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July 27, 2011

A Vote Against Boehner's Plan is a Vote for Reid's

Drew's right, below, about a lot of things. He's right that it would be nice to see cuts in the $100+ billion range and I'd like to see them this year. He's right that the out year cuts are iffy and therefore not reliable. He's right that the debt ceiling is absolutely going to be raised. And so he's absolutely wrong to oppose Boehner's plan. A vote against Boehner's plan is a vote for Reid's plan.

I know that's hard to hear, but it's the truth. Drew writes a lot of things below. What he doesn't write is how opposing Boehner is going to translate into a victory for conservatives rather than a victory for Obama. Even Drew admits that Cut, Cap, and Balance isn't happening while Democrats control the Senate (although he strangely then takes Boehner to task for not cutting as much as the Ryan budget, which also got shot down by the Democrats in the Senate). So what's the alternative?

There seems to be two trains of thought on an alternative. The first, is to claim that failing to raise the debt ceiling won't be that bad. These folks admit some checks will go out, some won't, but it won't be that bad. They concede the U.S. AAA rating will be lost, but that'll be okay too because it's not like the world has anywhere else to borrow money from. Let's just grant their premise for the sake of argument. Okay, supposing that it turns out that running into the debt ceiling doesn't cause much of a problem, why in the world do you believe that this result is going to lead to Cut, Cap, & Balance and the Balanced Budget Amendment? What makes you think that having had a thorough demonstration that federal spending isn't in crisis, America will decide that the conservative goal of cutting federal spending is the way to go? The logic fails.

Second, there are those who admit that the loss of the AAA rating and disruption in federal spending will be a bad thing for the economy. That it will have substantial negative impact on people's lives, not just in the short-term, but in the long-term as the U.S. has to earn back its AAA rating. That by failing to pay its bills on time, the U.S. will bring down the economy its been sucking dry through taxes. States, expecting federal transfers, will find themselves without expected moneys. Federal vendors and contractors, expecting payment for services rendered, will also find themselves unpaid for a time. Hospitals, expecting federal reimbursements, will go unreimbursed for a time. Federal employees, expecting their paychecks, will likely receive IOUs. Securities holders, expecting to cash out when their securities mature, will likely get nothing for a time. And many of these unpaid obligations will accrue interest for as long as there is a backlog.

This second group of folks who don't mind pushing past the debt ceiling deadline are not evil. They recognize that this is going to hurt a lot of people. They're just cynical enough to believe that by hurting so many people, Obama and the Democrats can be leveraged into agreeing to conservative demands. That the pain and suffering will lead to Cut, Cap, and Balance and the Balanced Budget Amendment; in other words, a greater good.

In this horrifying-but-with-a-happy-ending scenario, the Republicans somehow manage to escape blame for the economic catastrophe. Experience tells us that this happy ending will never happen. Republicans will face just as much blame as Democrats.

Here's the kicker. Everyone in D.C. knows that failing to raise the debt limit is to be avoided, precisely because of the harms I've described. Which means that in the next five days either some version of a Boehner plan or some version of a Reid plan is going to pass. And, notwithstanding his veto threats, the President will sign the first one to reach his desk. Now why do you want that to be the Reid plan?

The Reid plan is a victory for Democrats. It includes a gigantic debt ceiling increase, which will take this issue out of play for the election season. It includes over a trillion dollars in imaginary cuts from Iraq and Afghanistan spending that is already winding down.

The Boehner plan is a victory, a small victory I admit, for Republicans. There's a small debt ceiling increase now and we've set the terms of debate come the spring when Obama has to face this issue all over again. It guarantees a vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment before the end of the year, giving us time to convince the public to convince their Senators to vote for it. It contains no tax hikes, a feature of Reid's plan too, but only because Boehner absolutely won on that point. And finally, it will hopefully have more cuts after Boehner re-works it today, but whatever the final numbers it will have cuts that are real and not imaginary like Reid's.

I want us to win. And I recognize that we're never going to get the big win on the Balanced Budget Amendment while we only hold one half of one third of the federal government. I want us to win today so we can beat the stuffing out of Obama and the Democrats on Election Day.

There are two options on the table and only two options on the table. One is okay, but not great. The other is downright bad. Pick one. But don't pretend that if you refuse to choose, you're not responsible for the outcome. At the end, it will be one or the other. Boehner or Reid. Pick one.


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 01:01 PM

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