08 August 2011

Blame

I've stopped doing political posts for the most part, because while I love following politics, writing about it tends to make me angry. But here's something I just can't pass up.

Like most people, you too are probably aware that Standard & Poor's recently downgraded U.S. credit from AAA+ to AA+. Nate Silver has a great column about why S&P is actually terrible, but it's neither here nor there: this is a bad thing that happened, and there is clear blame.

This isn't like a lot of things in Washington. It's not a long time between events, where other factors could have gotten involved. There was a very clear sequence: the GOP refused to raise the debt ceiling and honor our obligations unless they received concessions, and they refused to compromise on the concessions. Their refusal to compromise was so absolute that they took the country to the very brink of default - it was a matter of days, even by the most generous measure, before the government was going to have to stop full payment on some bills.

Even more explicitly, there is a group of people who made this decision and can tell us about it. This isn't the failure to spur job creation, where the causes and results are obscure and varied. No, a group of people actually made a statement about why this happened, explicitly stating the causes.

So there's little wiggle room here when we assign blame.

When the debt ceiling vote was approaching, various leaders warned that it was vital that we raise it - that the consequences would be disastrous if we failed to do so. Even looking like we might fail to do so was a bad thing. People warned of exactly this sort of thing: that the world might start to think that America was unwilling to meet its obligations.

Now, many members of the Tea Party wanted people to refuse to raise the debt ceiling. This view was corresponded with some GOP members of Congress, who actually thought it might be a good thing. In their view, it would mean that the administration would be forced to make spending cuts rather than default - they didn't realize that Congress had already voted to spend this money.

So the GOP held America hostage, and extracted their demands. They'd only raise the debt ceiling if they got what they wanted. And they got almost every single thing they wanted. They succeeded in not only getting equal spending cuts to new revenues, they then demanded a huge majority be spending cuts. And then they demanded all spending cuts and no new revenues at all. Each time, the President was forced to assent. Because he knew that some of these people actually thought it would be okay to shoot the hostage.

As a result, the world was shocked to find that there was some question of whether or not America would agree to pay the bills on the things it had bought. America had gone into Rent-a-Center with a truck and hauled out the dining set and the big television, but when the bill came America decided that they didn't want to pay Rent-a-Center. The world, starting with S&P, decided that they would be more careful about allowing America to buy on layaway.

So the fact that the S&P downgraded our credit is indisputably and directly because of the recent actions of the Republican Party.

Prominent conservatives, somehow, disagree. Witness conservative star Erick Erickson of Redstate.com (emphasis mine):
The issue here, however, is that while present law presumed the GOP tax cuts would go away, the policy presumption is that they would get extended. Likewise, this is not blaming the GOP. This is a statement of reality that the GOP wasn’t going to raise taxes.

Consequently, because the GOP refused to raise taxes, the alternative needed to be more cuts.

And S&P clearly believes that the cuts the debt deal made were not enough. And who opposed big cuts? Why yes, a guy named Barack Obama and the Democrats.

I don't throw this word around lightly, but this is just plain delusional. In what other context could this logic possibly work?

Imagine ordering some fried rice and wontons from Happy Wok down the street. They deliver it, and you're ready to hand it out to the family. Your family really wants their wontons, and you know you can't refuse them. But you also know that you've run up your credit card and your family is also pissed about that and don't want to pay for the food. So you say to the delivery guy, "Listen, I know this food is $25, but my family just can't afford these record-breaking debts. So I don't think I'm going to pay you unless you agree to bring down your prices."

The delivery guy, of course, is just baffled. If you didn't want the food, the time to make that decision was when you wrote your family budget and ordered the food. But eventually and after several hours and huge hassle, he agrees grudgingly to forgo his tip. You in turn pay him, although you're not happy about it and neither is your family. Still, you have the food and it didn't cost as much and it seems like everything is okay.

Then, of course, the phone rings. It's Happy Wok. They will not be delivering to your residence again in the future.

So what kind of deluded person would you be if you declared that the problem was the delivery boy? How crazy would you have to be to say, "This isn't about blaming me or my family. This is a statement of reality that we weren't going to pay full price plus tip. And because we weren't willing to do that, that means that they should have charged us less. And who refused to charge less? Happy Wok's delivery boy."

It's completely out of touch with reality.

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