During the tense final days leading up to the deal to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff," House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) had some sharp words for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Just steps outside the Oval Office, Boehner told Reid, "Go f@*k yourself." In the Speaker's defense, he was only following in the path blazed by Vice President Dick Cheney, who in 2004 similarly told Democratic Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont to "f@*k yourself." (Of course, Cheney never apologized for dropping the F-bomb on the Senate floor, explaining to Fox News, "I thought he merited it at the time.")
But with the Speaker of the House of Representatives once again threatening to trigger a U.S. sovereign default and a global economic crisis by refusing to raise the debt ceiling in October, it's time someone said to John Boehner the long overdue words he so richly deserves to hear.
Speaker Boehner, go f@*k yourself!
Now, why would any American have the gall and the temerity to poison our civil discourse by tastelessly lobbing such a vulgarity at our House Speaker? Simply because, as John Boehner made clear during an event in Idaho, "he merited it."
"I've made it clear that we're not going to increase the debt limit without cuts and reforms that are greater than the increase in the debt limit.
"The president doesn't think this is fair, thinks I'm being difficult to deal with. But I'll say this: It may be unfair but what I'm trying to do here is to leverage the political process to produce more change than what it would produce if left to its own devices. We're going to have a whale of a fight."
Now, raising the debt ceiling shouldn't produce a fight at all. After all, the United States has routinely boosted its borrowing authority 40 times, including 17 times while Ronald Reagan was tripling the national debt and seven more while George W. Bush nearly doubled it. John Boehner's GOP is the first political party with both the the intent and the votes to block a debt ceiling increase. But the list of reasons why John Boehner should violate himself is much longer still.
Here is just a handful.
John Boehner like House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan admitted in March that "we have no immediate debt crisis." Given that over the last two years the U.S. has already slashed $2.5 trillion from the next decade's debt forecast, Boehner was right. Due to new revenues, slowing growth in health care costs and the painful budget sequester, Paul Krugman explained, "the medium-term debt outlook is no longer remotely scary; indeed, even if you project out to 2030 it doesn't look too bad." The projected deficit for 2013 is now half what it was when Barack Obama took the oath of office on January 20, 2009.
John Boehner himself has been very clear about what would result if his House majority succeeded in block a debt limit increase. As Boehner put it in January 2011:
"That would be a financial disaster, not only for our country but for the worldwide economy."
(You don't have to listen to people like Barack Obama, Tim Geithner, Jacob Lew or even Ezra Klein for confirmation. "You can't not raise the debt ceiling," Paul Ryan agreed, because, as Lindsey Graham warned, "Let me tell you what's involved if we don't lift the debt ceiling: financial collapse and calamity throughout the world.")
John Boehner knows that even the threat of default is enough to stall the U.S. economy. During the GOPs first debt ceiling hostage-taking in the summer of 2011, American job creation and consumer confidence cratered. Standard & Poor's left little doubt about the cause of its Tea Party Downgrade of the U.S. credit rating:
S&P senior director Joydeep Mukherji said the stability and effectiveness of American political institutions were undermined by the fact that "people in the political arena were even talking about a potential default," Mukherji said. "That a country even has such voices, albeit a minority, is something notable," he added. "This kind of rhetoric is not common amongst AAA sovereigns."
S&P, which recently raised the outlook for U.S. credit, warned Republican leaders again in June:
Although we expect some political posturing to coincide with raising the government's debt ceiling, which now appears likely to occur near the Sept. 30 fiscal year-end, we assume with our outlook revision that the debate will not result in a sudden unplanned contraction in current spending--which could be disruptive--let alone debt service...
We believe that our current 'AA+' rating already factors in a lesser ability of U.S. elected officials to react swiftly and effectively to public finance pressures over the longer term in comparison with officials of some more highly rated sovereigns and we expect repeated divisive debates over raising the debt ceiling. We expect these debates, however, to conclude without provoking a sharp discontinuous cut in current expenditure or in debt service.
Despite the warnings, Speaker Boehner pretends that sudden contractions in current spending won't have any impact on the U.S. economy. As the March 2013 deadline approached for the budget sequester that would automatically slash $1 trillion in spending over the next decade, Boehner declared:
"I don't know whether it's going to hurt the economy or not. I don't think anyone quite understands how the sequester is really going to work."
Of course, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) understands quite well. As CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf told Speaker Boehner and Congress in February, "The sequester alone will reduce GDP growth this year by 0.6 percentage points, lowering GDP at the end of the year by that 0.6 percent," adding, "We think that would reduce the level of employment at the end of the year by about 750,000 jobs." In July, the CBO offered an update on the sequester's anticipated pain. As The Hill reported:
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Thursday estimated that keeping the spending cuts from sequestration in place through fiscal 2014 would cost up to 1.6 million jobs.
Canceling the cuts, on the other hand, would yield between 300,000 to 1.6 million new jobs, with the most likely outcome being the addition of 900,000, the CBO said.
As you'll recall, the sequester was the ransom President Obama paid to end the GOP's 2011 debt ceiling hostage-taking. As Speaker Boehner boasted at the time:
"I got 98 percent of what I wanted."
Nevertheless, during campaign 2012 Speaker Boehner called it the "Obama sequester" despite acknowledging the President "didn't want the cuts."
As it turns out, John Boehner's record on the national debt is more than a little embarrassing. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities documented in 2009, the Bush tax cuts alone were response for half the deficits during his presidency and over the ensuing decade would add more debt than the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Medicare prescription drug benefit and TARP combined. And John Boehner voted for all of it.
John Boehner voted for seven debt ceiling increases when Republican George W. Bush was sitting in the Oval Office, including a "clean" debt limit hike in 2004. Why? Because as his predecessor Dennis Hastert explained, "We have an obligation to keep the government in operation." Nevertheless, by 2011 the newly anointed Speaker Boehner warned the Democrat in the White House:
"The president says I want you to send me a clean bill. Well guess what, Mr. President, not a chance you're going to get a clean bill."
Despite his grandstanding, John Boehner knows the U.S. debt ceiling will have to be raised multiple times regardless of who controls the White House and Congress. In April 2011, he admitted as much to a gathering of Tea Party activists in his home state of Ohio. Boehner was asked if he would agree to boosting the debt limit:
According to half a dozen attendees interviewed by Reuters, the most powerful Republican in Washington said "yes."
"And we're going to have to raise it again in the future," he added. With the mass retirement of America's Baby Boomers, he explained, it would take 20 years to balance the U.S. budget and 30 years after that to erase the nation's huge fiscal deficit.
In 2012, Speaker Boehner similarly acknowledged that Paul Ryan's House GOP budget which garnered the votes of 95 percent of House Republicans would also require repeated hikes to the debt ceiling:
"Yeah, the big bad House Republican budget that would just gut everything under the sun, according to my friends across the aisle, would still require a $5 trillion increase in the debt ceiling over the next 10 years. Why? Because of the great big demographic bubble -- baby boomers like me, that are going to retire and continue to retire for the next 20-25 years. It's a big challenge."
Predictably, Speaker Boehner was lying about his math.
Despite slashing Medicaid by a third and gutting non-defense discretionary spending as a percentage of the U.S. economy to levels not seen since before World War II, Ryan's budget hemorrhages red ink because its massive tax cuts for the wealthy are not offset by closing any of the loopholes that cost Uncle Sam over a $1 trillion a year. Amazingly, Ryan's budget fails "Boehner's Rule" that "we're not going to increase the debt limit without cuts and reforms that are greater than the increase in the debt limit" despite pocketing the same new tax revenue and the same $716 billion in savings to Medicare providers that fund Obamacare.
Which brings us to one final reason House Speaker John Boehner should go f@*k himself. Obamacare, as the Congressional Budget Office has repeatedly shown, will reduce the national debt. Repealing it, as Boehner wells knows, will make the debt worse and force him to jack up America's borrowing authority higher and sooner.
Last December, Harry Reid took to the Senate floor to complain about John Boehner's "dictatorship" in the House:
"The American people, I don't think understand, the House of Representatives is not being represented by the House of Representatives...John Boehner seems more concerned about keeping his speakership."
For that perceived offense, Boehner told Reid to "go f@*k yourself." It's long past time for Speaker Boehner to look in the mirror and say the same thing.