How To End Debt Ceiling Brinkmanship For Good
A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo. Sign up for the email version.
What Killing The Debt Ceiling Actually Looks Like
I want to use the news that the White House has set up a team to explore ways to kill or work around the debt ceiling as a jumping off point for talking about how to end the GOP’s hostage-taking on this issue. It looks very different from what’s happened over the past decade and is much more robust than the magical solutions people were demanding from the Biden White House just a few weeks ago.
If you really want to end the brinkmanship that the Republican Party has engaged in for more than a decade now, you have to think big and long term. You can’t wait until the country is on the brink of a default to fall back on a platinum coin or the 14th Amendment or whatever other outside-the-box solution you might favor.
There are a few things you have to do first, in reverse chronological order:
- Act Early: To calm the markets and creditors, you have to announce that you’re disregarding the debt limit way in advance. You can’t let the drumbeat of default talk build over time and begin to strain markets and create a crisis atmosphere. You have to pre-empt all of that with a measured, deliberate, transparent, forward-looking strategy that takes the crisis element out of play.
- Create A Mandate: But before you do that, you have to build popular support for a debt-ceiling workaround. I don’t mean getting people fired up about the debt ceiling because that ain’t happening. But you do have to campaign on it, make it a part of your political agenda, and be able to declare that you were elected after having explicitly said what you were going to do. In short, you have to give yourself a mandate.
- Lay The Groundwork: Meanwhile, you need advocacy groups, think tanks, and scholars flooding the zone with legitimate research, compelling arguments, targeted white papers, and convincing op-eds explaining over and over what needs to be done and why, how your workaround won’t tank the markets, why it will better protect the economy than the alternatives, and impressing upon the public the urgency of stopping debt ceiling brinkmanship.
- Work The Courts: Finally, if your workaround is going to face legal challenges – and it almost certainly will – you need to be laying the jurisprudential foundation for it years in advance. You need to figure out your workaround’s legal vulnerabilities. You need to start crafting defenses now, then test them in court. You may need to use cases that are totally unrelated to the debt ceiling to build the legal framework for bolstering your workaround or defending against legal attacks on it.
It’s easy for me to say it now, but in the absence of almost any of the above having been done in advance of this year’s debt ceiling hostage-taking, I was deeply skeptical that the Biden White House would or even could take any of the recommended dramatic steps to upend the GOP’s favored debt-ceiling dynamic, which is to create a crisis and then demand concessions for ending the crisis.
Democrats wasted the decade between the last serious debt-ceiling standoff and this one, when the steps I outline above could and should have been taken to shield themselves from a replay of what Republicans did to Obama. Refusing to negotiate with Republicans simply isn’t enough. You can try to pretend that the debt-ceiling isn’t a pressure point, but it’s already been proven to be. It was proven again this year.
The ultimate goal is to neutralize any crisis atmosphere by not letting it develop in the first place. You don’t have your own Treasury Department issuing countdown warnings. You don’t track the date of “default” like the ball dropping in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. You create all the predictability and provide all the assurances that the markets and creditors need way in advance, from your first day in office. You shift the entire paradigm.
The news that the White House has a team looking at the issue is a small but potentially important step – if it is part of a larger strategy along the lines I’ve outlined here.
Trump Losing His Ever-Loving Mind
As we await a Trump indictment in the Jan. 6 case, you should have on your radar some of the incitement he’s been engaging this week:
Just Security: Unpacking the “Surprise” Crime in DOJ’s Target Letter to Trump
Randall Eliason: Here’s what the indictment might look like
David French: Building a Legal Wall Around Donald Trump
Weird Episode In DC Federal Court
Trump judge scolds Special Counsel Jack Smith’s team for causing a delay in unrelated Jan. 6 case.
Federal Judge Blasts Tucker Carlson’s Jan. 6 Propaganda
A Reagan-appointed federal judge in DC rejected the QAnon shaman’s bid to throw out his own guilty plea and took aim at the Tucker Carlson’s Jan. 6 propaganda.
‘Try That In A Small Town’
- Paul Waldman: Jason Aldean cashes in on the right-wing fantasy of violent retribution
- WaPo: The outrage over Jason Aldean’s ‘Try That in a Small Town,’ explained
- The music video, which Country Music Television has pulled from its rotation, was shot in front of a Tennessee courthouse that was the site of a 1920s lynching:
I share the video so you can see the imagery yourself.
Have A Great Weekend With Whichever One You See!
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