and information necessary to a well-functioning free market.

    Either you truly believe private property rights are sacrosanct, in which case the rent-seeking activities of corporations like S&P are literally theft, or you consider property rights the vehicle for predatory capitalism (of which you implicitly approve). The utter lack of interest right libertarians have shown for the root causes of the current depression makes it very difficult to accept they really give a damn about economic freedom for the masses.

  54. mattb says:

    @jan:

    Because McConnell didn’t personalize his remarks by referring to a party or a person

    Again McConnnell’s Quote:

    “I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting.

    Right… So basically he was acknowledging that members of his party treated the debt ceiling as a hostage crisis and yet be’s not referring to a party or a specific person so that makes his use different.

    And I’m the one whose squirming.

    As I said before, you are among the most transparent blind tribal ideologs on this site. I look forward to the day you’re willing to have an honest discussion, but until then, keep on playing your zero sum game. I’m glad to know Republicans always remain right and Democrats always hate America.

  55. Moosebreath says:

    If we actually had a liberal media, this timeline of the last 3 decades would be common knowledge, and people like jan who cover their ears and refuse to believe that Republicans have been fiscally irresponsible for the last generation would be laughed off the stage. Instead, we have a media which, like Doug, casts poxes on both houses.

  56. lunaticllama says:

    I have no idea how the health care debate is at all similar to the debt ceiling situation. It really is astounding anyone would even consider a comparison. Democrats ran an entire campaign in 2008 based upon doing a big healthcare reform bill that they have spent decades working towards. They mostly got elected and had control of both the Executive and Legislative branches. They then debate and work on a bill over a period of nine months. Then, supermajorities pass the bill in the Senate, it passes in the House and is signed by the President. That’s basically how government in a modern democracy SHOULD work.

    The GOP runs a campaign based on protecting Medicare and jobs in 2010 and then hold the country hostage in the debt ceiling debate to force political opponents to meet their unpopular demands that they cannot pursue through normal political negotiations because the citizenry has not elected enough members of Congress that share their worldview. Note also that this move to tie substantive concessions to the raise the bill has never been used by an opposition political party. It really is so dissimilar in both the underlying negotiation and political structures from the healthcare debate of 2009, I have to assume you were joking when you made the comparison.

    The healthcare debate occurred through the regularized political process, while the debt ceiling negotiation was an unprecedented procedural move by Republicans. The healthcare debate of 2009 does not show how our politics is “dysfunctional.” In fact, it actually proves the opposite.

  57. pebble says:

    There actually is an objective truth to the events that unfolded. It’s not even hard to find. That truth shows the Republicans are to blame. Come on, quit the endless “both sides do it” game. Journalists must be better than that, or our democracy is doomed.

  58. anjin-san says:

    Journalists must be better than that

    One would hope. It’s also disappointing to note that Doug seems to be taking the “if you can’t take the heat” approach to this thread.