July 8, 2011

SO DRIVING HOME FROM THE GYM JUST NOW, I heard Rush Limbaugh saying that if the GOP caves on the debt-ceiling fight we’ll see a Tea Party-backed third-party candidate for President, and the RNC will “implode” for lack of contributions. I think that’s right, but I don’t think that will happen.

For one thing, the big scare-story about what happens if there’s no deal may not be true. The worry — as Megan McArdle noted in our interview yesterday — was that if you hit the debt ceiling and Social Security checks quit going out, then angry senior citizens storm Washington and put the Democrats back in charge. But, at least if Felix Salmon is to be believed, Treasury will send out checks anyway because it can’t stop. “It’s far from clear that it’s even possible to stop making the 3 million payments that Treasury makes automatically every day. Doing so involves a massive computer-reprogramming effort which I’m sure could not be implemented overnight — and for political reasons nobody is going to get started on such an effort until after all hope is lost for a deal in Congress.”

If that’s true, then the Democrats aren’t holding very many cards, and there’s no reason for the GOP to fold under the threat. Which isn’t to say that they won’t fold anyway, of course. As Teddy Roosevelt once said about Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., I could carve a better backbone out of a banana. . . .

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