Your move, insitutional America. by @DavidOAtkins

Your move, institutional America

by David Atkins

Curious as to what the Republicans are likely to demand in exchange for raising for the debt ceiling? Read it and weep:

House Republicans plan to demand major perks for coal companies and Wall Street banks, alongside healthcare and social service cuts and a one-year delay in the implementation of Obamacare, in exchange for raising the debt ceiling until the end of 2014, according to a source close to the House GOP leadership.

President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats have repeatedly stated that they will not negotiate over raising the debt limit, saying they will not make a political football of the U.S. government's creditworthiness.

The Republican plan, which would also constitute a significant overhaul of the environmental and financial regulatory system, would cut pensions for Federal employees and raise taxes on immigrant families with parents who do not have a Social Security number. The document claims $7 billion in savings from restricting the child tax credit to immigrants who do have a number, and up to $84 billion from "reform" to the Federal Employee Retirement System.

The plan would increase Medicare means testing, and would eliminate social service block grants and a fund for preventative healthcare in the Affordable Care Act that conservatives have characterized as a "slush fund." Block grants are a capped entitlement program given to states to help fund services like daycare, transportation and home-delivered meals. The Prevention and Public Health Fund has included funds for training primary care doctors and supporting healthy corner stores.

Coal and oil companies would benefit from provisions to expand offshore drilling and drilling on federal lands. The proposal blocks the federal government from regulating greenhouse gas emissions and coal ash, and would give Congress the power to veto any "major" regulation issued by a federal agency (because an affirmative vote would be required, Congress could void new rules simply through inaction).

In addition, the document claims $23 billion in budget savings from a provision to "Eliminate Dodd-Frank Bailout Fund." The money, however, is not legally permitted to support collapsing banks. Dodd-Frank established the fund to allow regulators to pay some creditors of large banks when they fail, in order to prevent a domino of failures akin to what occurred in 2008 when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. Absent the fund, the government would have no effective way of limiting the economic damage from a bank's failure, increasing the likelihood that a bailout would be necessary.
And what are the Democratic demands? None, of course. Democrats are just looking to raise the debt ceiling, a move that used to be unremarkable, and has been undertaken far more often by Republican presidents than Democratic ones over the last few decades.

Greg Sargent notes the challenge this presents to the traditional press:

Here’s my worry: By laying out a truly insane list of demands, Republicans could perversely succeed in reframing this battle — at least in the eyes of some in the Beltway press — as a standard Washington confrontation in which both sides are making demands and the impasse is the result of each side’s refusal to meet somewhere in the middle. You could easily see a scenario in which Republicans “agree” to drop some of their demands and argue they are trying to compromise, with some commentators then wondering aloud why the White House is refusing to negotiate in kind.

So let’s say it again: This is not a standard Washington negotiation, in which each side is demanding concessions from the other. Democrats are not asking Republicans to make any concessions. They are asking Republicans to join them in not destroying the U.S. economy. House Republican leaders — who have themselves conceded not raising the debt limit would jeopardize the full faith and credit of the U.S. government — are asking Democrats to make a series of concessions in exchange for not unleashing widespread economic havoc that will hurt all of us. But agreeing not to destroy the economy doesn’t count as a concession on the part of Republicans, and no one should expect it to be rewarded with anything in return. Just because Republicans are trying to frame this as a conventional negotiation doesn’t mean folks have to play along with it.
At some point even big business has to get queasy about this sort of gamesmanship, no?

Without a competent press corps eviscerating the GOP for this blatant hostage taking less than a year after they lost a big election, there's little other recourse. The public isn't going to take to the streets over one political party demanding a bevy of stupid cuts in exchange for raising a debt ceiling that shouldn't even exist in the first place. It's too arcane for the public imagination.

If the press, nonpartisan officials and moderate business people don't stand up in unison and cry foul, where does that leave the political system? How does the country survive another decade of relentless hostage taking by a party that structurally almost can't lose the House due to gerrymandering?

Expecting rational self interest to bring the GOP to its senses is a fool's errand. Many House Republicans have actually bought into their Objectivist rhetoric; the rest know that in their nicely gerrymandered seats they're likelier to face electoral difficulty from a primary challenge than from a Democrat for the next nine years at least.

At some point non-partisan institutional America, including and especially the press, has to step up and say that enough is enough.