There are so many problems with the debt deal that it’s hard to know exactly where to start.
There’s the fact that it feels a lot like the 2011 deal that stuck us with the 2013 sequester, which was absolute trash for the budget and the country.
There’s the fact that it shouldn’t even have been negotiated because default isn’t an acceptable outcome and the debt ceiling isn’t even real.
But as the tentative package makes its way to the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, the worst fact might be how blatantly unserious all of these efforts were.
Already, Republican legislators are rejecting the deal, with nearly two dozen members insisting that the existing concessions barely fill out their ransom demands. Surprise, surprise: the same people who thought it was a good idea to take the global economy hostage aren’t satisfied by a largely bloodless escape. There are further grumblings that the deal as negotiated might cost McCarthy his hard-fought Speakership, as extreme members of his caucus begin plotting an effort to challenge what they perceive as an insufficiently combative approach to setting the US economy on fire. Apparently, negotiation is only worth it if someone gets hurt, preferably the American people.
Which just proves that the negotiators–the Biden Administration et al–are also unserious people, to spend so much time offering good faith to those who are clowns at best and legislative terrorists at worst. They’ve wasted all of our time ignoring the absurdity of the circumstances, spending months saying that they would not bargain with the full faith and credit of the United States, only to proudly declare this weekend that they did just that. Again and again, they frittered away leverage and alternatives, dismissing escape hatches, while utterly embarrassing themselves by doing exactly what they promised they wouldn’t. Furthermore, the only thing they actually achieved was getting the debt ceiling raised. Everything else in the deal is harmful both to their agenda and the country at large. Now they will depend on Democratic votes in both houses to pass Republican policy that none of them wanted in the first place because Biden demands a bipartisan cherry on top of this shit sundae.
Meanwhile, the practical considerations of the deal are almost universally awful. The cuts to federal discretionary spending are going to hobble function for many agencies; the additional work requirements for food assistance will leave millions underfed, especially with the loss of COVID supports, and the loss of IRS funding will continue to undermine tax collection efforts that keep billions or trillions out of federal coffers from the people most able to afford paying. All with the promise that, should Biden win in 2024, we are left to do all of this again in two years if Democrats fail to hold both legislative chambers.
This is not a serious way to run a nation.
There is no small part of me that wants this unserious deal to meet an unserious end. This isn’t because I’m rooting for default—most definitely the opposite—but because bad governance rarely leads to good outcomes. The debt ceiling is already a fossil, an absurdity, an imaginary obligation. But since we’re stuck with it, our system should treat it as an important and automatic feature of basic government. It shouldn’t be up for debate. It shouldn’t be a point of negotiation. And it definitely shouldn’t be taken as a hostage! And if certain people insist upon being foolish about it, the blowback should be on them, not on us.
Because serious people know that our future isn’t a toy.