The US debt ceiling crisis is more proof of Republicans’ cynicism and bad faith | Jill Filipovic
The shamelessness and recklessness of today’s Republican party seems to know no bounds. As the deadline for raising the debt ceiling or defaulting rapidly approaches, the party continues to hold the country hostage, telling Democrats: give us what we want – things we cannot get by going through normal democratic processes – or we will pitch the global economy off a cliff.
Democrats in Congress are doing their best to get their Republican colleagues to behave rationally, but it’s notoriously difficult to negotiate with terrorists. The Republicans want major spending cuts, but they want to force those cuts through by threat instead of having to legislate normally. And the cuts they’re asking for are appalling: they include slashing funds to things like cancer research, rental assistance for the poor, support for schools with large numbers of low-income students, and pay for Americans in uniform. The Republican bill would end Biden’s attempt at student loan debt relief, repeal tax breaks for renewables and clean energy while increasing reliance on fossil fuels, raise already-onerous work requirements to receive food stamps and welfare benefits, and decrease the efficiency and abilities of the IRS.
The Republican proposal would leave a great many Americans worse off – but it would be a boon for oil executives and wealthy tax avoiders.
It’s also an unconscionable display of bad faith and manipulation. This is not the first time that Congress has needed to raise the debt ceiling, and the stakes are so high that, traditionally, it’s been a bipartisan effort, with Democrats and Republicans alike largely agreeing that it would be wildly irresponsible and disgustingly devious to use such a vulnerable moment to strong-arm the opposing party. The big exception came during the Tea Party takeover of the Republican party in 2011, when Republicans also used raising the debt ceiling to start a fight. Those Tea Party radicals seemed crazy then – but they had nothing on the absolutely unhinged lunatics of the Maga Republicans.
In a sane Congress operating in a functional country, everyone in Congress would agree that the US cannot default, and would behave accordingly. But this is not a sane Congress operating in a functional country, and that’s 100% because of the far-right takeover of the Republican party.
Today’s Republicans are a party of destruction. As much as they claim to want to make America great again, they seem much more intent on sowing division, fomenting chaos and embracing an ethos of nihilism. There is no school shooting brutal enough to make them reconsider America’s extreme gun laws; no pregnant woman who suffers enough to make them take a step back on criminalizing abortion; and virtually nothing their unelected leader Donald Trump can to do make them reject him – allowing a deadly attack on the Capitol, being deemed a sexual abuser by a New York jury, and undermining America’s tradition of free and fair elections have not been enough to end the Republican party’s love affair with Trump. As the party has not only embraced Trump but molded itself in his image, it has become all the more dangerous to the nation.
It was clear on 6 January 2021 that a dangerous number of Republicans had gone off the deep end, and were willing to take America down with them. Even after a rightwing mob attacked the Capitol complex in an attempt to overthrow the results of the presidential election, 147 congressional Republicans stood behind them, and voted to overturn the election results. These 147 elected officials voted against American democracy that day; they showed that they were willing to override the will of American voters in order to install their man in office. This is nothing short of fascistic, and it was a sign of dangers to come.
Now, that same party is pushing an unpopular agenda, but is filled with elected officials who either don’t care or are totally delusional ideologues. Which is how we wound up watching the days tick down until a default. Democrats, and clear-thinking people, understand just how disastrous this would be: it would likely mean a global economic crash, a downgraded credit rating for the United States, and huge financial repercussions, including significant job losses, for Americans – and for lots of people outside of our borders.
Too many Republicans, unfortunately, seem to be fine with that, perhaps because they also seem to enjoy burning things down – and they seem bizarrely confident that they’ll be able to blame the fallout on Biden.
They shouldn’t be so sure. It’s obvious what is happening here: Republicans want to get their way, and are willing to use any means to do so. The blame won’t fall on Biden for failing to adequately negotiate with the extremists willing to threaten global financial stability to get their much-wanted cuts to cancer research and help for the poor. Blame will fall on the people who deserve blame: the Republicans acting like cartoon supervillains.
Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. Hopefully, Republicans come to their senses, allow the US to raise the debt ceiling without major concessions, and avoid torpedoing the world economy. But even if this immediate crisis is averted – a big if – the fact that we’re here in the first place signals just how dangerous Republicans have become. Many members of the Republican party have already made clear that they have no respect for American democracy, and no desire to maintain it. Now, even more members of the party are making clear that they have no respect for America’s role as a stabilizing global economic force.
This isn’t playing hardball. It’s hostage-taking. And unless Republicans manage to pull their party back from the brink, it’s only going to be one more sad example of Republicans’ attempt to make America into an untrustworthy, undemocratic shambles.