With House Republicans (and their few allies in the Senate) gearing up for another battle over whether to raise the national debt limit without doing anything to cut spending, Democrats (and their many allies in the media) are falling back on their favored tactic of attacking the other side's motives, this time accusing Republicans of deliberately harming the economy for partisan gain. This is either a sign of Democratic desperation or, perhaps, proof that the Democrats are so far down the rabbit hole they cannot even comprehend why anyone would want to reduce spending when the nation has spent itself so deeply into debt.
The irony, of course, is that Democrats are the first people to shriek and run to the media's self-appointed civility police when they feel their patriotism is being questioned; it's always a big applause line for Democrats to claim that they will never question anyone's patriotism...and also a big applause line when they do just that, as this video juxtaposing remarks by Barack Obama in June and July 2008 illustrates:
Of course, Obama has since done exactly what he once said was unpatriotic (adding $4 trillion to the national debt), and in less than half the time - and now, he and his allies are claiming that it's unpatriotic to try to solve the problem. Now, here's Barbara Boxer:
[Y]ou know, it's interesting that they're setting up a big fight, McConnell and Boehner, making it a crisis when it isn't a crisis and demanding more cuts when they didn't live up to the cuts they agreed to. Because they want to create a crisis so maybe say, oh, my goodness, maybe if we change everything, things will be better. Maybe we need a different president.
[CHUCK] TODD: They're doing this to try to help Mitt Romney?
SEN. BOXER: I think they're doing it to hurt the Democrats, to say that the Democrats are in control of the Senate and we're not doing the right thing when the facts show otherwise.
Chuck Schumer, quoted in an AP article helpfully entitled "Is GOP trying to sabotage economy to hurt Obama?":
"The last thing the country needs is a rerun of last summer's debacle that nearly brought down our economy," Schumer said in a statement. In an interview, Schumer added: "I hope that the speaker is not doing this because he doesn't want to see the economy improve, because what he said will certainly rattle the markets."
Josh Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo goes full-on tinfoil hat: "Unfortunately, its pretty much a certainty that republicans are trying to damage the economy to deny Obama reelection." Other liberal bloggers agree.
This a rerun of the rhetoric deployed from the Obama campaign on down last year:
Schumer and other top Democrats have said for months that GOP lawmakers may be trying to strangle the economic recovery for political reasons.
"Their strategy is to suffocate the economy for the sake of what they think will be a political victory," Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, wrote in an email to supporters last October, when Congress was debating a jobs bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said his Republican counterpart was not cooperating on that legislation "in hopes that he can get my job, perhaps."
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, told The Associated Press last year that some GOP lawmakers, "through their intransigence, cleverly set up a situation for America's economy to fail, either by needlessly driving us to default, or needlessly driving us into massive public-sector layoffs."
This is not a new rhetorical strategy. In 2008, Joe Biden famously suggested in 2008 that Republicans were unpatriotic for opposing higher taxes. In 2000, we had the Clinton White House charging that Dick Cheney was "talking down the economy".
Predictable rhetorical hypocrisy aside, what the tone and content of the Democrats' attacks suggests is that they either can't or won't deal with the possibility that the problem at hand is too much debt, not efforts to reduce the debt. At this point, they're like junkies resisting rehab, denying that they have a problem and insisting loudly that the real problem is those guys trying to stage the intervention. It's true, of course, that brinksmanship over the debt ceiling is a less than ideal way to handle this situation, but it's the only thing tried that has accomplished anything at all under Obama. The Democrats who control the Senate have not passed a budget in three years (even though a budget resolution doesn't require 60 votes), and have stopped even proposing them for a vote. And they won't vote for the only Democratic budget on the table, as President Obama's budget got zero votes in the House and zero votes in the Senate, after last year also getting zero votes in the Senate. As Paul Ryan explains, this is because the Democrats simply don't want the public to see how much they propose to raise taxes and still not fix any of the nation's fiscal problems. It seems almost quaint to reflect that one of the major controversies of the 2004 presidential campaign was John Kerry's vote on an $87 billion war appropriations bill; today you can have a $111 billion projected increase in one of Obamacare's line items and the Administration barely feels the need to explain it, let alone return to Congress for votes. When the party controlling two-thirds of the branches responsible for taxes and spending won't attempt to fix the problem, the House has little choice but to use the only tools available to it.
We have serious fiscal problems caused by too much spending and not enough private sector growth to pay for it. As we have seen in Europe, the real question regarding our economic future and the federal government's creditworthiness is not what temporary political tempests arise around plans to fix the problem, but rather the question of whether the government will actually adopt such plans and whether they have a meaningful chance of success. That's the question the Democrats desperately want to avoid facing.