Government by Crisis

Talking Points Memo today highlights Speaker Boehner’s speech at the Peterson Institute, in which he seems to lay out a newly formalized Boehner Principle.  Namely that whenever the debt ceiling is to be raised, the government must cut an equivalent amount of spending or greater.  It goes unspoken that of course this principle only applies when a Democrat holds the Presidency, but that’s really neither here nor there.

Given the damage the debt ceiling debacle of 2011 did to financial markets as well as to the perceived political efficacy of the Congress and Speaker Boehner, you’d think he would be less eager about embracing government-by-crisis as a general principle.  If the only way fiscal policy is conducted is through brinksmanship, it virtually guarantees that sooner or later we WILL go hurtling off the cliff.the government will go hurtling off the cliff.  This may result in disaster, though frankly I think the most realistic scenario is that the President simply decides to ignore the debt ceiling, claiming that the most recently passed law (e.g., the last appropriations bill) takes precedence in a conflict, Treasury continues to issue debt, and life goes on.

More generally, given that in the short time since the last debt-ceiling bargain the House has already reneged on their end of it, I fail to see why Speaker Boehner thinks the Democrats would have any interest in negotiating on serious matters of fiscal policy in a time of impending crisis.  The GOP has already very clearly shown themselves to be negotiating on these issues in bad faith, as was extremely predictable.  Next time around, I would be fairly surprised if the President and the Senate attempt to seriously negotiate on spending cuts rather than defuse the bomb in some way.


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