Michael Wolraich's picture

    Debt Ceiling II: Return of the Boehner

    Demonstrating the shrewd political acumen for which he has become known, House Speaker John Boehner has come up with a new strategy to galvanize American voters before the election. Seeking to top his electrifying "Pledge to America" campaign from 2010, Boehner promised yesterday a bold new plan that may be the popular Republican campaign in history: Debt Ceiling Standoff, Take Two.

    The Speaker is aware that the debt ceiling is a complicated legislative mechanism well beyond the understanding of most real Americans, so he asked me to help make sense of it. I will now take several questions from an imaginary interlocutor in order to help the ignorant electorate understand this exciting campaign.

    Q: Didn't Boehner already do this last year?

    A: Yes, that's why it's Debt Ceiling Standoff, Take Two. Duh.

    Q: But wasn't it wildly unpopular?

    A: That's just what the arrogant liberal media wants you to think. But Speaker Boehner knows that Americans can't wait for another debt ceiling standoff. That's why he said, "We shouldn't dread the debt limit. We should welcome it. It's an action-forcing event in a town that has become infamous for inaction."

    Q: But isn't a standoff kind of the definition of inaction?

    A: See, you're not thinking this through. It will be a calculated act of inaction in order to produce a subsequent act of action.

    Q: Just like the last time?

    A: Well, last time was different because our obstinate elitist president didn't negotiate in good faith. That's why the Speaker wants to do it again.

    Q: But didn't Boehner make a budget-cutting deal with Obama and then pull out?

    A: What have you been reading? Talking Points Memo? If you'd listened to the Speaker's speech, you'd understand that it was all Obama's fault: "Last year, in our negotiations with the White House, the president and his team put a number of gimmicks on the table...Maybe in another time, with another Speaker, gimmicks like these would be acceptable."

    Q: By another time, did he mean last year? Because I thought that Boehner actually accepted the compromise plan, but then the crazy wingers in the House wouldn't go for it.

    A: You certainly are a naive one. The retreat was planned all along, just a little bit of political theater in order to create the conditions for action.

    Q: What action?

    A: Another debt standoff, of course, which as I already explained, is the key to more action!

    Q: I'm so confused. 

    A: Don't worry, it's complicated. The point is that the Speaker's plan will restore confidence and fix the economy.

    Q: But didn't the last debt ceiling standoff kill investor confidence and downgrade our credit?

    A: [Sigh] The Speaker explained that bit in his speech too. Who was president when the downgrade happened?

    Q: Obama?

    A: Now you're getting it. If I may quote our great Speaker: "A president on whose watch the United States lost its gold-plated triple-A rating for the first time in our history."

    Q: What about the financial community? Won't they be alarmed?

    A: Speaker Boehner is aware that there will be some "wailing and gnashing of teeth" on Wall Street, but he won't abandon his principles just because a few bankers are upset as long as they keep donating to the Republican Party.

    Q: Well, I still think it's irresponsible to default on America's debt.

    A: It is irresponsible. The Speaker said so in his speech.

    Q: Then why would he do it?

    A: Because as he put it, "It would be more irresponsible to raise the debt ceiling without taking dramatic steps to reduce spending and reform the budget process." 

    Q: You mean action?

    A: You got it.

    Q: So...uh...what happens if Romney wins?

    A: Don't worry, the Speaker is doing everything in his power to make sure that doesn't happen. President Obama is the best thing that ever happened to the Republican Party.

    Q: So I guess that we can look forward to four more years of action?

    A: Bingo! I can hardly wait.

    Michael Wolraich is the author of Blowing Smoke: Why the Right Keeps Serving Up Whack-Job Fantasies about the Plot to Euthanize Grandma, Outlaw Christmas, and Turn Junior into a Raging Homosexual


    Q:  Didn't Timothy Geithner say that it won't matter because the U.S. is not even going to reach the limits of its borrowing authority before the end of the year?

    A: Timothy who?

    A: Obviously, you don't understand how politics works. The sheer thought of another exciting debt standoff is sufficient to send voters racing to the polls.

    (Plus, it makes Boehner look like a Tea Party dude)

    Ah, the second decade of the 20th century, when the most exciting things were Justin Bieber, Beyonce's baby and the debt ceiling.

    Justin Bieber is Beyonce's baby?

    Somebody should go make an absurd amount of money casting him in the Blue Ivy biopic.

    Just to be clear, we're in the second decade of the 21st century, although you can be forgiven for being confused given what's been coming out of the GOP recently…

    Uh... whoops!  Guess I'm still writing 1912 on my checks... and, uh... writing checks.

    If Romney wins, they'll implement their Etch-a-Debt strategy: Incur debt, cut taxes on the rich, shake things up with a war, forget about debt, repeat.

    Given what's happening in Europe, I don't think they have that much time Donal.

    The austerity agenda of the minister's daughter Merkel has failed.  The winds of political change are blowing, and victory is going to go to those people who sense the direction in which they are going to start blowing: ambitious, activist government.

    Obama had better figure out how to shift direction away from budget conservatism, because Romney is an opportunistic chameleon and will beat him too it.

    The unraveling of Europe presents political opportunity: people can change course and justify the change by appealing to a change in circumstances.

    Would a hundred year plan work? 

    No more debtors prison,  end austerity 

    100 years to pay back the debt 


    Agree 100% with Donal. Republicans will never change, they have never shown any motivation or tendency to change ideology, except to become more 'severe' and in the wrong direction.

    Speaker Boehner knows that Americans can't wait for another debt ceiling standoff

    You jest, however, I was just reading about a poll number that both the Speaker and Obama probably know about, which is also the top line in the following bar chart from this May 17 Pew article:

    Funny... if you pull out the top and bottom concerns (debt and government regulation of business) I think the people got the order of priorities mostly correct.  China, our own financial system and Europe's financial system should be the biggest worries.

    Maybe its just me;  

    but why weren't the rich taxed to support two wars?

    Two wars and a tax cut and no wonder we have a large national debt.

    If not for the coward Democrats that agreed to the ATUMF,

    WE the People, should have asked the Republicans at the time "How you going to pay for that program"    

    The democratic leadership that wishes to rule, is synonymous with idiots.  

    Republicans (R) are evidently superior to republican- lites (d) 


    Definition:  person held captive until captor's demand is met 

    Synonyms:  captive, earnest, guaranty, pawn, pledge, prisoner, sacrificial lamb, scapegoat*, security, surety, token, victim 

    patsy ; fall guy 

    Synonyms:  boob*, chump, doormat, dupe, easy mark, fool, goat, gull, pigeon, pushover, sap*, scapegoat , schmuck, sitting duck, stooge, sucker, victim, weakling 

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