JONATHAN CHAIT MAY 27, 2011
Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan have an eye-opening piece describing the attempts by GOP House Whip Kevin McCarthy to support some kind of debt ceiling increase. The reassuring part of it is that McCarthy genuinely seems to be working hard to bring his members up to speed. The alarming part is that, hoo boy, they're starting from a pretty low point:
The presentation McCarthy and other top Republicans are giving to lawmakers is stunningly simple and illustrates just how unfamiliar House Republicans are with governing. On presentation slides viewed by POLITICO, McCarthy and other House leaders are using colored, flag-laden charts to show how much debt China and other nations hold.
They are explaining to the members how Congress has raised the debt ceiling in the past — including as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program and Democrats’ stimulus bill.
Pushing back on conservative discontent, they are showing that both the conservative Republican Study Committee’s budget and the House Republican budget call for a hike in the debt ceiling.
They have a slide explaining why California GOP Rep. Tom McClintock and Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey’s plan to prioritize debt payments won’t work — although they don’t mention the lawmakers by name. McClintock, who attended one of the sessions, expressed to McCarthy and others present that he didn’t quite agree with the analysis.
And if Republicans don’t hike the debt ceiling, they’re told, Social Security payments will be stunted, debt will be downgraded, borrowing costs will skyrocket, the dollar will plunge and private hiring will freeze — a scenario McCarthy and fellow Republicans desperately want to avoid as they count GOP votes.
Of course, one of the problems here is that even conservative intellectuals -- or, at least, conservative non-politicians -- are peddling debt ceiling denialism. No surprise that McCarthy has to explain to his members that even the most right-wing budgets would require a debt ceiling increase, because you have hacks like Douglas Holz-Eakin running around saying things like "The need to raise the debt ceiling is a symptom of the broken budgetary past characterized by massive overspending." I'm sure Holz-Eakin understands perfectly well that he's engaging in propaganda designed to strengthen the position of a party aligned with his philosophical preferences, but misleading the public without also fooling your own side can be a tricky line to navigate.
(As a journalistic side note, I should point out that Politico has really upped its game and is now producing far more good political coverage than any other outlet, as the large number of my items keying off Politico stories would testify.)