Home / Dave Brockington / Sublime Irrationality, or Something More Sinister?

Sublime Irrationality, or Something More Sinister?


Like many people, I’m struggling to find evidence of rationality in the suicide caucus strategy and end game here. I get that they’re willing to destroy tacit norms of legislative behavior, and even ignore normative assumptions about the meaning of elections and the legislative process (i.e. once passed by both houses of Congress, signed by the President, and when relevant passes Constitutional muster with the Supremes, it’s the law; don’t like it, undo it the way it was done blah blah blah) in order to achieve a policy objective denied them through acceptable means. But most of this just isn’t conforming to rational behavior, as pointed out by Krugman on Sunday:

It has been obvious for years that the modern Republican Party is no longer capable of thinking seriously about policy. Whether the issue is climate change or inflation, party members believe what they want to believe, and any contrary evidence is dismissed as ahoax, the product of vast liberal conspiracies.

For a while the party was able to compartmentalize, to remain savvy and realistic about politics even as it rejected objectivity everywhere else. But this wasn’t sustainable. Sooner or later, the party’s attitude toward policy — we listen only to people who tell us what we want to hear, and attack the bearers of uncomfortable news — was bound to infect political strategy, too.

Is it me, or is Krugman becoming progressively more pissed off with each day?

I paraphrased from someone last week that we’re trying to understand a group of people who don’t believe in (human caused) climate change, don’t understand or accept basic economics, and don’t believe in evolution. Fair enough. But then there’s this: “A surprisingly broad section of the Republican Party is convinced that a threat once taken as economic fact may not exist — or at least may not be so serious.”

The only card they hold in this game is the threat global economic collapse. They’re willing to use this threat as leverage in order to achieve policy objectives they were unable to win through traditional legislative or electoral paths. Yet, here they are explaining that it’s really not that bad, it’s blown out of proportion, defaulting on our debt only has minimal impact?

They’re arguing that the leverage that they have isn’t leverage at all if the consequences are minimal.

Can they really be that stupid?

The only quote that makes any rational sense is chilling.  Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina:

“We always have enough money to pay our debt service,” said Mr. Burr, who pointed to a stream of tax revenue flowing into the Treasury as he shrugged off fears of a cascading financial crisis. “You’ve had the federal government out of work for close to two weeks; that’s about $24 billion a month. Every month, you have enough saved in salaries alone that you’re covering three-fifths, four-fifths of the total debt service, about $35 billion a month. That’s manageable for some time.”

He’s suggesting that we can (mostly) finance existing obligations by keeping the government shut in the event that the debt ceiling is not increased, “for some time”.

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