Big Babies Watch


Recent polling has convinced many Republicans that they have the upper hand on the debt ceiling. Jonathan Bernstein isn't buying it:

[T]hat people think “raise the debt limit” is bad tells us nothing about how they would react to an economic crash caused by government default. As for spending, it’s well known that generic calls to “cut spending” are popular, but so is increasing spending on virtually every individual program the government actually spends money on. In any actual battle, Republicans will eventually be identified by specific cuts (even if they resist supporting specific cuts, Democrats will fill in the blanks). In other words, this kind of polling tells us absolutely nothing about how a real debt limit fight, much less a default, would play out in terms of public opinion.

I wish I were so certain. But if there's one thing we know about the great American public right now it is that it is firmly in favor of no cuts on spending, no increases in taxation, and no raising of the debt ceiling limit. Very few of our actual politicians, including president Obama, has been bold enough to tell them that this is impossible, and that they are effectively big babies, incapable of making basic choices about what to pay for, and how. In that sense, what America truly lacks right now is a real conservative: a Thatcher figure who can insist that things have to paid for or cut, and that you cannot have it both ways. Neither side has that courage, and since Reagan, it has been a truism that stark fiscal honesty with the public is political death.

But that's precisely why we have the debt we have and the impasse we have. And if Obama pretends that we can resolve this by revenues alone, he is part of the problem, not the solution.