Quote of the Day

photo of Senator Mitch McConnell smiling

From Jared Bernstein (ex-economics chief for VP Biden) again. Bernstein recalls hearing Senator Mitch McConnell saying yesterday “there will never be another clean debt ceiling. From now on, it will be a dollar in spending cuts for every dollar the debt ceiling is raised.” Here’s Bernstein’s money quote:

To understand how nonsensical Sen McConnell’s position is, you have to appreciate that Congress knows when they pass their budget whether it will breach the debt ceiling or not, just like you know when you order your lunch whether you’ll be able to pay for it. He’s saying, I’m going to keep ordering lunches I can’t pay for and when the cashier hands me the check, I’ll hand it right back and tell her it’s her problem.

Exactly. Which is a secondary but probably over time even more important reason why the recent debt ceiling madness was an awful deal: because it breaks new, previously verboten ground and sets a flatly horrible precedent going forward. This is the same as it was when President Obama put unspecified cuts to Social Security or Medicare in play even theoretically, or when he allowed a payroll tax holiday. Each set a terrible precedent going forward. Now, politicians will routinely look to the payroll tax as a way to avoid their responsibilities, further depriving the trust fund of necessary revenue and adding strength to GOP claims that Social Security is “bankrupt” or “in trouble.” Now, future GOP congresses will be able to go to their opponents – and the public, via 30-second ads – and claim that even President Obama knew we had to cut SS & Medicare…even though he never actually did so. The damage is already done.

And now, even though (as Bernstein’s quote points out quite adeptly) McConnell’s new position is simply nuts, we have a whole new, unnecessarily-created area of damage to worry about: a grueling, market-ratttling, credit-downgrade-risking battle every single time we need to raise the debt limit. Thanks, Barack!