Political Animal


June 02, 2011 8:00 AM Making the hostage strategy explicit

By Steve Benen

President Obama met with several leading congressional Republicans yesterday to discuss budget cuts and the debt ceiling, and not surprisingly, there wasn’t much in the way of progress. GOP leaders postured; Obama pressed for compromise; and by the end, the two sides appeared no closer to a resolution than when they started.

There was a general agreement that some kind of deal had to be struck before the end of the month before the GOP strategy starts doing serious damage to the U.S. economy, but that only helped to add a timeline to the ransom note.

Indeed, one of the more striking aspects of yesterday’s gathering was the increasingly-explicit nature of the Republican hostage strategy.

…Boehner’s let’s-get-a-deal-done stance masks a deeper belief within the House Republican Conference — that Obama will back down eventually and agree to its demands, forcing Capitol Hill Democrats to follow suit.

“Of course, it’s dangerous,” a House Republican close to Boehner said of the politics of a government default. “But it’s dangerous for everybody, especially the president. At the end of the day, [Obama] will have to give in.”

“Who has egg on their face if there is a sovereign debt crisis, House Republicans or the president?” asked another senior GOP lawmaker.

With a potential debt default by the U.S. government just two months off, and a continued standoff between the White House and GOP congressional leaders on how to move forward in boosting that limit, Republican lawmakers say publicly and privately that they believe Obama will be the one who has to cave.

To be sure, the hostage-strategy dynamic isn’t new, but it’s uncommon for Republican members of Congress to be this candid about their plan out loud. One leading GOP lawmaker acknowledged that the Republican plan is “dangerous,” but the party doesn’t care. Another conceded that the GOP is inviting a “sovereign debt crisis,” but figures Obama would get the blame, so Republicans don’t care about that, either.

The key to an effective hostage strategy is creating a credible threat. When the hostage taker has a gun to the head of hostage, those expected to pay the ransom have to genuinely believe the bad guy really will pull the trigger. Yesterday, the Republican message to the president wasn’t subtle: we really will pull the trigger and then blame you for not paying the ransom.

This, of course, makes the prospect of compromise that much more ridiculous. As far as Republicans are concerned, there’s no need to compromise — they’re the ones with the gun and the hostage. Why strike a deal? If Obama caves, they get what they want. If Obama stands firm, and the GOP deliberately destroys the economy, Republicans will blame the president and destroy his chances of re-election. As far as the GOP leadership is concerned, all they have to do is wait.

In the abstract, this is arguably one of the great political scandals of recent American history. There is no modern precedent for a political party acting like an organized crime family this shamelessly. The American public isn’t hearing much about these tactics, but I can’t help but wonder what the mainstream would think if someone were to tell them that the Republican Party intends to cause a recession, on purpose, unless Democrats drastically cut Medicare and other popular domestic programs.

Basic American patriotism — wanting what’s best for your country — would seemingly prevent such thuggish tactics. And yet, here we are.

As for whether the president intends to pay the ransom, your guess is as good as mine.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • just bill on June 02, 2011 8:08 AM:

    sorry, i don't agree that obama will get the blame. the republicans aren't the least bit subtle about this, and even with the complicity of the stupid media, i think americans are going to know who caused this.

    dig in your heels barack, and stand firm. that way you'll end this game for good.

  • c u n d gulag on June 02, 2011 8:11 AM:

    "Pay da ransom, or the economy sleeps wid da fishes."

    It would be nice if Obama used his bully pulpit and went on national TV IN PRIME TIME, and explained all of this, wouldn't it?
    How about right now - before summer and vacation season really get under way!!!

    And PLEASE, please, don't back down Democrats.

    Let Wall Street make the hit's on Republicans FOR you.

    When it comes to ruthless, they make the Republicans look like pikers.

  • BrklynLibrul on June 02, 2011 8:19 AM:

    The President has no one to blame but himself for his predicament. Starting with the stimulus debate and healthcare reform and culminating with last December's budget negotiations, he has always signaled his willingness to cave, reflecting his crippling fear of the GOP. (He's not the only Washington Democrat terrified of the mean girls, by the way.) The Republicans are on the cusp of achieving a forty-year goal -- the annihilation of the Democratic party and a return to a pre-New Deal feudalism -- and they've made it perfect;y clear they'll take down the country if they can destroy their rivals. I don't think a default would play out the way they think it would play out, at least politically, but they're more than willing to roll the dice.

    I'm still not sure why the President allowed this dynamic to become the organizing principle of Washington. I guess he just doesn't "get" the Republican party. But anyone who was raised in a hardcore red-state culture gets it. Our only hope is that the real people with power in this country -- Wall Street -- intervenes. But I doubt Boehner and McConnell have firm control over the rogue elements of their party.

  • DAY on June 02, 2011 8:20 AM:

    An analogy, if I may:

    The Space Shuttle is on the pad, it's final launch. The mission: Destroy an asteroid that is threatening Earth.

    And the hundreds of seasoned experts in Mission Control have been replaced with a bunch of country club drunks, used car salesmen, and corporate whores.
    "Yo, Cantor! Which button turns this thing on?"

    entiona 109: my favorite sunscreen!

  • jdb on June 02, 2011 8:25 AM:

    I think that we need to stop asking Republicans if they do or do not support raising the debt ceiling; rather we should begin asking them why they now refuse to raise the debt ceiling, and repeatedly explain to them the consequences.

  • j on June 02, 2011 8:26 AM:

    I think the fact that the repubs have tried to placate Wall Street by telling them not to worry and it is not going to happen weakens their position. I think every day the repubs hold out will be a day closer to Wall Street getting tough with them.

  • Al on June 02, 2011 8:27 AM:

    Each side has their non-negotiable demands. The GOP wants fiscal responsibility, The democrats want socialism. This isn't going to end well.

  • blondie on June 02, 2011 8:30 AM:

    Brklyn, I think you're mistaking the President's taking seriously his oath to protect the country with what you call "crippling fear" of the Republicans. I also think that almost everyone in politics (including us in the politico-citizen brigade) underestimates him time and time again - look at how Obama got slammed for the budget deal that averted a government shutdown, then it turned out he played the Republicans.

    Am I going to be happy with whatever comes out of negotiations to raise the debt ceiling? No, probably not. But I'm going to wait to see whether it's as bad as the professional doomsayers claim.

  • Gregory on June 02, 2011 8:34 AM:

    The American public isnt hearing much about these tactics, but I cant help but wonder what the mainstream would think if someone were to tell them that the Republican Party intends to cause a recession, on purpose, unless Democrats drastically cut Medicare and other popular domestic programs.

    Darn that liberal media anyway!

  • Alli on June 02, 2011 8:36 AM:

    Wow. The comments. For the past two years everyone hear pretty much agrees that:

    1. Republicans never pay a political price for their actions

    2. The media is "wired" or in the tank for Republicans

    3. Democrats are like herding cats

    4. The American people are stupid and not paying attention

    but whatever, says brklynlibrul: This is all Obama's fault. HE was the one that created the dynamics in Washington. FFS! total garbage. with all due respect. total garbage.

    I don't know what Obama will do and I am not going to pretend to know better. I am also not going to sit here and say I would do xyz and be all bad and stuff. What I do know is that the previous times he has "caved" a lot of people would have suffered. Obama put people over ideology and it pisses me off to think that the left would have no problem shutting down the government, cutting off unemployment to millions, and allow millions of people to lose their jobs just to show Republicans that you're tough. And now the same folks are saying let the economy tank? I don't know. I just don't know. but I'm guessing that those who are talking a good game now would be shitting their pants if they actually had to make the decision.

  • j on June 02, 2011 8:37 AM:

    Agree with Gregory, the world now is poised for a big double dip recession - Will the republicans & Boehner be the ones to tip it over the edge?

  • DJ on June 02, 2011 8:39 AM:

    "Economy tanks". Republicans cheer.

  • Danp on June 02, 2011 8:39 AM:

    I'd love to see this simple problem solved quickly and without complication, but that simply isn't how mature (read: old, lazy, corrupt) democracies work. And the Republicans are very mature if nothing else.

    I would like to see Obama do a prime time speech, though, and show video of Republican quotes. Congressman Landry doesn't want to be lectured, but he deserves it.

  • hell's littlest angel on June 02, 2011 8:42 AM:

    So far, it's been:

    Republicans to Obama: "I'm smarter than you!"

    Obama to Republicans: "Yeah, but I'm taller than you."

    We'll see. My money's on Obama. (And with a 401k, I mean that literally.)

  • rrk1 on June 02, 2011 8:45 AM:

    Obama's obsession with his spineless one-sided devotion to bipartisanship is responsible for the Rethugs believing they hold all the cards. The pattern has been established: Obama caves even before he sits down at the table, and he only sits down at five minutes to midnight. What reason is there to believe he will behave any differently this time?

    It would help enormously if our eloquent president, and the Democrats as well, would make the slightest effort to reduce the profound ignorance of the electorate, but they haven't, and they probably won't. The mere fact that a majority of the general population opposes raising the debt ceiling indicates the low level of information that is out there. The well-oiled Rethug media machine misinforms, or disinforms, or doesn't inform at all. There is no Democratic counter message, and without that message there is no hope of controlling the terms of the debate. You can't beat 'something' with 'nothing', as has been said many times.

    However this obscene game of chicken over the national debt ceiling plays out the average guy on the street still won't really know what happened, and is likely to be worse off than before.

  • Chris on June 02, 2011 8:57 AM:

    "Basic American patriotism � wanting what�s best for your country � would seemingly prevent such thuggish tactics. And yet, here we are."

    The Goopers' only patriotic sentiment is to themselves. Give them anything less than complete control of the country, and they'll complain that their homeland is being taken away from them: and as far as they're concerned, if they can't have it all, then nobody will. In the words of John Scalzi, they really would rather shit on a freshly baked cherry pie than share it with anyone not of their "tribe."

    Appealing to GOP patriotism confuses rhetoric with reality. Those guys "love" their country in the same way that the woman who asked Solomon to cut her supposed baby in half "loved" the baby.

  • exlitigator on June 02, 2011 9:05 AM:

    I really think that the Treasury department should start laying out its default plan. 1) Republican paychecks, 2) defense contractors, 3) social security checks in Red States. Since we are already past the debt limit. We should start this in 1 week. Tell all the seniors their checks will bounce unless the Republicans vote to extend the Debt cieling.

  • blondie on June 02, 2011 9:10 AM:

    Al, your false equivalency is based on false premises. I'd guess you know that and don't care.

    False premise #1 - "The GOP wants fiscal responsibility."

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Phew! Excuse me a second while I catch my breath ... There. That's better.)

    You mean the same GOP that decided to borrow the cost of a completely voluntary foreign war? The same GOP that decided in the face of that war to give whopping tax cuts? The same GOP that included even more tax breaks in the Ryan catastrophe? The same GOP that doesn't consider defaulting on the national debt fiscal IRresponsibility?

    False premise #2 - "The [D]emocrats want socialism."

    Hee hee. (This is just a chuckle - it's not worthy of a guffaw.)

    To paraphrase Inigo Montoya, I do not think that word means what you think it means. I (and just about every Democrat, liberal, progressive, and independent I know) is a capitalist; we just have a strong cynical streak when it comes to believing corporate America gives two good damns about the public welfare. IOW, it doesn't.

    Identifying those areas of human activity where the profit motive distorts, rather than benefits, society is reality-based. That doesn't mean profits should be disallowed; it means they should be facilitated within a framework that protects citizens from abuse.

    Now I know that Republicans would prefer to ignore reality, but it does have a really nasty habit of jumping up and biting you in the b@lls. The problem is, right now the GOP is saying, "Hey, go bite THOSE people and leave us alone" - but reality ain't listening to Republicans.

  • Walker on June 02, 2011 9:19 AM:


    Al is a well-known troll from long ago. It is best to ignore him. Most of the time he posts and runs without engaging the commentary.

  • memekiller on June 02, 2011 9:21 AM:

    I can tell you how this will play out. First, ask yourself what is you absolute bottom line, the most drastic suts we could possibly make and still keep Medicare in some form. Thiis will be Obama's starting number. Republicans will then counter with their dream number - cuts so enormous, they know there's no way Democrats will accept it. The Democrats will accept it. So the Republicans will ask for more, thus enraging Obama's base, and the Dems will suddenly stand firm. Hard-core negotiations will then begin in earnest, at the end of which both sides will announce a compromise - identical to the Republicans second offer.

    But it is important to remember that it's not over. The GOP at this point will have been so handsomely rewarded for this strategy that it will become a standard practice when dealing with Democratic Presidents from now to eternity until one of them is willing to call their bluff.

    Is Obama the one to stand firm? If not, whatever demands Obama caves to will be just the tip of the iceberg. Didn't this blog have an item a few months back on the GOP considering having the debt ceiling come up every month? Why not, so long as we give them Democrats so willing to reward them for it.

  • Take Them at Their Turd on June 02, 2011 9:21 AM:

    Once again, I refer everyone back to Mitch McConnell's quote in October 2010:

    "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

    When your single highest priority is political conquest, the needs of the many are easily cast aside.

    Perhaps a clever Democratic marketing strategist can find a compelling way to link the Republicans' behavior over the last few years to this quote.

  • c u n d gulag on June 02, 2011 9:23 AM:

    Don't say "well-known" troll about Al. It'll only encourage him.
    Call him obnoxious, ubiquitous, or infectious instead.

  • Chris on June 02, 2011 9:24 AM:

    "To paraphrase Inigo Montoya, I do not think that word means what you think it means."

    Yeah, no shit.

    Socialism means state control of the means of production. Obama's had three opportunities to nationalize a vital sector of the economy (autos, banks, health insurance) and he's declined to do it all three times, instead giving the private industry a pat on the head and an influx of money before sending them on their way. Hell, the single biggest piece of the stiumulus came in tax cuts, the holy grail of politics your side's always whining about. But somehow he's a socialist. Yeah. Okay.

  • toowearyforoutrage on June 02, 2011 9:27 AM:

    Blondie, AI is a beloved spoof troll around here.

    At the end of the day, [Obama] will have to give in.

    George Bush was a fan of governance by gut.
    I hadn't realized it was a more widespread conservative phenomenon.
    It isn't just pandering to Tea Partiers. They really DO believe in their instincts, don't they?

    What they overlook is... WHO does a sovereign debt crisis hurt? Politically, the president perhaps. Financially? China and Treasury bond fund holders. (China has sway over all the global (ostensibly American) corps that outsourced there.)

    Got news for ya... the Democrats may have skin in the game, but Republicans have skin, bone, lung, and spinal cord. When 1% of the population owns 40% of the wealth of America and that wealth craters, who's taking the hit?

    Which party is bankrolled by that 1%?

  • paul on June 02, 2011 9:29 AM:

    The beginnings of a double-dip recession make this game even more dangerous, because the current August 2 drop-dead (ahem) date is predicated on revenues staying good. If recession causes any significant fall in revenue, the date could move up without much warning.

  • boffo on June 02, 2011 9:31 AM:

    I think there's another dynamic to the debt ceiling standoff that will have significant bearing on, if not completely determine, its outcome: the Republican-Wall Street symbiosis.

    Republicans actually have only as much leeway as their Wall Street benefactors allow. And by the accounts of many with an ear to the goings-on of Wall Street, the Street is not too keen on Republicans' debt ceiling brinksmanship, because there is a (real) concern that Republicans' hostage antics will hit them where it hurts -- their stock portfolios.

    Yes, the Tea Party -- which adamantly opposes raising the debt ceiling -- strikes much fear in the hearts of many Republicans, but that fear pales in comparison to being cutoff from the Street. Hard to win a campaign with a dry well...

    So, what does this all mean? As much as Republicans keep trying to suggest to the Beltway (which seems to be buying) and public (which seems to be mostly tuned out right now) that they have the upper hand, they actually don't. They are on a very short leash that Wall Street is slightly tugging right now, but will soon yank.

    Republicans -- for all of their attempts to project a position of negotiating strength -- keep trying to mask the fact that they are in a weaker position than they wish to acknowledge. But they've already made a crucial acknowledgement: They've (Republican leadership) already acknowledged that they will eventually raise the debt ceiling. That makes this essentially a waiting game for Democrats -- waiting until Wall Street says, "Enough. Playtime is over."

    Hopefully, the White House understands this crucial dynamic.

  • Anonymous on June 02, 2011 9:32 AM:

    "Who has egg on their face if there is a sovereign debt crisis, House Republicans or the president?" asked another senior GOP lawmaker.

    So that's what they meant when Republicans said defaulting is "really no big deal".

    The GOP believes if:

    Obama caves:

    1. Republicans will get their dream to gut entitlements.

    2. Republicans will in return hang the gutting of entitlements around Obama's neck.

    Obama doesn't cave:

    1. Republicans will come out squeaky clean on shirking responsibility.

    2. Republicans will role into power because of the devastating fiscal nightmare they created.

    With national "patriots" like these, who needs enemies.

  • Peter C on June 02, 2011 9:40 AM:

    The other thing I think we must constantly point out is that by refusing to increase the debt ceiling, the Republicans are again demonstrating that they will not keep their side of a bargain they will not be bound by their word they will not honor their agreements they will welsh on their deals (sorry people from Wales) they are happy to cheat they cannot be trusted. The bargain which extended unemployment benefits for exchange for the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts for the super-wealthy GUARANTEED that the debt ceiling would have to be raised. The budget deal for 2011 which kept the government open GUARANTEED that the debt ceiling would have to be raised. These bargains made raising the debt ceiling INEVITABLE and UNAVOIDABLE. Were the country to pass to Ryan budget, it would still absolutely necessitate the raising of the debt ceiling.

    So, to withhold an increase to the debt ceiling is to make a bargain and go back on their word. It is blatant duplicitous behavior. It is utterly dishonorable. It is completely devoid of respectability. It is faithless and false. It is bargaining dishonestly. It is the sort of contemptible behavior that has been on constant exhibit on FOX and talk radio since its founding. It is as if wed elected OReilly, Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck, which, indeed, we have.

    It is time to surrender our utopian fantasy that our Republican adversaries are honorable men and women. They are not. They are vile. And, we cannot afford to delude ourselves about it any longer.

  • Brenna on June 02, 2011 9:42 AM:

    This is all going to end with some sort of token cuts to medicare and maybe more significant cuts to medicaide.

    I think republicans come out way worse for wear. The dems are going to plaster them the way Kathy Hochul did.

  • chi res on June 02, 2011 10:12 AM:

    rrk1: It would help enormously if our eloquent president, and the Democrats as well, would make the slightest effort to reduce the profound ignorance of the electorate

    I understand that they've been trying to contact you repeatedly, but simply can't get through. Something about a thick head...

  • chi res on June 02, 2011 10:17 AM:

    toowearyforoutrage: Got news for ya... the Democrats may have skin in the game, but Republicans have skin, bone, lung, and spinal cord. When 1% of the population owns 40% of the wealth of America and that wealth craters, who's taking the hit?
    Which party is bankrolled by that 1%?

    THIS is the bottom line.

  • JEA on June 02, 2011 10:23 AM:

    If the Democrats were SMART, they would be tying the debt ceiling to the government shutdown in '95 and telling the public that the GOP is doing the same thing now that they did then - endangering the country's ability to pay its bills, and denying those in need their govt benefits.

  • Take Them at Their Turd on June 02, 2011 10:26 AM:

    Regarding (kinda) the "one percent of Americans own 40% of the wealth" data:

    What I'd like to know is what Stan Druckenmiller's investment strategy is in the upcoming weeks. chi res is right: The Repubs have a lot of body in this game. Thing is, no one ever got rich by taking financial positions that weren't to their advantage. Druckenmiller is saying he'd be fine if we defaulted for a few days; why is that? What's he holding? What's he shorting? What's he planning?

    If Republicans are willing to stake their hostage gambit on the "advice" of Druckenmiller and a few others, don't we have a right to know what these investors' financial strategies are before the ransom note comes due? Shouldn't we at least try to find out in advance?

  • lans on June 02, 2011 10:59 AM:

    I'm not sure how many of you realize that there is no medium which sides with the democrats. Surely not CNN, MSNBC, FOX, ABC or CBS, how the hell then do you get the message out. The media owns these mouth pieces, not BO nor the democrats. I know that they think that BO will cave because he doesn't want the economy to tank on his watch but he'll find a way to call their bluff. Years ago I saw a bully dare a wimp to a fight in front of many girls, unable to back down the wimp agreed, while the bully was removing his jacket, the wimp started to pummel him, beating the shit out of him before he could extract his hands from his jacket. I learned a lesson that night, perhaps we can learn to fight smarter against these unAmerican republicans.

  • N.Wells on June 02, 2011 11:14 AM:

    I've been in favor of the same idea as exlitigator proposes. It's long past time to up the ante on the Republicans: we've passed the debt limit so start cutting stuff now, but be sure to pick stuff that will hurt Republicans and get people screaming: highway construction projects in states that get more tax money than they send to Washington, Republican-favored pork projects, threaten a 50% cut in social security payments, and so forth. We have technically run out of money in an unprecedented sort of way, so it will be hard to make a case about what can and cannot be done.

    When school districts are running out of money and need people to get serious about passing a levee, the time-honored way to do this is to pass plans to cut busing, football, and band. It's time to do the equivalent thing here.

  • N.Wells on June 02, 2011 11:17 AM:

    .....and justify it by claiming that the savings will allow us to keep paying the military and veterans' benefits that much longer after the Republicans cause financial disaster in August.

  • TCinLA on June 02, 2011 11:25 AM:

    What Obama needs to do is go on television and tell the American people what is at stake: what the Republicans want to destroy, how they want to fuck up Medicare and everything else, how every one of these things is something an overwhelming number of Americans oppose doing, and then tell them "As your President, I am not going to let them do this to you. If they want to destroy the country over these issues that none of you want done, it will be on their heads."

    Call their bluff. Pick up the rock and let the American public see the scurrying little cockroaches for what they are.

  • Chris on June 02, 2011 11:34 AM:

    "Years ago I saw a bully dare a wimp to a fight in front of many girls, unable to back down the wimp agreed, while the bully was removing his jacket, the wimp started to pummel him, beating the shit out of him before he could extract his hands from his jacket."

    Completely aside from anything political, I just wanted to say THAT'S FREAKING AWESOME. Way to go, kid!

  • jsjiowa on June 02, 2011 11:50 AM:

    I think the Republicans have calculated this one wrong. They may have convinced themselves that because a large percentage of the public doesn't want the debt ceiling raised, that the public will blame the President if he refuses to accept Republican demands. But yesterday's CNN poll numbers tell a different story, I think: the public already thinks the President has been doing more than Republicans to compromise, and the public doesn't trust Republicans on Medicare. So, if Republicans continue to demand huge cuts to Medicare as the price of raising the debt ceiling, I think the President wins by refusing that demand.

    Plus, I think at some point, Wall Street swoops in and demands that Repubicans cave -- Boehner has already signaled as much, by saying that to keep the markets stable, they really need to reach a deal by the end of the month. I can already see a replay of the TARP vote, where the House kept the voting machine open until the Chamber of Commerce could strong-arm enough Republican votes in favor of passage. I don't think we've begun to see the kind of pressure that Wall Street could unleash on Republicans.

  • Hannah on June 02, 2011 12:08 PM:

    Peter: "Republicans are again demonstrating that they will not keep their side of a bargain they will not be bound by their word they will not honor their agreements"

    One recent example: Senate R's filibustering Goodwin Liu's nomination

    Ya'll call the WH 1-202-456-1111 and tell Obama to explain to the people why the debt ceiling needs to be increased (wait time this morning: 5 mins) and call any R senators and reps you have and give them what for.

  • Joe Friday on June 02, 2011 12:25 PM:

    "Who has egg on their face if there is a sovereign debt crisis, House Republicans or the president?" asked another senior GOP lawmaker.

    This is why it is imperative that Obama keep making the point that it is the job of the HOUSE to send him a CLEAN debt-ceiling-increase bill that he can THEN sign. That he cannot act until the HOUSE REPUBLICAN MAJORITY does their job FIRST.

  • D. F. Linton on June 02, 2011 12:28 PM:

    What's been missed here is that a bond market default is a two-step process: Congress can refuse to raise the debt ceiling, but the Executive must decide whether to: (a) pay interest to bond holders first and thus preserve the nation's ability to borrow in the future at the current favorable rates, or (b) to pay other federal obligations first and to thereby default on the bonds and notes. Not raising the ceiling would be Congress' choice, but Obama gets to pick whether to default and who gets the shaft if we don't.

    The bond market will not treat choice (a) as a default any more than your mortgage company would declare you in default if you had to take your daughter out of private school to keep paying your mortgage. Paying our debts first is the only grownup choice. Whether the ruling elites will have the stomach for it is another question.

  • bottyguy on June 02, 2011 12:54 PM:

    Here's something I don't understand, we're already at the debt ceiling limit, and we are using pension funds to cover spending and interest payments right now, and this somehow runs out August 2.

    I'm pretty sure that the treasury department is now in charge of where money comes from for spending and WHERE IT IS SPENT, hence the current raid on federal pension funds to pay for continuing costs while the debt limit isn't increased.

    Hardball in this case would be to have the treasury department cancel contracts for spending on big programs that effect the US Chamber of Commerce. Cancel all purchases of new aircraft, cancel any contract to build buildings, roads, infrastructure, cancel all IT purchases and leases. State that all of these spending plans are up for rebid. I expect there may be lawsuits, but the federal government has plenty of lawyers to push those suit out for dozens of years. I think that would put some pressure on lawmakers from their "constituents".

    Is there something I'm missing here. But it seems that the first thing to do with hostage takers is stop sending them and their supporters free food and drink.

  • Gary D on June 02, 2011 1:03 PM:

    GOP plays Edward G. Robinson.

    "Cut Medicare or the economy gets it, see."


  • Stephen Stralka on June 02, 2011 1:57 PM:

    As far as a hostage strategy, the smart hostage-taker should ideally be demanding a ransom that isn't pretty much equivalent to pulling the trigger anyway. With the kinds of cuts they're demanding, the Republicans are basically telling Obama that if he doesn't agree to cut off the hostage's arms and legs, they're going to shoot the hostage in the head. If the economy is going to be wrecked one way or the other, I don't see why Obama would want to take any of the blame. (And I do think he's savvy enough to realize that.)