Barbarians at Washington’s gates

Republicans are uncivilized, hostage-taking barbarians. Worse, we are drama queens. That wisdom prevails in our nation’s capital, as we emerge from our no-holds-barred, debt-ceiling death match. The GOP inconvenienced Washington’s comfortable elite, the story goes, to deal with a petty accounting issue: raising the debt ceiling. Washington has routinely dispatched this annoyance 74 times since 1962, without difficulty or drama. Why should this time be different? The established news media, in chorus with the Democratic Party, instructed us of their conclusion: Boorish Republicans, led by an ignorant and fanatical Tea Party minority, manufactured this unnecessary drama and put the full faith and credit of the United States at risk.

What philistines we Republicans are. We should be humbled that we have learned to walk upright, command the written word and enjoy a nice Montrachet with our fish.

John Boehner’s intransigent Republicans are no better than terrorists, we’re advised, because they were willing to use their limited political power to stop adding to our $14.5 trillion national debt, which is growing by $3.81 billion a day.

The Balanced Budget Amendment? An irresponsible gimmick that would tie our thoughtful leaders’ hands, especially in a national emergency. Wait a moment: If someone protests the Ten Commandments, would we think it was to defend their right to lie, cheat and fool around in an emergency? That can’t be Democratic Party policy. It must be a joke on Comedy Central. Only in Washington are those supporting a balanced-budget mandate condemned as reckless, while those who haven’t balanced a budget since 1957 are lauded for their restraint.

Requiring government to live within its means, however, was not the most irrational Republican demand in the party’s assault on reason, democracy and civility. Listen to this: The GOP insisted only on spending cuts, with no tax increases, to fund deficit reduction.

Crazy talk.

How unenlightened can Republicans get?

On CNN’s Sunday night special, “Get It Done: Countdown to Debt Crisis,” my friend, the talented CNN money man Ali Velshi, not only echoed the prevailing Beltway wisdom that “balance” demands both spending cuts and tax increases, he argued that spending cuts do less to help our economy than tax increases:

Here’s the thing. If you spend too much, you either cut how much you spend or you increase taxes. It’s all money. It’s all the same thing. But when you cut spending, what you do is you cut money that generally goes to people who have less money, so when they have that money, they spend all of it and more in the economy.

When you — when you deal with taxes, when you cut taxes, you’re taking it away from a portion of the population. You’re taking money away from a portion of the population that doesn’t spend every last dollar they have, which is why the impact on the economy of spending, government spending, is greater than the impact of tax cuts.

Now, I put it out there on Twitter, Don [Lemon]. You saw it. I said, if somebody can provide me with evidence or a report that says cutting taxes is good for the economy or increasing taxes is bad for the economy, I’ll read it. There is no such report. People just say it, and they’ve gotten everybody to believe it.

“There is no such report?” Text message shorthand: TTIOT. There actually is.

Ali Velshi is right that whether we take a dollar out of our economy through the front door by cutting spending or through the back door by raising taxes, a dollar is still a dollar. Its value is the same and its absence will be sensed similarly. Taking money out of a deeply depressed economy inevitably leads to pain, a profound ache we could avoid eternally, if we could borrow and spend without limit.

But we can’t borrow forever. There is no perpetual motion, in physics, economics or governing. At some point, as our debt grows, China charges us higher interest rates. Those rates expand our debt and make it even more expensive to service. This vicious circle winds tighter and the long-term pain of continuing to live beyond our means becomes life threatening. Eventually, like Greece, we run out of borrowed money.