For all the endless drivel and indigestible word salad that our elite journalist have been hocking up onto the front pages for more than a month now about alleged “progress” in “negotiations” as the country “barrels toward default,” the fact pattern is clear.
Republican House members – by demanding full compliance with entirely unrealistic demands – appear hellbent on defaulting on the national debt, sending the stock market and the economy into a tailspin while depriving the most fragile members of our society of the federal payments on which they depend.
These Republicans want chaos because they know the media – and, as a result, the public — will blame President Biden, both in the short term and in the long.
Cartoonist Mike Luckovich gets it.
They want to ruin his presidency and they don’t care who suffers in the process.
At this point, I ask you, is there an alternate theory that fits the facts as well as this one?
There is not.
I wrote four weeks ago about how the Beltway press corps was casting the debt ceiling as a challenge primarily for Biden – instead of as a created crisis, a hostage-taking, perpetuated entirely by House Republicans. (Passing the bill ought to be a formality; Congress has already appropriated the money they are complaining about having to pay.)
In the past four weeks, we’ve been treated to a daily dribble of who’s-up-who’s-down coverage based mostly on whatever House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tells reporters publicly and Punchbowl privately.
Despite the White House’s repeated insistence that it would only accept a “clean” debt ceiling bill, the unchallenged assumption all along within the D.C. press corps was that the Democrats would cave.
There are obviously some discussions going on. The White House, cognizant that it will not get all the money it wants from a GOP House going forward, has by all accounts agreed to a spending cap – once it’s time to propose next year’s budget. There may be some agreement about clawing back unspent Covid funds.
But for all the talk about the White House being willing to add the kind of work requirements House Republicans want for some kinds of federal aid, Biden has said there could be changes, “but not anything of any consequence.”
All of the core demands written into the House Republican bill are utter nonstarters – especially the ones that have nothing to do with debt and everything to do with giving the fossil fuel industry what it wants.
Indeed, Politico reported last week that there had been effectively no movement at all. There’s been basically nothing to justify the headlines asserting that the talks have been “productive” beyond the fact that McCarthy calls them that. But even he describes the meetings as “productive but not progress.”
Parse that one for me.
USA Today reported on Wednesday that McCarthy “said Republicans remain far apart with the White House on a deal to raise the debt ceiling and signaled his caucus won’t make any policy concessions to Democrats other than action to avoid a first-ever default.”
Indeed, the only concession that we know of from the Republican side is that they are engaging in talks at all. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Republicans “have repeatedly held court with reporters, saying …. that they had already made a concession to Democrats by offering to raise the debt ceiling.”
The Post reporters at the same time insisted that “some signs of progress were emerging.” But wait! They also wrote that there is “no certain path to avoiding a calamitous default before the government runs out of money.” But wait! They also noted: “There is always the possibility that talks could turn around quickly.” But wait! Their evidence was that on Monday, “after McCarthy and Biden met in the Oval Office, both leaders emerged with a more upbeat tone.”
Sadly, and as usual, the truth can only be found coming from opinion writers.
Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell explained what the House bill would do: “most overall nondefense discretionary spending would be slashed by nearly one-third on average in 2024, after adjusting for inflation. The cuts would then expand to roughly 59 percent, on average, by 2033, according to estimates from both the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Center for American Progress.”
Norman Ornstein warned way back on May 1 that the Republicans were playing games rather than actually attempting to govern, and that for them, victory could mean default.
“For many, blowing up government would make the price of economic chaos worth it,” he wrote. “For others, the likelihood that a default would be blamed more on the president makes it a tempting ploy.”
And yet, for our elite political reporters, suggesting that Republicans might enjoy tanking the Biden economy is just too much like “taking sides” to even consider.
To avoid acknowledging the vast asymmetry between the two parties, the media continues to protect Republicans – even when they openly confess what they’re doing. Rep. Matt Gaetz actually told Semafor earlier this week that conservative Republicans “don’t feel like we should negotiate with our hostage.” With our hostage! But that didn’t change the tenor of the corporate media coverage one bit. It’s hard to see what will.