Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The GOP hostage takers threaten nothing less than financial crisis in order to force their political agenda

"Gay marriage is the biggest issue that will impact our nation."

The current "debate" over raising the debt ceiling is bizarre and disingenuous on several counts. First of all, the "Ryan budget" passed by the House GOP - despite the smoke and mirrors and the slashing and burning -  encompasses multi-trillion dollar deficits over the next decade that require that the debt ceiling be raised. So on the fact of it, any GOP House member who voted for that budget yet threatens to vote against raising the debt ceiling has twisted themselves like a pretzel and can't be taken seriously.

Second, the debt ceiling vote has always been routine.  It's been raised 75 times in 50 years - 7 times under the Bush administration, with no protests from Paul Ryan & Co. as the national debt increased by over 70% in just those 8 years.

The reason for the debt ceiling itself is obscure (it's rooted in congressional budget prerogatives versus the executive actually administering most spending) and in large measure because raising it has become so routinized, but suffice to say that not raising the debt ceiling is not a substitute for real fiscal policy that grapples with the issues of revenue and spending and debt head on and in a serious political context.  This is a Kabuki power play that, I'm afraid, some of the players don't actually understand.  My guess is that - the cynicism and media manipulations of a John Boehner aside - many of the Tea Party faction among the congressional GOP don't have a clue regarding the insanity of failure to raise the debt ceiling.

To get some sense of what's at stake, there's this, via New York Times "Economix", from Matthew Zanes, a director at JP Morgan Chase who chairs the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee. (Why should we listen to a guy from JP Morgan?  Well that's always a good question, but in this case my assumption is that he's offering a pretty straightforward view from the perspective of market insiders regarding the impact of imposing Tea Party ideology over what has become standard practice for decades in managing federal debt):
Any delay in making an interest or principal payment by Treasury even for a very short period of time would put the U.S. Treasury and overall financial markets in uncharted territory, and could trigger another catastrophic financial crisis.
It is impossible to know the full impact of such a crisis on overall economic growth and on Treasury’s financing costs. However, the lessons from the recent crisis suggest that several damaging consequences will likely result, ultimately raising Treasury’s long-term funding costs and increasing the burden on the American taxpayer. These consequences stem from five developments that could likely occur if Treasury were to default on its obligations as a result of a failure to raise the debt limit in a timely manner.

First, foreign investors, who hold nearly half of outstanding Treasury debt, could reduce their purchases of Treasuries on a permanent basis,..If foreigners began curtailing their investment in Treasuries as a result of a default, Treasury rates, and thus Treasury’s borrowing costs, would undoubtedly rise. A sustained 50 basis point increase in Treasury rates would eventually cost U.S. taxpayers an additional $75 billion each year.

Second, a default by the U.S. Treasury, or even an extended delay in raising the debt ceiling, could lead to a downgrade of the U.S. sovereign credit rating. …

Third, the financial crisis…could trigger a run on money market funds, as was the case in September 2008 after the Lehman failure…

Fourth, a Treasury default could severely disrupt the $4 trillion Treasury financing market, which could sharply raise borrowing rates for some market participants and possibly lead to another acute deleveraging event…

Fifth, the rise in borrowing costs and contraction of credit that would occur as a result of this deleveraging event would have damaging consequences for the still-fragile recovery of our economy…

(B)ecause the long-term risks from a default are so large, a prolonged delay in raising the debt ceiling may negatively impact markets well before a default actually occurs ...
"Financial crisis."  Pretty chilling words after what we've been through the past several years.  "Another acute deleveraging event."  Oh boy!  And, of course, additional tens of billions annually in cost to taxpayers if borrowing costs rise!  All of this from "conservatives."

But despite the fact that their own budget necessitates a vote to increase the debt ceiling, Republicans are threatening to hold the entire country hostage and risk a financial crisis in order to gain political advantage and tie their partisan policy demands to a measure which is largely technical and, in fact, unavoidable even on the terms of their own agenda. 

James Hamilton of "Econobrowser" accurately characterizes this stance :
A politician who votes for the spending and tax measures that produced the deficit but against a debt ceiling consistent with these is deliberately wasting taxpayer dollars for no purpose other than to grandstand before voters as a "fiscal conservative". Anyone playing such a game has complete contempt for the intelligence of their constituents.
And, of course,  many of these representatives voted to raise the debt ceiling time and again without a peep when a Republican was President and their sacred tax cuts were driving deficit spending.  The irresponsibility, hypocrisy and - frankly - extreme radicalization of the "Tea Party" GOP continues to run amok.

No comments:

Post a Comment