Monday, October 19, 2015

'Serious' House Republicans prepare for government default

A glimpse into how the "serious" branch of House Republicans would govern, if only the unserious ones would let them, might be Paul Ryan's bid this week to wrap the next potential government shutdown—the Nov. 3rd deadline for raising the federal debt limit—in a nice, bright, nothing-to-see-here bow.
The bill -- dubbed the “Default Prevention Act” -- would direct the Treasury Department, in the event of a debt ceiling breach, to continue to borrow in order to keep paying Social Security, as well the principal and interest on public debt. But the government would not be able to borrow for any of its other functions until the debt ceiling was raised.
As is usual for a Paul Ryan-backed fiscal bill, the premise is nonsensical. It's meant as a bit of theater so that wags cannot claim House Republicans demanded America "default" on its debts even as they demand the government stop paying all but two of those debts: Social Security (because Republicans do not want the phone calls that will result if people don't get their Social Security checks on time) and the global investment markets (e.g. China), which would rightly melt The Heck Down if the nation stopped promised payments. The rest of the government would, however, stop sending out checks. Federal workers would stop getting paid, the military would stop paying their service members, there would be furloughs and closures, and everything would be the same self-inflicted catastrophe that it was the last time around.

But Paul Ryan's committee would have passed something called a Default Prevention Act, the theory goes, so surely the markets would hold Paul Ryan blameless for the resulting turmoil.

Aside from being a conspicuously bizarre reaction to critics pointing out that demanding America not pay its obligated bills might be a bad thing (apparently we now believe that if we redefine what the word "default" means, the problem will be solved), the idea is not actually feasible. As in, if budget wonk Paul Ryan knew an actual damn thing about the budget, he would know that his "solution" isn't a possibility.

Read on to find out why.

“We don't have the capacity to pick and choose, ‘We'll pay this bill and not that bill.’ The systems were not set up for that purpose,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said on Fox Business Network Thursday.
There are two things to know here. The first is that this bill will never, ever become law, because even if it were to somehow make it through the Senate, it's not likely the president would sign a bill asking the Treasury Department to redesign America's check-writing systems in the next two weeks in order to make Paul Ryan look good. The second is that the "serious" Republicans appear to be fairly certain that their caucus is indeed about to default on the debt, and have already shuffled into cover-thine-ass mode.

They're the serious ones, mind you. The ones that can be trusted with the levers of power. The ones that, ostensibly, know all about budgets and debts and these sorts of things.

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