After first allowing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to use the lie that people are living longer as a reason to raise the retirement ages for Medicare and Social Security and to push means testing for future beneficiaries, Meet the Press host David Gregory then allowed McConnell to play the same dangerous game that's becoming far too common these days -- downplaying the consequences of defaulting on our debt and conflating it with a government shutdown.
I watched CNN State of the Union host Candy Crowley do the same thing during her interview with Lindsey Graham and This Week host George Stephanopoulos pulled the same number on his show as well. And as Brian Beutler at TPM noted a couple of days ago, we had Senators Pat Toomey and John Cornyn using the same language earlier this week: GOP Senators: Not Raising The Debt Limit Might Not Be So Bad:
During the negotiations over the fiscal cliff, and continuing through today, Republicans have attempted to falsely portray President Obama’s insistence that Congress increase the debt limit as a demand for unlimited power to spend money.
Now that the tax issues at stake in the fiscal cliff negotiations have been addressed, the GOP is once again contemplating not raising the debt limit. And just as they misleadingly describe the nature of borrowing authority, they’re now also suggesting that not raising the debt limit might not be such a bad thing.
“We Republicans need to be willing to tolerate a temporary partial government shutdown -which is what that could mean,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) on MSNBC Wednesday. “A temporary disruption because we have to furlough the workers at the Department of Education, or close down some national parks, or not cut the grass on the Mall, that’s not optimal, it’s disruptive, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the path that we’re on.”
In a Friday Houston Chronicle op-ed, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), a member of GOP leadership, used the same language.
“It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country,” he wrote.
The goal is to present to both the public, and perhaps rank and file Republicans who don’t fully understand the nature of the debt limit threat, that the consequences would be fairly modest — to foster a climate in which raising the debt limit without legislative concessions from Democrats will be impossible.
But for two years now, experts — from academia to the Treasury Department to the Congressional Budget Office — have warned in plain terms that the actual consequences would be much worse: a recessionary drop in spending at best and a calamitous debt default at worse.
A government shutdown, like the ones Republicans precipitated in 1995, occurs when Congress fails or refuses to appropriate funds for government operations. Because the executive branch lacks the power to raise and spend money on its own, government functions cease until the political pressure builds on Congress to pass appropriations and then those operations resume.
Not raising the debt limit, by contrast, leaves the government far short of the money it needs to execute the spending Congress has told it to undertake. That would be unprecedented, and put the executive branch in legally uncharted territory: unable legally to borrow the money needed to pay all of its bills, but still required by law to pay them. It would impact services in a chaotic and unpredictable fashion, while removing tens of billions of dollars a month from the economy — many times the contractionary effect of the fiscal cliff’s sequestration provisions.
It’s likely that the government would eventually fail to service all of its debt, damaging U.S. credit and touching off a major financial catastrophe.
Toomey, along with Reps. Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor, played a similar role in 2011 debt limit fight, arguing that breaching the debt limit for a brief amount of time would be relatively harmless.
History’s repeating itself. Read on ...
Full transcript below the fold.
GREGORY: All right. So on entitlements for you--
MITCH MCCONNELL: Until the president leads--
GREGORY: For you, though--
MCCONNELL: I'm sorry?
GREGORY: --on Medicare. You're the leader of the Republicans. What do you put on the table right now to solve this problem?
MCCONNELL: I've said repeatedly publicly, and other members have, that until you adjust the eligibility for entitlements, do things like raising the age for Medicare for future beneficiaries. Not for those currently receiving or those about to receive. Have serious means testing for high income people. You know Warren Buffett's always complaining about not paying enough taxes. And what I'm complaining about is we're paying for his Medicare. We ought not to be providing these kinds of benefits for millionaires and billionaires.
We ought to make sure that the eligibility for entitlements meets the demographics of America. You know, when Social Security was passed back in the '30s I think the average American lived to be about 61. This year the average male, 79. The average female, 81.
Now, we need to adjust these programs for the future so that they'll still be there. The trustees of Medicare and Social Security say that Medicare is going to tank in 10 years. The question is are we going to preserve these programs for future beneficiaries? The president should be leading, not being dragged to the table by Republicans who want to solve the biggest problem confronting the future of our nation.
GREGORY: If you are not satisfied that you're dealing with the spending issue, the entitlement issue, the way that you think it ought to be dealt with, would you rule out a government shutdown to achieve your goals?
MCCONNELL: What I think we ought to do is to encourage the president to actually be president. Address the single biggest--
GREGORY: I understand that's your view, but--.
MCCONNELL: --issue confronting the future--
GREGORY: My question is--
MITCH MCCONNELL: --of our country.
GREGORY: --would you rule out a government shutdown?
MCCONNELL: I know what your question is. What I'm telling you is I haven't given up on the president stepping up to the plate and tackling the single biggest issue confronting the country.
GREGORY: But you are-- (OVERTALK) --senators like Senator Toomey and Cornyn are saying that they would consider a government shutdown. As the leader of the Republicans, would you rule it out?
MCCONNELL: As the leader of the Republicans what I'm telling you is we elected the president to be president. It's time for him to step up to the plate and lead us in the direction of reducing our excessive spending.