With about a month to go before the U.S. hits “the X-date”–the date upon which the government will start to delay or default on payments it has already promised to make–reasonable people on both sides of the aisle are beginning to push back against the group of crazy Republicans in the House of Representatives who are threatening to make the nation default.
As Joe Weisenthal observes this morning, former Senator Alan Simpson, a traditional Republican, has joined the fight, pointing out that no true conservative would ever allow the nation to default, because doing so would be fiscally irresponsible:
“If you’re a real conservative,” Simpson said, “a really honest conservative, without hypocrisy – you’d want to pay your debt.”
A former Treasury official in the Bush administration, meanwhile, Tony Fratto, has come out to debunk the idea that the country could simply “prioritise payments”–paying China and other Treasury-bond holders their interest, while stiffing federal workers, Medicare recipients, veterans, food stamp recipients, defence contractors, and other people and companies that have been promised money by the U.S. government.
The cash flow and payments the Treasury has to manage, Fratto points out, are far too “lumpy” to enable the Treasury to simply pay a few bills and ignore others.
(And can you imagine the fight over which bills we should pay?)
And now even Americans For Prosperity (AFP), a conservative group backed by the billionaire industrialist Koch Brothers, is urging the House Republicans not to act so crazy, on the concern that this behaviour will turn reasonable Americans against the party and thus reduce its ability to negotiate real spending reforms.
Stephanie Kirchgaessner of the FT reports that AFP is telling Republicans to back off on the debt ceiling and focus on spending:
“We’re saying calibrate your message. Focus on overspending instead of long-term debt,” said Tim Phillips, president of AFP. “Focusing on [the debt ceiling] makes the messaging more difficult.”
There are a lot of reasonable people in this country who support the causes advanced by old-style Republicans and would love to see the U.S. deal with its long-term deficit problem and return to the days of balanced budgets.
But there’s a big difference between supporting fiscal prudence and threatening to make the country default. Hopefully, over the next month, that message will begin to take hold in Washington.
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