The Sabotage Is Already Happening

Felix Salmon provides a reality check:

The global faith in US institutions has already been undermined. The mechanism by which catastrophe would arise has already been set into motion. And as a result, economic growth in both the US and the rest of the world will be lower than it should be. Unemployment will be higher. Social unrest will be more destructive. These things aren’t as bad now as they would be if we actually got to a point of payment default. …

While debt default is undoubtedly the worst of all possible worlds, then, the bonkers level of Washington dysfunction on display right now is nearly as bad. Every day that goes past is a day where trust and faith in the US government is evaporating — and once it has evaporated, it will never return. The Republicans in the House have already managed to inflict significant, lasting damage to the US and the global economy — even if they were to pass a completely clean bill tomorrow morning, which they won’t. The default has already started, and is already causing real harm. The only question is how much worse it’s going to get.

What is being undermined is America’s central place in the global economy. To dislodge the US from that because the GOP lost the last election is so out of proportion with any conceivable gains even hostage-takers and blackmailers could get it is almost the definition of insanity. I once wrote an essay on the degeneracy of American conservatism – about 15 years ago! – which I called “Going Down Screaming.” But what this rogue faction of fanatics is doing is bringing us all down screaming. They are not negotiating. They are sabotaging their own country.

Except, it’s clear to me at least that this is not how they see it.

They are sabotaging what they regard as someone else’s country – the country that voted for Obama twice, that gave the popular vote majority in the House to Democrats, that gave the Senate to the Democrats, that has a majority for marriage equality, that desperately needs immigration reform, and that, in any long-term fiscal Grand Bargain, must have more revenues for any deal to work.

That’s why I come back to the analogy of a cold civil war. The reluctance of the South to pay the debts of the nation which led to the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of the national debt. It seems to me that if the House GOP really does intend to destroy the American and global economy, to throw millions out of work, to make our debt problem far worse in a new depression … just to make a point about Obamacare, then at some point, Obama, like Lincoln, must preserve the republic.

But no president should ever want to take that position – because it represents the collapse of the American polity. But we are in collapse. If the House pushes the country into default this week, there is no workable American polity left. The most basic forms of collective responsibility will have been forsaken for almost pathological ideological purism and cultural revolt.