Entries Tagged as 'debt ceiling'

Will Contractors Sue After Default Day?

July 14th, 2011 at 10:43 am 11 Comments

What happens on the day after Aug 2 if the debt ceiling is not raised? FrumForum this week contacted a number of government vendors and contractors who unanimously stated: they had no idea whether they would be paid or not.

The Washington Post today offers some guesses.  David Frum has suggested that people owed money by the US Government will go into debt themselves, remedy but ultimately will be forced to litigate, seek lay off workers or default on their own obligations.

In 1985, troche under circumstances very similar to the debt ceiling crisis of today, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued an opinion asserting that the Secretary of the Treasury is within his rights to not only prioritize debt service over domestic spending, but also more broadly “liquidate obligations in any order it finds will best serve the interests of the United States” in a situation where Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling.  The GAO reaffirmed that position in May of this year and an independent report from the Bipartisan Policy Center agreed that the Executive Branch may be forced to simply “pick winners and losers.”

But the GAO position only states that the Treasury Secretary has the right to prioritize the order of payment, not void contracts.  The obligations would still be in force and the U.S. Government would still have defaulted on an obligation and unpaid creditors could theoretically attempt to sue in federal court.  Whether a contractor whose biggest client is the U.S. Government would actually take their client to court over a ten or fifteen-day delay is another matter.

But if the delay gets longer – all bets are off.

Downgrade of U.S. Debt Looms on the Horizon

July 13th, 2011 at 9:03 pm 48 Comments

A well-placed source tells me that Moody’s, the bond rating giant that just announced a “review” of the U.S. debt, may turn it into a full-fledged downgrade as soon as next week. True or not, the real risk of a downgrade shows just what a terrible idea that debt ceiling debate was: a downgrade alone will spike interest rates by 50 or so basis points and a default could cause them to double. Republicans were wrong to start the debt ceiling debate. They’ll certainly pay the price.

Deal Will Come, but May Disappoint

July 13th, 2011 at 2:22 pm 41 Comments

Confusion usually reigns in Washington, D.C., negotiations just before a solution emerges.

Thus, small signs can signal big things to come.

As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke concluded his testimony Wednesday morning before the House Financial Services Committee, Committee Chairman Spencer Bacchus made an interesting and perhaps important comment.  In short, Chairman Bacchus said that members of his committee and many members of his party understood the difference between raising tax rates and closing tax loopholes.

Chairman Bacchus hardly qualifies as a RINO nor is he considered a renegade Republican.  His remarks, therefore, may well hint that the many senior members of the House Republican caucus are beginning both to tire of the ideological rigidity of some of their “Tea Party” members and to believe that it is time to stop playing games with the debt limit negotiations. In recognition of the coming reality of a debt ceiling increase failure,  Rep. Steve King of Iowa introduced a bill today in the House that would require payment of the sovereign debt, military pay and pensions above all other payments that might be owed by the federal government.  Thus, King acknowledges that failure to raise the debt ceiling would lead to utter chaos within the government and would have catastrophic impact on United States military activities oveseas. Soon, we will see similar bills to protect Social Security, education, Medicare, and so on and so on.  CYA is in full throat.

Clever  legislation announced yesterday by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell  would essentially empower a President to raise the federal debt limit himself, subject to a two-thirds vote to the contrary by Congress.  One begins to sense the uneasiness of Congressional Republican leadership and even among many GOP backbenchers as the real results of debt default becomes clearer to them. McConnell’s gambit, as one would expect from a consummate Congressional leader, does the most important thing that the GOP needs right now–to change the trend of the debate.

As we have said often before, when the face of the Republican Party on debt negotiations is Rep. Michele Bachmann, Rep. Eric Cantor, Sen. Pat Toomey or Sen. Jim DeMint, the party loses ground in the public relations battle.  “Hell no, we won’t go” over time becomes a losing message.  McConnell has said, “Yes, raise the debt limit, let’s dispose of all this Congressional-Presidential hostage-taking, and bring some stability to paying the nation’s bills.”  McConnell’s suggestion avoids direct confrontation over spending versus taxes–it begins to change the subject.

We smell a deal in the works.  It will be small, it will be disappointing to those of us who fear the fiscal future of the nation, but it will get the debt ceiling increased.  The fact that it will be relative trivial will be,  in the short run, of little moment.  Market participants, who expect nothing useful from Congress in most fiscal matters, can breathe a sigh of relief that their financial engineering will be safe for another 6, 12, or 18 months.  The debt default question evaporates until 2013.  American debt as the “best house in a terrible neighborhood” will continue to be a safe haven while turmoil throughout the rest of the world continues.

Then in the midst of the most anemic economic recovery in America’s post-World War II history, Congress can revert to political manuevering and the American people can safely revert to concern over whether or not they or their neighbors will have jobs later this year.

The true dis-connect between both parties in Congress and the fundamental concerns of  Americans in the work force will increase.  Anger will continue to mount, demagogues will flourish, our national debt will increase, and loss of faith in America’s governance will expand.  This cannot end well.

GOP Message of the Day: Retreat!

David Frum July 13th, 2011 at 9:06 am 263 Comments

The McConnell plan offered Republicans an ingenious exit from the debt-ceiling confrontation: the debt ceiling would be raised in exchange for a series of theatrical votes over the next 18 months designed to showcase the Obama administration’s extravagance.

Conservatives in the media are reviling the plan, and early supporters (like Americans for Tax Reform) have quickly retracted their support.

John Boehner’s attempts to negotiate a grand bargain have likewise run aground on the Obama administration’s insistence that any “grand bargain” include some revenue measures.

Yet I think I can also perceive a dawning awareness among House Republicans of the financial and political dangers of the crisis they have created. This awareness has created a potential demand for a more chest-thumping exit from the crisis than McConnell offered. Call it McConnell-plus.

Bill Kristol outlines just such a plan in today’s Weekly Standard.

1) House Republicans vote for their ideal solution (eg the House Study Committee’s cap-cut-and-balance plan) as a House-only measure. That vote (it’s hoped) will mollify angry party activists that the House GOP has not sold out.

2) House Republicans vote for a law that prioritizes Social Security pay and defense over other federal obligations in the event of a cash crunch.


3) Plan C:

Plan C would be pursued when and if House Republicans judge that the debt ceiling does, at the end of the day, have to be raised—if they do come to that determination. In that case, House Republicans would of course continue to make clear they will not entertain any debt ceiling increase that includes tax hikes or irresponsible defense cuts. But House Republicans could permit a debt ceiling hike without tax hikes and irresponsible defense cuts if such legislation were to pass. No Republican would need to vote yes. Republicans would take the position that the president says the debt ceiling must be raised. Fine. Let him raise it—with only Democratic votes.

That’s easy in the Senate, where the GOP is in the minority. The 47 Senate Republicans would just vote no, and a few of them would agree not to filibuster the Democrats’ debt hike, so as not to obstruct the president and the Democrats. Nor need the Republican-controlled House stand in the way of the desire of the president and Democrats to incur more debt. House Republicans could allow Democrats to pass a no-tax-hike, no-gutting-of-defense version of a debt ceiling hike in the House. Speaker Boehner would have to round up (if I’ve done the math correctly) 48 Republican members who would agree to vote present on such a debt limit increase. The other 192 GOP members would vote no. The 193 Democrats would be welcome to vote yes and to pass the bill.

Such a measure wouldn’t do any policy damage, and it might even have some modest spending cuts. Obama and the Democrats would be unambiguously responsible for heaping two trillion dollars more debt on the American public—following on their unambiguous responsibility for the failed stimulus and for Obamacare. Republicans would be ready to make the case for the next year and a half for why Obama, and the Democrats, have to go.

The Kristol Plan “C” represents an even more abject retreat than the McConnell plan. This is retreat without even the McConnell kabuki theater as consolation prize. This is retreat that throws Republicans on the mercy of the Democrats to rescue the GOP from a predicament the GOP created for itself.

Bottom line: The House Republicans will offer up 48 of their members to vote for a “clean” increase in the debt ceiling if only Nancy Pelosi will whip her members into doing the heavy lifting of raising the debt ceiling.

Question: Can 48 such martyrs be found? After all, the Republicans with the safest seats also come from the most conservative districts. What if they refuse to put their careers on the line? What if they say “not me?”

Question 2: Why should the Democrats rescue the Republicans? Because their president asked them to? That logic did not move House Republicans when President George W. Bush asked them to vote for TARP in 2008. They said, “The Democrats have the majority, they can pass your emergency measure.”

Question 3: If it is House Democrats plus 48 sacrificial Republicans who raise the ceiling, what stops the Democrats from attaching their conditions? Such as, non-deductibility of corporate jets, or more funding for PBS? Humiliating conditions just to underscore who won this crisis and who lost?

Question 4: We’ve now had two eminent Republicans – McConnell and Kristol – offer Republicans escape routes from the crisis. Are these plans harbingers of the bigger stampede to come, as the deadline gets closer and the consequences of financial collapse become clearer?

Social Security Checks Are Not Guaranteed

David Frum July 12th, 2011 at 4:59 pm 119 Comments

Back when conservatives were fighting the good fight for private accounts in Social Security, we often pointed to the Supreme Court ruling that individuals had no legally enforceable right to Social Security benefits.

I quote the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner:

Many people believe that Social Security is an “earned right.” That is, they think that because they have paid Social Security taxes, they are entitled to receive Social Security benefits. The government encourages that belief by referring to Social Security taxes as “contributions,” as in the Federal Insurance Contribution Act. However, in the 1960 case of Fleming v. Nestor, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that workers have no legally binding contractual rights to their Social Security benefits, and that those benefits can be cut or even eliminated at any time.

Ephram Nestor was a Bulgarian immigrant who came to the United States in 1918 and paid Social Security taxes from 1936, the year the system began operating, until he retired in 1955. A year after he retired, Nestor was deported for having been a member of the Communist Party in the 1930s. In 1954 Congress had passed a law saying that any person deported from the United States should lose his Social Security benefits. Accordingly, Nestor’s $55.60 per month Social Security checks were stopped. Nestor sued, claiming that because he had paid Social Security taxes, he had a right to Social Security benefits.

The Supreme Court disagreed, saying “To engraft upon the Social Security system a concept of ‘accrued property rights’ would deprive it of the flexibility and boldness in adjustment to ever changing conditions which it demands.” The Court went on to say, “It is apparent that the non-contractual interest of an employee covered by the [Social Security] Act cannot be soundly analogized to that of the holder of an annuity, whose right to benefits is bottomed on his contractual premium payments.”

The Court’s decision was not surprising. In an earlier case, Helvering v. Davis (1937), the Court had ruled that Social Security was not a contributory insurance program, saying, “The proceeds of both the employee and employer taxes are to be paid into the Treasury like any other internal revenue generally, and are not earmarked in any way.”

In other words, Social Security is not an insurance program at all. It is simply a payroll tax on one side and a welfare program on the other. Your Social Security benefits are always subject to the whim of 535 politicians in Washington. Congress has cut Social Security benefits in the past and is likely to do so in the future.

Conservatives are blasting President Obama for “scare tactics” when he suggests in interviews that Social Security payments will not in fact be secure in the event of a hard crash with the debt ceiling.

Actually Obama is here channeling 100% classic conservative theory. Conservatives have argued for 20 years that Social Security is a pure gratuity, vulnerable to change at the whim of Congress. That’s why we wanted to change it! But the consequence of Social Security being a pure gratuity is that Social Security recipients must stand at the back of the line if it becomes necessary to slash spending by 44% . Bondholders collect first. People with other contracts and other legally enforceable claims collect next. Those without legally enforceable claims collect last. That last category includes not only Social Security recipients and the unemployed, but also, for example, soldiers in the field.

It can’t be right that the Secretary of the Treasury has the discretionary power to pay anybody he likes. Some people have legally stronger claims against the federal government than others. Unfortunately for the GOP’s strategy in this bizarre game of threat and counter-threat, the claims that are most politically powerful also happen to be legally weaker.

GOP Must Use Debt Debate to get Real Cuts

July 12th, 2011 at 1:32 pm 67 Comments

I have been struck by the arguments here at FrumForum that the hard line Republicans against raising the debt limit are “radical.”   I put aside the views expressed (according to press reports) by Michele Bachmann that she will not vote to raise the debt limit under any circumstances. What I wonder is if a vote for a rise in the debt ceiling only with enforceable, verifiable, and real structural spending cuts-passed by Democrats and signed by President Obama-without a rise in tax rates is truly radical or if instead, it is the proper Republican response to the Obama years?  Those years have seen unprecedented spending with no plan to end the deficits and attacks on any Republican proposal to do so.

Mr. Frum is on record that a failure to raise the debt limit will hurt Republicans and the Republic (also here). He, and others worry that a failure of a deal hurts Republicans and would be a disaster.  For purposes of this argument I won’t argue that failing to raise the debt ceiling would be bad for the country, though it is debatable.  My argument is political, I’m not convinced that the Republicans risk much, by opposing a rise in the debt ceiling unless structural and real spending cuts are approved openly by the Democrats and the President.  A rise in tax rates should also be off the table.  We don’t have a taxing problem.  We have a spending problem.  The Republicans don’t want to vote for a rise in the debt ceiling and the Democrats don’t want to reduce spending.  Each voting to do both is compromise.

This is so reasonable that for the first time in a long time Pat Buchanan and Charles Krauthammer agree on something.  Buchanan thinks the whip hand belongs to congressional Republicans on spending and they should use it. Krauthammer, a “governing Republican” if every there was one thinks it is Obama and the Democrats being irresponsible and that the country knows it.

David Brooks has joined the “Republicans are radical” side of the argument but his love of Obama and his well creased pants are legendary. He has accused Republicans of bad faith and lack of honor for not wanting to continue to make promises they know will not and cannot be kept. When he criticizes President Obama and his “tax corporate jets to prosperity plan” in equally vitriolic terms I will take him more seriously.  Also, as Krauthammer notes, his entire piece is based on cuts that have so far only been leaked to the press.  President Obama’s unverifiable, unaudited leaks are given the status of holy writ by Brooks.  This is not punditry but idolatry.

A pretty smart lawyer, John Hindraker weighs in here supporting a hard line of verifiable cuts for a raise in the debt limit. These “Sessions Seven” in the Senate are likely the target of the “responsible Republican” wing of the party but shouldn’t the Democrats have to produce a budget?  I will lay down a marker here for what I think is responsible and reasonable for a Republican.  I reject balanced budget amendments as slow, silly and prone to handing our fiscal future to the Courts and away from Congress where it belongs.  I also think that as long as marginal rates are not increased, eliminating loopholes and subsidy is fine.  In other words, I side with Tom Coburn over Grover Norquist in the debate on what revenue enhancements are legitimate for Republicans.  A reduction of the corporate tax rate to the average for G-7 nations, for instance, coupled with a closure of corporate loopholes, particularly subsidies, strikes me as eminently reasonable.

Barack Obama is the President who will leave unemployment worse than he found it with no reduction to pre-recession levels in sight.  He is the President who has created more debt than any other one term president in history.  He is the President who ended American manned space flight that John F. Kennedy began so memorably.    Does he want to be the first President to see America default on its obligations?  Can he survive it?  I don’t think he can.  Why shouldn’t the Republicans extract all they can get?

What other opportunity will they have to hold the Democrat’s feet to the fire?  To show Americans they will not engage in business as usual?  Republicans insisting on real spending cuts-not the same false promises they have received in the past-that the Democrats have reneged on and then demagogued- are being wise, not truculent.  The President who voted against raising the debt ceiling when he was a Senator can hold out for tax increases.  He can maintain spending and use his power to keep the base line of spending at post-stimulus levels.  Let the default then be on his head.

The Democrats have violated the law by not passing a budget in the Senate for 800 days.  The Democrats have rejected President Obama’s own debt commission suggestions when there was time to do something.  The Democrats and their mouthpieces push the canard that we don’t have a spending problem except for Defense.  Their policies have nearly bankrupted us and done nothing to bring back prosperity.  A new direction is imperative and they are weak.  Their weakness should be exploited to maximum gain.  The House should pass bill after bill raising the debt limit but cutting spending, defunding Obamacare, and defunding the Left.  Let the Senate stop it and Obama veto.  Who then is not raising the debt limit and making America renege on its promises?  Are the spending priorities of liberalism more important than paying America’s bills?  Who is radical now?  Finally, when the debt limit is raised -and Obama and the Democrats have caved and have been seen to cave -the Republicans should make the next debt limit fight take place in September/October of 2012.  The Republic will then have a choice.  It can vote for Obama’s debt path and the Democrats or the Republicans.  What could be fairer and more democratic than that?   What fair-minded argument against running the election on the debt crisis of the West and of the U.S. can there be from good government types?

Mr. Krauthammer (and others) have laid out a plan for raising the debt ceiling and reducing spending.  The House has passed a budget.  The Right has risked political loss with Congressman’s Ryan’s Medicare program.  We have been responsible.  Your turn Mr. President.

Who is the Priority Creditor on Default Day?

David Frum July 12th, 2011 at 12:48 pm 24 Comments

Here’s a skill-testing question in this time of debt showdown.

Who would be the more senior government creditor after Default Day:

- A disabled Social Security recipient?

- Or a vendor with a contract to provide toothpicks to the cafeteria at the Department of Waste, Fraud & Abuse?

I’d guess the vendor, right?

GOP Losing Touch With
Economic Reality

July 12th, 2011 at 12:11 am 126 Comments

President Obama’s news conference this morning confirmed the age-old truth: a President has the bully pulpit.

More people saw, order or will see in some format, buy the President’s remarks today than will see all of the comments by all Republicans combined over the weekend.

As a public relations/political matter, ampoule the GOP is getting its clock cleaned.

Three major specifics struck us as the President spoke:

First, he made explicit the fact that no revenues being discussed among the negotiators would take effect until 2013 at the earliest.

Second, he intends to request formally an extension of the present 2 per cent FICA holiday for employees.

Third, the approximate ratio of spending restraint to new revenues in the “grand plan” he and Speaker John Boehner discussed would have been 4 to 1.

Beyond the new policies revealed, the tone of the President’s opening statement continued the White House effort to show Obama as the patient, calm parent dealing with a beleaguered John Boehner, who cannot control his own unruly brood.

Parent Obama acknowledged that the deal he wants to conclude with Boehner would cause pain to his fellow Democrats.  That is the price of dealing with the looming fiscal crisis, he said.  By implying that he is willing to deal with his own children, Obama implies that no one can control the GOP children.

We wrote in this space some time ago that a deal would emerge.  It would be trivial.  It would be less than required to even start stabilizing the debt trends of the nation.  It would occur only after maximum expenditure of time, political capital, and citizens’ patience.  More than ever, events of the past two weeks confirm that forecast.

Much has been made of the miserable jobs report last Friday.  Professional economic forecasters have been so wrong, so often, on their predictions that past two years that we recommend group therapy to help them adjust to reality.  Very few analysts who have read how nations emerge from financial meltdowns have ever believed that the recovery would be anything other than , painful, jobless,  frustrating, and slow.  I don’t believe that the jobs data had as much impact on the debt negotiations as others contend.  It does give the President a chance to connect a “deal” with “job creation.”  In the short run, of course, the two things exist in parallel universes.  Getting the debt limit passed will, in and of itself, create no new jobs anytime soon.  But, the ability of the President to show that the “irresponsibility” of the Republican House will not only threaten the nation’s world standing, but will cost jobs, gives him double-barreled communications ammunition.

Here are the hard facts:  we will get a debt extension, maybe as short as six months, maybe as long as 18 months;  the savings from the debt ceiling deal will be small compared to the vast debt accumulation for the United States the next 10 years;  Republicans have embarked on perhaps the only political course that could impair their ability to win the Senate, expand their House majority, and win the Presidency in 2012.

As an aside, the uncertainties in the global economy (slowing China, moribund Japan, inscrutable Europe, fragile South America) virtually assure a continuing flight to relative safety by world investors.  With no growth in the United States to crowd out, I believe that “the best house in a terrible neighborhood” theme that has kept interest rates very low in America will continue.

Until it won’t.  That will happen and we will have little warning.

The GOP should hope for a debt deal as soon as possible, so it can change the subject to national defense, international economics, anything other than the present subject.  The longer the nonsense continues, the more Republicans risk looking out of touch with economic reality.

This Ain’t the 1990
Budget Deal

David Frum July 8th, 2011 at 9:26 am 118 Comments

The greatest obstacle to a budget deal in 2011 is the Republican trauma from the budget deal of 1990.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush was promised $2 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes by Congressional Democrats.  That’s not what happened.

All $137 billion in tax hikes went through.  Most notable was raising the top marginal tax rate from 28 percent (the Reagan low) to 31 percent (itself a setup for the 1993 Clinton tax hike of this rate all the way up to 39.6 percent).  …

Not only did the $274 billion in promised baseline spending cuts never materialize–baseline spending was actually $22 billion higher than what CBO projected it would be before the deal.  This despite another tax hike/baseline spending cut deal in 1993 (the Clinton tax hike) and the GOP takeover of Congress in 1995.

Many economists have pointed out that the Republican memory of the events of 1990 is seriously skewed. In the 1990s, federal spending as a share of national income did decline (which it did not do in the Reagan 1980s).

[T]he deal contained powerful mechanisms for controlling future deficits. In particular, a strong pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) rule required that new spending or tax cuts had to be offset by spending cuts or tax increases. There were also caps on discretionary spending that were to be enforced by automatic spending cuts.

But we don’t have to enter into a debate on the merits here.

The important difference between 1990 and today is this:

Back in 1990, failure was a legitimate option. The 1990 negotiations addressed an important problem, but not a problem with a fixed deadline. Bruce Bartlett sets the scene:

Bush was hit by the savings and loan crisis almost the minute he took office in 1989. This required a massive federal outlay to protect deposits that were threatened by the collapse of an earlier housing bubble.  Moreover, by 1990 the economic situation was deteriorating, causing estimates of future budget deficits to rise at a time when inflation was still a problem and interest rates were far higher than they are today. In early 1990, the federal funds rate was well above 8 percent versus close to zero today.

Bush administration economists believed that an easier monetary policy was the key to stimulating growth. But Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan made it unmistakably clear that inflation was his prime concern and he would not ease monetary policy until he saw some improvement in the budget deficit, which Greenspan viewed as inflationary. Therefore, a budget deal was the price that had to be paid for lower interest rates, an easier monetary policy and faster growth. (Greenspan imposed the same conditionality on Bill Clinton three years later.)

Democrats controlled both houses of Congress in 1990 and there was obviously no possibility of doing a budget deal without them.

Had House Republicans succeeded in derailing the 1990 deal, things would have bumped along as before. The deficit would have stayed big, interest rates would have stayed high, growth would probably have remained slow. Unpleasant, but not the end of the world.

But this time there is a hard and dangerous deadline – a deadline imposed by Republicans themselves. By deploying the debt-ceiling weapon, Republicans denied themselves the option of choosing “no deal.” Unlike 1990, this time, there must be a deal, and if Republicans cannot get a deal that their most radical members like, they will have to settle for a deal that their most radical members do not like.

This predicament creates powerful temptations for individual Republicans to defect from the party coalition in hope of gaining for themselves the kind of credit and clout that Newt Gingrich got by defecting in 1990. This time, however, defection carries a heavier price: a real risk of tumbling the country and the world into financial crisis.

Back in January, John Boehner promised it would never come to this. I believed him – and argued vigorously on television against those who predicted that the radicals would carry the day. It looks like I was wrong about that, at least that I have been until now. Maybe it’s not too late. Maybe there is some way for Republican leadership to bring pressure upon those politicians (and perhaps even those para-political pundits) who hope to score points by acting more-radical-than-thou on the brink of an unnecessary and self-created crisis.

Without the debt ceiling disaster looming ahead, radical Republicans could cast protest votes without doing real harm. Without the debt ceiling threat, a failure to reach a budget deal this month would not matter very much. Everybody could go home for the summer and resume negotiations in the fall. By failing to lift the debt ceiling, Republicans denied themselves that alternative. The mess must be fixed now . It’s not 1990, and it’s not 1990 in large part because Republicans themselves chose to make it so.

The Debt Ceiling’s Collective Action Trap

David Frum July 7th, 2011 at 11:22 pm 88 Comments

If you’re a Republican elected official, you want two things from the debt-ceiling budget talks:

1) You want the talks to succeed – to produce a deal that keeps the government in business and averts a financial catastrophe.

2) You want to align yourself personally with those who (unsuccessfully!) oppose the deal. (Watch Bill Kristol on Fox for a preview of how it will be done.)

Here’s the obvious problem: Depending on how the House Democrats vote, it’s possible dozens of Republican members of Congress can get both their wishes. But if every Republican indulges wish #2, then they will fail to realize wish #1.

David Brooks called the debt-ceiling vote the “mother of all no-brainers.”

Unfortunately it is also the “mother of all collective action problems.”

The coming vote is one where almost every House Republican will want to be on the losing side. But if they all get their wish – then they win.

And of course … the country and the world loses, and loses horribly.