In news that will undoubtedly hearten conservatives, a new CBS poll reports that just 43 percent of Americans agree with President Obama’s handling of the debt-ceiling crisis, while 48 percent disagree.
On the other hand, however, the same poll reports that 71 percent of Americans disagree with how congressional Republicans are handling the crisis, and just 21 percent agree. Even among Republicans, 51 percent disagree with how their party’s leaders in Washington are handling the crisis.
Those are remarkably bad numbers, and they’re likely to get worse for the Republicans, not better, as the deadline looms nearer and nearer. Not only are they playing a bad poker hand poorly, everyone else in the game knows they have a bad poker hand.
For example, last week Obama mentioned almost in passing that if the debt ceiling isn’t raised by Aug. 2, he couldn’t guarantee that Social Security checks would be issued on schedule the next day.
That in turn provoked a chorus of outrage from his conservative opponents, who accused him of playing politics and trying to frighten Social Security recipients who need those checks to survive. (And yes, in ordinary circumstances there would be a certain irony in conservatives casting themselves as defenders of Social Security recipients, even as they demand major cuts in Social Security. But irony is the ocean in which we swim these days.)
However, as the Bipartisan Policy Center has documented, Obama’s warning was perfectly appropriate. After Aug. 2, the Treasury will be forced to operate on a daily cash flow basis: Each day, it can spend only what it collects that day. The BPC took a look at expected daily inflows and outflows. Here’s what it found for Aug. 3:
As the chart documents, the Treasury is predicted to collect $12 billion that day, but is supposed to send out Social Security checks amounting to $23 billion. Even if it allocated every penny of its collections that day to Social Security, it would still come up $11 billion short.
This is what the GOP has brought upon itself.
– Jay Bookman