The Continued Necessity of Explaining to the Public What the Debt Ceiling IS

It’s already clear that Republican congressional leaders now recognize that the Republicans actually have no leverage at all on the debt ceiling matter; they’re not going to pull that trigger, and everyone knows it.  But Obama (or other prominent Dems) still really, really need to explain to the public that the debt ceiling concerns authorization for the Treasury Department to pay already-accrued bills, not an authorization to increase appropriations.  Otherwise, the Republicans will have most people believing that the Democrats forced an increase in future budget appropriations.  And that gives the Republicans a head start (if only an initial one, before the public learns what the Republicans consider “wasteful spending”) in the “sequester” negotiations, the crisis on which the Repubs now pin their leverage hopes.

My bet, and my hope, is that the sequester negotiations result in only a short-term resolution, expressly for the purpose of allowing the 2014 midterm elections determine the outcome of the revenues-vs.-dramatically-cutting-federal-spending war.  The Democrats have (in my opinion) a better-than-even chance of regaining control of the House in that election, despite the extreme gerrymandering since 2010.  

It’s been reported recently that to gain control of the House, the Dems would have to win the nationwide vote by somewhere between 7% and 8%.  But according to an article I read a few days ago (I can’t remember where), that’s what they did in 2006 and 2008.  And I think it’s likely that large numbers of seniors who voted in House elections in 2010 and 2012 for the Republican in their district will switch parties in 2014, now that the Repubs have made their safety-net position clear.  

At least as important, I also think that large numbers of so-called working class whites in various parts of the country who for decades now have automatically voted Republican, will no longer do so, automatically.  That began, in some rust belt states, in the last election.  And as I’ve watched footage of the devastation of Sandy in Staten Island and Queens–New York City’s two more-conservative boroughs–and on Long Island, I keep wondering how many of the storm’s victims supported Republican presidential and congressional candidates in recent elections before the post-Sandy one.  

Just as I wonder, as I read news accounts of the frantic efforts of the Army Corps of Engineers to keep Mississippi barge traffic flowing despite the record drought in the Midwest, how many Missourians and Iowans who vote Republican will rethink their views about the necessity of properly funding the federal government, and whether the problem, as Mitch McConnell recently diagnosed it, is really not inadequate revenue.

Add to that the obvious: that the public is, overwhelmingly, I’m pretty sure, just plain sick of these nihilistic pseudo-adults. (Although it’s still really important to ensure that the public actually knows just how nihilistic these people are.)

So, if the proverbial can is again kicked down the real road, and the inevitable screams of indignation from the punditry are heard, my rhetorical question to them will be: Why not try to actually analyze the situation rather than just use autopilot mode?

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