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What’s really driving Republicans to make a budget deal

October 10, 2013

Forget all the angst about the “full faith and credit of the United States”, or the 2014 elections, or even the debt ceiling.

Secretary Jack Lew is expected to tell Congress that he can’t guarantee payments to anyone if the debt ceiling is not lifted unconditionally. On the face of that, it sounds ridiculous. The government receives tax deposits on a regular schedule, either monthly, quarterly or for the very largest employers, on a weekly schedule. That doesn’t even take into account all the fees and non-income related taxes paid into the treasury. While it may be true that the government might have to prioritize who gets paid, the idea that no one can be paid simply doesn’t ring true.

Secretary Lew is a smart guy. He probably won’t actually say which bills won’t be paid, but the implied threat that it will be retirees, veterans, widows and young children, probably in that order, will be there. In other words, all the little people the Democrats claim to represent. 

What does ring true is that this administration can, has, and will continue to manage the affairs of our government in a way that is designed to inflict as much pain as possible on the American people, and by extension the opposition party, if it doesn’t get its own way.

Congress, and particularly the moderates on both sides of the aisle, know that. If they don’t cave, the result will be that payments will be withheld to any and all groups that can least afford it, i.e., to those who will suffer the most visual damage. What matters is the optics, not the budget.

The current administration, when faced with a choice of either mitigating damage or enhancing it, does what any predator does. It goes for the killing bite.

This whole thing isn’t about money, or social change, or healthcare. It is about power. The party that will win is the party that is prepared and able to give no quarter, and damn the casualties. That’s politics. It may not be right, but it is reality.

Given the numerical superiority of the Democrats, and the comparison between the motivations of the two parties, the debt ceiling  and the spending limit on the government’s credit card is going to go up. It’s just a matter of when and how much. 

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