Very Serious Suckers: Jonathan Chait has an excellent piece documenting the way in which what he calls the establishment, and I call Very Serious People, misjudged the way the debt ceiling thing would play out:
The failure to understand the crisis we were entering was widely shared among centrist types. When Republicans first proposed tying a debt ceiling hike to a measure to reduce the deficit, President Obama instead proposed a traditional, clean debt ceiling hike. He found this position politically untenable for many reasons, one of them being that deficit scolds insisted that using the debt ceiling to force a fiscal adjustment was a terrific idea, and that connecting the deficit debate to a potentially cataclysmic financial event was the mark of seriousness.
He then goes on to show how the usual suspects — the WaPo editorial page, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the Concord Coalition, etc. welcomed a crisis over the debt ceiling in the belief that it would lead to fiscal goodness.
This was terrible policy, even if it had worked: now is not the time for fiscal austerity, and the way the VSPs have shifted the whole conversation away from jobs and toward deficits is a major reason we’re stuck in the Lesser Depression.
But it also showed awesome political naivete. As Chait says, the first thing you need to understand is that modern Republicans don’t care about deficits. They only pretend to care when they believe that deficit hawkery can be used to dismantle social programs; as soon as the conversation turns to taxes, or anything else that would require them and their friends to make even the smallest sacrifice, deficits don’t matter at all.
I can’t help but notice that Chait’s list of chumps is basically the same as the list of people who puffed up Paul Ryan and gave him an award for fiscal responsibility. Enough said.
What’s really awesome here is the blindness. Anyone reading the newspapers with an open mind had a pretty good idea of what would happen in the debt fight; only Washington insiders managed to fool themselves.
But they’re Very Serious.