As many observers have noted, the dysfunction in Washington is on the verge of becoming a full-blown crisis.
A handful of extremists in one political party have become so convinced of their own brilliance and rectitude — and so frustrated by their inability to persuade the rest of the country of it — that they are threatening to cause the United States of America to default if their demands aren’t meant.
This is extortion, plain and simple.
And the Obama Administration is right not to give into it.
If it becomes legitimate for a small group of politicians on either side to threaten the country with economic disaster if they aren’t bought off with concessions, America will have to deal with this extortion tactic forever.
So it’s time to end it once and for all.
If the Republicans seriously want to cause the U.S. to default by not raising the debt ceiling on October 17th, let them.
Let them spend the 10 days between now and then howling and raging about how awful it is that health insurance might soon become more affordable for millions of Americans. Let them roar about how programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are destroying the country, despite the fact that most Americans like them. Let them scream, as they have every day since a Republican President left office, that our debt and deficits will soon obliterate us (never mind that the deficit is shrinking rapidly). And so on.
Let the Republicans finally persuade Wall Street that they are, in fact, so anti-American that they are willing to put their own extreme political views ahead of the country at large. Let them, in other words, finally trigger stock and bond market panics.
And then, a few minutes before midnight on October 17th, save the country.
Some people believe that, in an emergency situation, President Obama would have the legal right to raise the debt ceiling himself.
So, on the night of October 17th, if the Republicans really have driven the country off the cliff, President Obama should invoke the right that some people think he has… and raise the debt ceiling.
And he shouldn’t just raise it a trillion or two.
He should raise it far enough that the country can be spared this absurd charade for many years to come.
He should raise it to, say, $US25 trillion — enough to carry the country well into the next Congress and Presidency (when, we can all hope, cooler and more responsible heads might prevail).
The next morning, as world markets breathe a massive collective sigh of relief and business gradually returns to usual (except for U.S. government business, which, by then, assuming the Republicans are still stabbing the shutdown dagger in the back of America, will be taking a real toll on the economy), President Obama can marshal a legal team to defend the decision he has just made.
The legal fight will play out for several years, as all legal fights do.
And, in the end, long after we have a new Congress and new President, and long after everyone in the country has moved on, the Supreme Court can decide once and for all whether a President has the right to save the country if a handful of extremists in Congress become willing to destroy it.
That will certainly be an interesting decision.
But in the meantime, desperate times call for desperate measures. And we appear to be headed toward one.
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