07.31.11

5 Great Opinion Reads on the Debt Showdown

As the debt-ceiling deadline nears, The Daily Beast rounds up some of the most interesting takes on the debate, from a Cuban missile crisis comparison to why states will lose, no matter what.

Why We’ll See a Fight to the Finish
Nicholas Thompson
The New Yorker

The most illuminating analogy to draw on the debt-ceiling debate is the Cuban missile crisis, says Nicholas Thompson on The New Yorker’s website. Two sides moved toward disaster over a relatively small issue, and got as close to catastrophe as they could bear while holding out for a better deal. Both crises also began when a weak player was pushed by its ideological fringe into conflict with a stronger opponent. The discouraging thing about this analogy is that the Cuban crisis was ultimately resolved because of an “asymmetry” between the sides: the Soviets could offer to pull the missiles out of Cuba in exchange for the U.S. secretly removing missiles from Turkey because the U.S. cared more about public opinion than the Soviets did. But there are no asymmetries in the current crisis. To draw on baseball, “The Red Sox never make a deal with the Yankees at the trade deadline because both teams want the same thing, and both teams want the other to lose.”

Economic Growth Is the Way Out
Catherine Rampell
The New York Times

There’s a way to reduce the debt without cutting spending or raising taxes: economic growth. In The New York Times, Catherine Rampell points out that the U.S. got out from under its post-World War II debt (122 percent of GDP)—and escaped the debt of the early ’90s—through such growth. Unfortunately, recent job figures suggest there won’t be an economic boom in the near future, and harsh spending cuts threaten to make it less likely still. If the U.S. can’t grow its economy soon enough, it should take a cue from Canada, which cut its debt down from one of the highest figures in the Group of Seven to one of the lowest. Rather than making last-minute, across-the-board cuts, Canada undertook a comprehensive review of spending and formulated long-term reform plans so businesses had time to adjust.

No Matter What Happens, States Lose
Suzy Khimm
The Washington Post

Even if the debt ceiling is raised, it’s going to be bad for the states, writes Suzy Khimm on The Washington Post’s website. Two of the largest items on the chopping block are education and Medicaid spending—federal funding that makes up the largest part of most states’ budgets. And nearly every state has already set its budget for the next year on the assumption that federal spending would remain consistent. Local governments may try to raise revenue through property taxes, thus further dragging down the housing market, or they may have their credit downgraded, making it even harder to borrow money for basic infrastructure.

The Debt Ceiling Is Like A…
Nancy Benac
Associated Press

Thankfully the deadline is near, because politicians have run out of metaphors for the debt ceiling. The AP’s Nancy Benac rounds up some of the choicer ones. President Obama told Congress to pull off their Band-Aid and eat their peas, Tea Partiers told him to eat his own peas, and House Speaker John Boehner compared the president to Jell-O. Democrats compared the debate to the movies Groundhog Day, Twilight Zone, and Sophie’s Choice. Boehner went with The Town, playing a clip in which Ben Affleck says, "I need your help ... We're gonna hurt some people." And then there’s the classic train analogy, from Press Secretary Jay Carney: "Several trains have left the station. It's a decision about which train we'll be riding when we get to the next station."

Obama: Surrendering to the GOP?
Michael Tomasky
The Daily Beast

It looks like the Republicans will win this one, writes Michael Tomasky on The Daily Beast. When Mitch McConnell said yesterday afternoon that he had been talking with President Obama, and the country would not default, what he was really announcing was that he had cut the deal Republicans wanted "on their terms, or about 98 percent of them." Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi were at the White House at the time as well, and while it's possible they were putting together a counteroffer, it’s more likely they were getting their marching orders.