Fiscal follies

First, I must apologize: I am at Saybrook’s residential conference right now, where I’m not really well set up for writing. I will not, therefore, be citing sources in the way that I prefer. UPDATE: Some citations have been added since this post was originally published.

I have seen the story in Politico this morning that a significant portion of the House GOP caucus is willing to accept sequestration and a default on the federal debt, rather than accept an increase in the debt limit without spending cuts.[1] We can agree that these people are nuts. In terms of the present paradigm, it would be a reasonable determination that these people are a danger to themselves (politically) and others (with far more dire consequences) and should be involuntarily committed for psychiatric treatment. It is also reasonable, as Paul Krugman and others have expressed, that the “fiscal” conservative concern is not really with the deficit itself, but rather who is spending what on whom[2]–it is unlikely, for example, that the Republican caucus would be engaging in these theatrics if Mitt Romney had been elected, and if it were widely acknowledged that we were accumulating these deficits in large part due to defense spending based on a notion of “national security” that is more imperialist than rational.[3]

It is also the case that, by refusing to consider employing the “trillion dollar” coin or 14th amendment options for bypassing an obstructionist Congress, President Obama has undermined his own negotiating position.[4] This, too, is a form of insanity. It is, at best, delusional in a presumption–even after four years of accumulated evidence to the contrary–that the Republicans will be reasonable. The alternative interpretation seems to be that Obama in fact intends, and has always intended, to impose harsh spending cuts,[5] which he may now use Republican obstructionism to rationalize, and is therefore pathologically deceitful in a pretense that he is some sort of bulwark against insane Republicans; in this case, he is as sociopathic as they are.

Obama will evidently be holding a press conference shortly. I do not know if he intends to discuss this situation. But surely even a ‘lapdog’ White House press corps will have some serious questions to ask him.

  1. [1]Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen, and Jake Sherman. “Double trouble: House GOP eyes default, shutdown,” Politico, January 13, 2013,
  2. [2]Paul Krugman, “Hawks and Hypocrites,” New York Times, November 11, 2012,
  3. [3]Roger Simon, “Fools on the Hill,” Politico, January 3, 2013,
  4. [4]Jonathan Cohn, “Keep the Change: Why Obama Has No Use for Platinum Coins,” The New Republic, January 13, 2013,
  5. [5]Matt Bai, “Will Obama Agree to Entitlement Cuts? He Already Has,” New York Times, November 13, 2012,; Jonathan Martin, “What Obama isn’t saying about Medicare,” Politico, September 27, 2012,; Matt Stoller, “Obama‚Äôs Second Term Agenda: Cutting Social Security, Medicare, and/or Medicaid,” Naked Capitalism, July 29, 2012,; Lambert Strether, “Grand Bargain or Great Betrayal? Reading the Tea Leaves of Fiscal Intentions for Entitlements,” Truthout, November 14, 2012,

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