John BoehnerABC News reported this morning that Obama will not negotiate with Republicans over the Debt Ceiling. He said, "If we continue to set a precedent in which a president... is in a situation in which each time the United States is called upon to pay its bills, the other party can simply sit there and say, 'Well, we're not going to put—pay the bills unless you give us... what we want,' that changes the constitutional structure of this government entirely." Good for him. The problem is that he said the same thing last November and what did he do in December? He negotiated with the Republicans on the Debt Ceiling. So I'm not convinced and I can well see why the Republicans would think that the Debt Ceiling is a good bargaining strategy.

Of course, it is one thing to ask Obama to steal money from the poor and old. After all, he's neither poor nor old! But asking him to destroy his signature legislative accomplishment? The thing he will be remembered for? His "legacy"? I don't think so. What's more, what exactly does Obamacare have to do with debt and the budget? It doesn't make sense. Stealing money from grandma at least would do something (Very little!) about the debt. Obamacare actually saves money. So this newest Republican demand really is just the conservative issue du jour.

More than anything else, they want to win something. But they aren't reasonable about it. In the Fiscal Cliff negotiations, there were a number of things they could have gotten that they claim to want. The biggest was that they could have screwed the poor and middle class by changing over to chained-CPI. But instead, they are like children. They don't want to just make some progress in their goals. And they certainly don't want to have to give up anything in exchange. So it's extortion time! As Representative Dennis Ross said, "We have the opportunity of a lifetime. We have public sentiment, we have the facts and figures on our side and we have the leverage with the debt ceiling. Let's put it all together and make it happen..." Every single thing he said there is false.

The Hill now reports that many in the House Republican caucus are freaking out, Angry House Republicans Demand Better Communication. Conservatives and centrists (whatever that means in the context of the modern Republican Party) are upset that Boehner and Cantor have allowed the "repeal Obamacare" fantasy to grow and fester. According to them, the problem started two months ago when Ted Cruz started pressing the House to defund the healthcare reform bill as a condition for raising the Debt Ceiling. The Republicans are complaining that their leadership didn't push back and explain why that was a crazy idea.

That is rich! I don't think that even the most "centrist" of Republicans can think that it would have helped the situation for Boehner to go before the cameras and explain that shutting down the government and defaulting on our debt was not only bad for the country but bad for the Republican Party. Over the last three years, there has been an big rise in the Republican belief that if they are only strong and true, they can do anything. So anything Boehner said that indicated that they couldn't bring about their preferred policies through force of will would have been taken as proof that he was part of the problem. If only we could get Republicans to believe in fairies:

Do You Believe in Fairies?

I don't doubt that there are a fair number of Republicans in the House who are now worried about what is coming. First, there is the issue that this whole thing could get out of control and that it could destroy the Republican Party. And second, there is the opportunity costs: if Republicans were acting rationally, they might actually be able to get some policy concessions they want. But I think it is a bit much to blame the situation on Boehner and the rest of the Republican leadership. The problem is much bigger—bigger even than the Republican Party.[1] If these "centrist" Republicans want to look at a major villain here, they should look in the mirror. After all, the only difference between themselves and Ted Cruz is that he wants to crash the economy to end Obamacare and they want to crash the economy to end support of the poor.



[1] I continue to believe that the Democratic Party's move to the right on economic issues has played a big role in turning "conservative" into "crazy."