October 20, 2013

This is why we can't have nice things with a Republican majority in Congress, people. And it's this kind of obfuscation that makes sure that most Americans don't understand what's really going on.

Deflecting the rampant ignorance of the tea party on how government works, Tom Coburn proves that it's not the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party that is the problem, the entire party is ignorant of what the debt ceiling is and how it works. Coburn ignores David Gregory's disturbing touting of the debt ceiling as continuing leverage point (have you learned nothing from the last two weeks, you hack?) and complains about Congress still not cutting enough spending.

Well, David, first of all, I think the debt ceiling is a misnomer. We’ve never not increased it, and the first thing you do when you’re addicted to something is to present the reality to yourself that you’re addicted. And we didn’t do anything except create a big mess in Washington, and I’m not so inclined to think it was the tea party as much as it was outside interest groups and a few individuals within our party that took advantage of that situation. Look, the real problems are we’re continuing to spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need, there is tremendous amounts of waste and fraud. We have to protect the promises made to the American people, and we can do that, but we can do that spending a whole lot less money than we’re doing today.

Sigh. Coburn has been in office since 2005 and by my calculations, has been involved in nine debt ceiling raises in that time. One would hope he'd figure out what he was voting on at some point, but clearly it makes sense to him to be ignorant when there is a Democrat in the White House. I don't recall this being an issue once during the debt ceiling raises during the Bush administration.

Part of the problem is, admittedly, the name "debt ceiling". Every time there's a call to raise the debt ceiling, it sounds like this is an issue of future spending, like asking your credit card company to raise your limit so that you can carry more debt. But raising the debt ceiling is to balance the books on PAST SPENDING. So to go back to that credit card analogy, what Coburn is suggesting is telling the credit card company that you're not going to pay your balance because part of what you've already spent money on was irresponsible and wasteful, so you don't want to pay for that. Ridiculous, right? The credit card company isn't going to be sympathetic to that and neither should we any time a Republican says it. It doesn't work that way.

Coburn, like all Republicans, is looking at this equation at the wrong end of it. The place to negotiate is not at the debt ceiling but at the budget. And in that, the Republicans have already won, because the sequester cuts have now been institutionalized. But as Harry Reid says, they haven't learned to take "yes" for an answer.

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