Full-blown insanity returns to Washington


Here we go again, hellbent on more showdowns over the federal budget and the debt ceiling. But this round of brinksmanship by conservative Republicans might be the most frightening yet. There is no clear way out, and that could be catastrophic for the economy.

Recent fits of partisan posturing have been pinned to the deficit -- which today is dropping fast -- and to President Barack Obama’s supposedly reckless spending to deal with the recession he inherited. But this time, a faction of the GOP wants to hold all of government hostage in an attempt to impose radical policy views: Conservatives say they’ll refuse to pass a spending bill that includes funding for Obamacare. And they say they won’t raise the debt ceiling, allowing the country to pay its bills, unless Obama delays his health care plan and accepts the draconian Paul Ryan budget, among other demands.

Fortunately, Obama says he won’t negotiate over the debt ceiling. He’d better hold firm. There is no middle ground for these demands. They are pure blackmail.

Voters soundly rejected Ryan’s spending plan last November and decisively re-elected the president who had given them Obamacare. The Republican Party controls a third of elected government. It has nothing close to the mandate required to compel sweeping governmental and social change.

And the spending plan passed by the House last week to defund Obamacare is going nowhere. The Senate won’t approve it, and some influential Republicans, including John McCain and Tom Coburn, seem to recognize the insanity of it -- especially since the plan won’t even do what its supporters claim. Most Obamacare spending has already been authorized; the work is under way.

We hope these senators can reason with their House colleagues. If they can’t, the government will shut down Oct. 1.

Much of the posturing is pure snake oil. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, for example, is gearing up for a presidential run by pushing the nonsensical plan to defund Obamacare. Lawmakers in far-right districts feel they must go along with extreme initiatives like this or risk a tea party primary challenge.

And some conservative voters would welcome the economic cataclysm that a shutdown, or a debt default, would unleash, believing it’s the only way to shrink a government they despise.

Part of their opposition is based on help for the poor. Thus the House also voted last week to slash $40 billion from food stamps while approving subsidies that send billions to wealthy farmers. Health care reform also benefits lower-income Americans.

Giving in to destructive, undemocratic demands for raising the debt ceiling would institutionalize hostage-taking as a political tactic. It has to stop.

If the government defaults on its debts, bringing economic chaos, the cause will be clear. And we’ll see how the party of paralysis does in the next election.

~San Jose (Calif) Mercury News


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