Influencers on the Right would have us believe there is no reason to be on edge about the pending debt ceiling fight between the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Biden Administration. It’s about time Republicans hold their own, they argue—no matter the consequences.
Of course, Republicans barely hold one side of the legislature. It’s not like they have the power to accomplish the herculean task of reining in decades of excessive spending that both parties have imposed upon the country.
Remember, a whopping $7.8 trillion—or 25 percent—of the national debt was incurred during the Trump years. Stopping profligate federal spending will take years and require an actual strategy for electoral victory in 2024, not displays of partisan chest-thumping that merely serve to highlight to wary voters just how impotent the GOP presently is.
No matter, says the chattering class on the Right. It’s about the symbol of Republicans finally standing up. As George Carlin once quipped, “I’ll leave symbols for the symbol-minded.”
These voices on the Right nonchalantly claim, “we’ve got five months [to get a deal on the debt ceiling]”. As if that’s somehow reassuring. Plenty of time, these pundits think.
Having worked on Capitol Hill, I can tell you that five months is an insufficient amount of time to get any real deal done. Especially when the Biden team won’t even sit at the table, and the Republicans in the House refuse to bend on their understandable (though unrealistic, given the circumstances) demands for spending caps before they authorize the raising of the debt ceiling.
Those five months will go by like days, and no movement will happen until weeks or days before the vote must be held. And nothing will happen but continued gridlock. It won’t be the recalcitrant ideologues on the Left or Right who struggle during this time, though. Or their wealthy donors. It’ll be ordinary Americans—notably pensioners, the disabled, the needy, and the poor. Many of these people, in fact, were and are Trump supporters.
The right-wing Twitterati believe that when the economy truly collapses because of the failure to raise the debt ceiling, the public will blame Joe Biden. One can only hope. But hope is rarely a winning strategy.
And history on this issue is not on the Republicans’ side. Remember how badly the GOP fared after the previous debt ceiling fights from a decade ago? It will be like that, only worse. This is especially likely once one considers that, after having lost every election since 2018, the very survival of the Republican Party is at risk.
These voices on the Right may not realize it, but by getting the House GOP to refuse to raise the debt ceiling in June, they are effectively signing a political suicide pact.
Republicans Will Be Blamed, Democrats Will Win Bigly
Some on the Right who acknowledge the coming economic pain believe it will all be worth it. In the end, the greater good will be served because the American voters will not keep the Democrats in power as the economy falls apart. If the Republicans can regain power, they can fix the damage.
Sadly, these pundits on the Right are deluded. This was the same thinking that, in part, led to the massive Republican defeat in the 2022 midterms. It will backfire on the GOP going into 2024 as much as it did in 2022.
Because the American voters don’t seem to focus only on the economy—and when they do focus on the economy, they’re not necessarily inclined automatically to vote Republican. After all, overwhelming majorities of voters support expanding entitlements like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, for example, whereas the GOP (with the exception of Donald Trump) does not.
I believe the Biden Administration’s refusal to even countenance negotiations with the House Republicans on the debt ceiling shows you the Democratic Party’s true intentions. As much as the Right believes the voters will blame Biden, the Left believes the voters will blame the House GOP, who are already being described as “terrorists” and “hostage-takers” (even by some in the House GOP).
The Democrats want the economy to totally collapse into the recession that it’s been teetering on since Biden took office. And they want the crash to occur when the Republicans are very publicly resisting calls to raise the debt ceiling, as they will be when the vote is due in June.
According to Voice of America, failing to raise the debt ceiling will look something like the following:
An estimate from Moody’s Analytics . . . predicted that in a prolonged default scenario, the U.S. would slide into recession, with the Gross Domestic Product falling by almost 4%. Some six million jobs would be lost, driving the unemployment rate up to 9%. The resulting stock market sell-off would erase $15 trillion in household wealth. In the short term, interest rates would spike, and in the long term, they would never fall to pre-default lows.
By refusing to raise the debt ceiling, the GOP is painting itself as the party of intransigence. This attitude, while satisfying to ideologues on the Right, will give the Democrats all they need to run circles around the Republicans heading into 2024. It will feed their narrative that Republicans are both crazy and heartless for having held up the critical debt ceiling vote in June. Because of this perception, the Democrats will be rewarded in the 2024 presidential elections. The Republicans need to play this game smarter than they are.
Further, once the economy goes off the cliff after the failure to raise the debt ceiling, and the Republicans are discredited in the eyes of most Americans, it will be the push the Democrats need to expand government power under the auspices of “helping” the down-on-their-luck American people.
This was precisely how we were left with the New Deal “reforms” that FDR imposed upon our country. Just as then, the Republicans will be (wrongly) pegged by Democrats as the crazies who drove the economic car off the cliff and Democrats will be credited with managing to safely “land” the car with their “caring” policies of massive government expansion.
The kind of recession that we are talking about, should the debt ceiling not be raised in June, will be one of the most destructive in our recent history. There will be no going back, either for the country or the GOP, who will most surely be blamed.
The Global Perspectives on GOP-Induced Recession Aren’t Good
With the prospects of NATO’s defeat in Ukraine by Russia rising daily, the possibility of a Chinese challenge to the United States with an alternative reserve currency (to say nothing of a potential invasion of Taiwan), as well as the possibility of Iran launching a major conflict in the Middle East soon, the United States cannot afford a recession.
The last one was bad enough. But at least World War III wasn’t a moment away. The next recession will set America back for a very long time.
In fact, it will not only be the American voters who blame the GOP for their economic woes, but it will also be the rest of the world who blames America for the next global recession. As my colleague William Pesek cautioned recently, the United States is on the verge of discrediting itself as being worthy of the mantle of the last remaining superpower with these bad decisions and short-sighted political antics.
Republicans instead should spend the next several months consolidating their power, pushing legislation, pursuing corruption, and laying the groundwork for what must be a more successful 2024 election season. If it chooses to die on the debt ceiling hill this June, it will never recover.
What’s more, the United States may never come back from this totally self-inflicted wound. House Republicans must resist the allure of a charged and unwinnable debt ceiling battle. It must play to win the larger war. The GOP must hide its capabilities and bide its time until it has amassed the political power needed to strike. Once it does that, then the Right can dictate terms.
Presently, the GOP is far too weak to do anything than destroy what little momentum it has. And once the GOP has finished discrediting itself, the Left will have achieved its ultimate political victory. It will have captured the nation fully and ensured its domination for another generation.
Is anyone at the Republican National Committee even thinking about electoral strategy these days, or is it all about the money?