With the so-called “fiscal cliff” averted for the time being, Republicans have set their sights on several other upcoming deadlines, including the looming debt ceiling, which they see as their best leverage to extract concessions from President Obama. This tactic has long been compared, by Democrats and many in the political press, to placing a gun to the head of U.S. economy, and even the global economy. In an editorial Friday morning, the conservative Wall Street Journal conceded that point, but still gave qualified approval to the tactic. Holding the nation hostage, they reason, is only a bad idea if you have no intention of killing it.
For the uninitiated, the debt ceiling is the mechanism by which congress authorizes the government to borrow money that congress has already spent. It’s not a “blank check,” or some license to spend, it’s just the final dotted “i” on the money that congress has already spent. In 2011, congress threatened to allow the government to default, and got close enough to doing it that the U.S. government suffered its first credit downgrade in history. A second such episode could plunge the entire world into a global financial disaster.
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ThinkProgress has flagged a Fox News Sunday interview in which Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner makes those consequences crystal clear, telling Chris Wallace that a government default “would be a financial disaster, not only for us, but for the worldwide economy.”
...While it’s important for people to understand that John Boehner knows exactly what kind of fire he’s playing with, perhaps an even more important takeaway from this interview is the fact that Boehner weirdly insists that he’s not playing with it. He tells Wallace that Republicans won’t raise the debt ceiling without concessions from the President, which would have resulted in a government default, but then says that a default “would be a financial disaster, not only for us, but for the worldwide economy,” and that he doesn’t think a default is “even on the table.”
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