Once more the credit markets hold their breath while we dance this precarious dance. In 2011, the nation came precariously close to defaulting on its debt. Only a last-minute deal saved the day, and that deal saddled us with the now infamous Sequester. This time, the Tea Party-led (or should I say Tea Party-hijacked?) Republicans are determined to bring about Armageddon.
It doesn’t seem to matter that their mission is doomed to failure; if anything it has emboldened them further. When The Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Tom Coburn and Ted Cruz start questioning your tactics, you know you’re all alone on the ledge. The Journal went so far as to refer to House Republicans as kamikazes. And Cruz has already pronounced any House bill that attempts to defund the healthcare law dead in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Even Fox News’ perennial pinhead laureate Bill O’Reilly has put in his penny’s worth of “wisdom” by calling the attempt an example of “fanaticism.” Talk about tigers eating their young.
If I had to predict what will happen, my gut tells me that a shutdown is coming. How long it will last will be up to John Boehner and Eric Cantor. If I were a betting man, I’d give them a week before they cry uncle and we see a clean CR get an up and down vote in the House. Once more Boehner will break his beloved Hastert rule and enlist Democrats to pass a funding bill, in all likelihood the same funding bill that Harry Reid’s Senate will pass with votes to spare. Eat that dust, Mr. Speaker.
My real worry is the debt ceiling. Temporary shutdowns, while certainly no picnic, are recoverable. An actual default would be catastrophic. You don’t fuck with the good faith and credit of the United States without paying a steep price. Two years ago, S&P downgraded the U.S. credit rating just for flirting with a default. Imagine what would happen if we actually went over the cliff.
Only time will tell if House Republicans are crazy enough to destroy the U.S. economy trying to defund a law that really can’t be defunded in the first place. Most of them are too stupid to know that Obamacare gets most of its funding not through discretionary spending, which would be cut off in the event of a government shutdown, but through mandatory spending, which is exempt from any shutdown. Like Social Security and Medicare, the Affordable Care Act is protected, even from the Tea Party nincompoops who mean it harm.
Like Forrest Gump would say, “Stupid is as stupid does.”