The most important fact about the shutdown crisis, which is soon to become the shutdown/debt-ceiling crisis, is that Democrats are not making any demands. The only thing they want is for the government to reopen and for the United States not to default. Since these are things Republicans also claim they want, they can't be considered demands. Republicans, on the other hand, have lots of demands, even if they keep changing. That's why the current Republican talking point—"Why won't the Democrats negotiate?"—is fundamentally misleading. One way for this whole thing to end is for Republicans to give up their demands and admit they've lost. Unsurprisingly, they're reluctant to do this. But what if Democrats started making a demand of their own?
Today, White House press secretary Jay Carney said something encouraging: that Barack Obama is never again going to negotiate over the debt ceiling. "Whether it's today, or a number of weeks from now, or a number of months from now, or a number of years from now, it will always be Congress's responsibility to raise our debt ceiling so that the United States can pay the bills that Congress has incurred," Carney said. "It will always be, as long as he's president, President Obama's position that that responsibility is not negotiable. That there's not a game of trading for political priorities or agenda items that Republicans have not been able to achieve through legislation or the ballot box."
That's a good start, but how about this. As part of the resolution to the crisis, Obama should demand that whatever agreement they come to include eliminating the debt ceiling. Not raise it, blast it to oblivion. The fact that we have a debt ceiling at all is ridiculous. It essentially requires Congress to approve every budget twice, once to spend the money, and once to pay the bills for the money they just spent. There's only one other democracy in the world (Denmark) that has such a thing, and they set theirs high enough that it never matters. In the days before the Republican Party descended into madness, the debt ceiling was nothing more than an occasion for some harmless grandstanding by the opposition party, but now it has become a weapon of economic destruction that needs to be disarmed. So get rid of it. If Republicans don't want the country to take on debt, they can try to put together a balanced budget and see if it can pass. But this insanity has to stop, and the way to do it is to take away the minority party's ability to initiate what Bloomberg News calls "an economic calamity like none the world has ever seen."
That's what Obama ought to demand.
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