The most telling moment of last night’s GOP debate came when host Bret Baier asked the eight candidates whether any of them would accept a debt-reduction deal that made $10 in spending cuts for every $1 increase in taxes.
Let’s talk this through, shall we? Let’s say the Democrats offered to accept $10 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years in return for $1 trillion in higher taxes.
That’s an average of $100 billion a year in higher taxes, which is not that much. On the other hand, it would also require average spending cuts of $1 trillion a year, which is immense. Cuts of that magnitude would strike at the heart of Medicare, Social Security and other entitlements.
Overall, such a deal would produce an $11 trillion reduction in the national debt over what it would have been. And every single person standing on that stage in Iowa would turn it down.
Every single one.
That offers a stark insight into GOP priorities. They may engage in hyperbolic rhetoric about the dangers posed by our debt, but actually doing something about it is much less important than maintaining hidebound, rigid adherence to Norquistian economics.
Sadly, it also confirms the argument that Standard & Poor’s used in deciding to downgrade American debt. As John Chambers, the chairman of S&P’s sovereign ratings committee, told the Wall Street Journal, the “conclusion was pretty much motivated by all of the debate about the raising of the debt ceiling. It involved a level of brinksmanship greater than what we had expected earlier in the year.”
A senior director of S&P got even more explicit yesterday in comments to Politico, stating that repeated comments from members of Congress to the effect that they were willing to risk default played a major role in the downgrade decision.
Without specifically mentioning Republicans, S&P senior director Joydeep Mukherji said the stability and effectiveness of American political institutions were undermined by the fact that “people in the political arena were even talking about a potential default,” Mukherji said.
“That a country even has such voices, albeit a minority, is something notable,” he added. “This kind of rhetoric is not common amongst AAA sovereigns.”
Which is why we are no longer among AAA sovereigns, even though our financial situation is better than some of theirs’.
– Jay Bookman