Ron Radosh

The Looming Default Crisis: Are Conservatives Also at Fault?

Richard Pollock is half right. Progressives, as the reactionary Left call themselves, are glad that no agreement has been made, and that any deal which includes cuts on entitlements has been stymied. That is why they mobilized the unions and the Left organizations to wage a full-fledged campaign against what they saw as the president’s potential capitulation to sanity.

Now, as we have seen, the president has seemingly succeeded in blaming the Right for the crisis we are in, rather than his own profligate spending since becoming chief executive. By making it appear that it was the Republicans’ fault that an agreement to raise the debt ceiling could not be reached , and using the bully pulpit that every president has, he has possibly gained the upper hand.

But there is sufficient evidence to indicate that some on the Right are also pleased. Ed Feulner, director of the Heritage Foundation, issued an open letter arguing for no compromise.

As David Frum has commented , “Ed Feulner in an unusual signed personal statement today urges Republicans to force the country into default unless President Obama yields on the outermost conservative demands. In the process, he equates President Obama and the Democrats to the Japanese militarists who bombed Pearl Harbor. I suppose that’s a step up from calling them Nazis.”

In addition, others in the Tea Party have also remained adamant. Mark Meckler, the cofounder of Tea Party Patriots, called the alternative last-ditch McConnell plan “an embarrassment…an abdication of governing responsibilities.”

Yes, conservatives are correct to oppose any tax increases, which, as they argue, kill the creation of jobs in a bad economy. But a default would hurt the nation, something that Ronald Reagan well understood. At the time of the last looming crisis, Reagan said the following in a Sept. 26, 1987 radio address:

Congress consistently brings the Government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility. This brinkmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veterans benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket, instability would occur in financial markets, and the Federal deficit would soar. The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations. It means we have a well-earned reputation for reliability and credibility — two things that set us apart from much of the world.

As Pete Wehner points out, there is a reason that liberal Democrats are putting this out now: they want to claim Reagan as their own, and argue that contemporary conservatives are  betrayers of his trust and would  view  Reagan as their enemy were he alive today. At the time, of course, liberals and Democrats despised Ronald Reagan. As Wehner argues, “(a) Barack Obama, when he was in the Senate, voted against raising the debt ceiling, thereby undermining his moral authority on the subject and considerably diluting the effectiveness of his sanctimonious sermons; and (b) the president could avert default by embracing the plan passed by the House earlier this week.

Nevertheless, what Reagan said in 1987 still holds true today. Default would be an outcome that no one who wants a strong America should be happy about. The latest story in today’s paper makes it clear that Speaker Boehner understands this, and is working on a new deficit reduction plan that would cut $3 to $4 trillion in spending over a ten year period.

Let us hope that he succeeds in getting a deal accepted and that come Monday, financial markets do not face a sudden downturn that could throw a monkey wrench into an already weakened world economy. This is precisely, a cynic may say, what our president wants, since he could commence to blame the crisis totally on the Republicans. So is it not foolish for Republicans to give President Obama precisely what he wants, enabling him to escape his own responsibility for the crisis?