We are in the final week of a seven month buildup to a debt ceiling deadline with no clear end, except we know the losers are a public held for ransom. In the partisan atmosphere which characterizes American politics, it should be no surprise that the tea party Republicans in the House of Representatives would remain steadfast to their pledge to avoid increasing revenues at any cost, in stark contrast to the requirements of a Constitution which mandates compromise as a necessary element of self governance.
Of course, anyone can hide behind a pledge in order to avoid responsibility for his or her actions. I assume few parents would be impressed if, when their high school sophomore son was told to comply with a midnight curfew, informed his parents that he and his friends had decided to take a pledge to ignore curfews, and that no compromise on the subject would be forthcoming. Here, the tea party pledge is to Grover Norquist, and somehow, sixty or so members of Congress feel comfortable holding America hostage, and damaging our economy in potentially irreparable ways, unless the rest of the country abides by their pledge. In other contexts, with lives as opposed to an economy at stake, we would call this terrorism. Somehow, a not insubstantial minority in this country calls such action “patriotism”, even though the failure to raise the debt ceiling involves no analysis of future economic policy, but rather is simply a decision to stiff creditors.
Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail. But suppose the tea party Republicans get away with this. What will stop them refusing to vote to raise the debt ceiling in the future unless, for instance, all illegal immigrants are deported, or a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage is adopted, or mosques are banned throughout America? Or, to the horror of my tea party brethren, House Democrats during a Republican administration decide that the ceiling will not be raised unless we also adopt a tax increase upon the highest income Americans. Who will fight for the rich then?