Left In Lowell

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November 8, 2010

Yes, *THIS* Is Treason

by at 11:21 am.

To even mention (or hedge a question) on the concept of shutting down government and defaulting on our debt as a political tactic to get what you want is going three bridges too far. Yet, that is exactly what Republican House leadership is saying. They will hold hostage our fragile but progressing recovery, in the name of scoring political points. Incredible:

Cantor Refuses To Take Government Shutdown Or Default On U.S. Debt Off The Table

In an interview with Fox News Sunday this morning, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the #2 Republican in the House, threatened to take the nation’s economy hostage if President Obama does not comply with House GOPers’ as yet undefined demands. When asked if he would take a government shutdown on forcing the United States to default on its debt off the table, Cantor responded that it would somehow be President Obama’s fault if House Republicans press this agenda:

QUESTION: Are you willing to say right now we’re not going to let the country go into default, and we won’t allow a government shutdown?

CANTOR: Chris, look at this now. The chief executive, the president, is as responsible as any in terms of running this government. The president has a responsibility, as much or more so than Congress, to make sure that we are continuing to function in a way that the people want.

The entire security of the world economy hinges on government-backed debt. The “Full Faith and Credit of the United States of America” is not just a term bandied about by elite economists. It is the backbone of our entire economy, and the economy, now, of an interconnected world. It was shocking back when Bush said that Social Security debt was “just IOUs” - they aren’t, they are the same debt bonds that China, or Europe, or businesses buy, backed by the Full Faith and Credit of the United States of America. That default would have caused severe crisis with our debtors - just as defaulting on our debt to other nations and businesses would destroy our economy now. Imagine calling up your mortgage company and telling them you intend not to pay anything back. Now, imagine the value of your entire existence plunging right after you do this. This is essentially what Cantor is threatening to do.

To even hint at default in the offering as a political tactic is to jeopardize our entire national interest. It is treasonous. This is who you elected, America. Let’s hope this doesn’t come to pass, or you can kiss the jobs recovery goodbye.

Addendum - remember, Reagan said he doesn’t negotiate with terrorists and hostage takers. So, what is this, then??

Addendum II - Also recall, Congress appropriates funds. By saying “the president has a responsibility, as much or more so than Congress, to make sure that we are continuing to function in a way that the people want” is to state that you abdicate getting the funds appropriated to cover the debt at your convenience - the President has no say on enacting the budget except to sign. This is obviously a threat for him to capitulate to what they demand, or else.

16 Responses to “Yes, *THIS* Is Treason”

  1. Mr. Lynne Says:

    Everyone’s worried about deficits when what we need to really worry about is growth and employment, which are the best tools for dealing with deficits. Instinctively people associate the lack of GDP productivity with the country’s debt, but these things are not always related nearly as directly as is thought.

    Yglesias:

    …running a fiscal deficit during an economic downturn can be a useful tool of macroeconomic policy is part and parcel of the belief that deficits do matter and that contrary to the practice of the Ronald Reagan and George W Bush administrations we should not run large structural deficits over the course of the business cycle.

    …deficits matter for a specific reason. If the government tries to borrow a huge amount of money, investors will start demanding generous interest rates in exchange for lending. And if investors can get high rates lending to the government, which is safe, they’ll start demanding even higher rates of non-government borrowers. That becomes a problem for the private sector.

    .,,But those are specific reasons. We’re not currently in a situation where Fed action to keep interest rates low is producing an undesirably large quantity of inflation. Inflation is currently below two percent and has been below two percent for a while. So there’s not currently any problem with running a large deficit. On the contrary, we have a problem whereby a large number of able-bodied adults and other potentially valuable resources are lying idle.

    …It’s unfortunate that America wracked up a giant debt load in the 2000s rather than staying on the late-nineties trajectory, but that unfortunate fact doesn’t alter the basic logic fiscal logic of a downturn.

  2. Tim Little Says:

    Mitch McConnell is on record not once but twice as saying that the primary objective of the GOP coming out of the election is to ensure that Obama is a one-term President.

    Meanwhile, Robert Reich wonders whether it’s part of the GOP strategy to keep the economy “anemic” until the 2012 elections.

    Seems to make sense: Ramp up the Fox spin machine, continue to blame the White House, and then take credit for the recovery once they’ve recaptured the White House and both houses of Congress.

  3. joe from Lowell Says:

    “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

    I didn’t like this cheap insult when it came from the Bushies, and I don’t like it from you.

    The Republicans aren’t not teaming up with America’s wartime enemies, or waging war against the country. They’re just wrong on policy, and lousy and governing.

    Dial it back.

  4. Lynne Says:

    I think threatening to throw us into a real Great Depression counts for using the rhetoric.

    Do you have any idea just how BAD even hinting you MIGHT do this is?? It’s serious. Very serious.

  5. joe from Lowell Says:

    I think threatening to throw us into a real Great Depression counts

    No, it doesn’t. Treason has a specific meaning, and governing badly, even irresponsibly, ain’t it. How many times were you accused to treason during the Bush years?

    Do you have any idea just how BAD even hinting you MIGHT do this is?? I understand exactly how bad it is. It’s gross negligence in governing, not treason.

    The penalty for treason is execution. This is Limbaugh territory, and you should stay away from it.

  6. Mr. Lynne Says:

    I understand the reaction Joe, and to an extent I sympathize. However, I’ve got to wonder how this would really look in hindsight. I’ve got to wonder if people, after the fact, learned that the origin of the greatest depression the country ever saw (and make no mistake here, that is definitely on the table with a national default) was traceable to the knowing, deliberate acts of a few, how many would call them this in retrospect? And if it seems reasonable (if loaded) in retrospect, isn’t deliberate avoidance of the term beforehand really a failure of imagination? Just imagine it from the other side of the event. Imagine the calamity and then the pain and anger that come with it. Imagine the country stewing in it for years if not decades. Imagine that it was really possible to point the finger to specific individuals responsible for it.

  7. Mill Girl Says:

    This is exactly the thing that John Stewart was speaking to with his Rally to Restore Sanity (which Lynne said was a farce since it’s only the right that is guilty of the insanity). If you use rhetoric calling your political opponents terrorists or accusing them of treason it just becomes noise vs. political discourse. Even if I agree, I have to cover my ears sometimes to block out the shrillness of the delivery.

    What the Republicans are threatening stinks but they are not terrorists, they are bullies. Calling them terrorists reduces the strength of the argument.

  8. Mr. Lynne Says:

    I understand that the word treason in inflammatory. I was originally with you guys in wanting to back away from that particular word. Also, I certainly don’t think the term’s actual technical legal definition would apply. And I don’t think people in favor of a Republican economic agenda in general are treasonous at all.

    However, the specific policy being talked about here would kneecap the nation’s economy with probably the worst single economic event we’ve ever faced. That being said, when searching for a word describing such a policy and such an event in the context of one’s sense of patriotism, it’s hard to avoid the term. I mean, describing it as merely stupid and disloyal doesn’t seem to cut it and would seem to ignore the knowing intent. After thinking that the term was overreaching, I tried to put myself in the shoes of people looking back at such an event during the immediate aftermath and I had to admit that anyone from the future describing, after the fact, the people who deliberately kneecapped the economy might use the term believably.

    Now if you just want to describe it as stupid and incredibly misguided and lacking the intent to knowingly cause calamity, then I doubt treasonous would be apt in any way. So you have to ask yourself, does Cantor really think national default wouldn’t kneecap the country? I actually think he’s smarter than that. If so, he’s deliberately waving around policy that, while certainly red-meat to the econ101-challenged fringe of his base, would certainly be described by many (arguably legitimately) future sufferer’s of the policy’s consequences as treasonous.

    Like I said, I think he’s smarter than that. So while I think enacting the policy might actually be legitimately described as so horrible as to make the label apt, I also think he’s just being a craven panderer to his base in a way he has every intention of failing to follow through on. But that doesn’t change that the act itself, if followed through on knowing the consequences, would be monstrous.

    I don’t care which party is in power or who’s president - actively trying to sink the economy has to be described at least in the same neighborhood as treasonous. Had Gould & Fisk’s actions not been mitigated by Grant’s release of reserves, I could definitely see the word treasonous used to describe them in the aftermath of a collapse of the greenback.

  9. joe from Lowell Says:

    “So you have to ask yourself, does Cantor really think national default wouldn’t kneecap the country?”

    He actually thinks that using the threat of default as a political tool wouldn’t kneecap the country.

    Look back at this post. “To mention (or hedge a question) about default…” THAT is what Lynne is calling treason. To mention, or hedge a question.

  10. joe from Lowell Says:

    If we start throwing around the Big Three - Nazi, Treason/Traitor, Terrorist - then we have no right to complain when the other side does.

  11. Mr. Lynne Says:

    So we’re really talking about only a threat you think.

    What exactly is the relationship between someone who says “Enact my policies or the economy gets it.” and the concept of patriotic loyalty?

  12. Mill Girl Says:

    Look at it this way. Standing on the senate floor and saying “I’m going to overthrow the government” is not treason. You have to actually do it to get that title.

  13. joe from Lowell Says:

    Mr. Lynne,

    Oh, I’m fine with calling Cantor’s action unpatriotic. I’m fine with hostage metaphors.

    I’m not fine with the Big Three. They have no place as political metaphors.

  14. Mr. Lynne Says:

    Mill Girl, that totally misses several distinctions. Overthrowing the government is an enshrined constitutional right born out through the vote. Indeed, the ingenious part of our system when it was enacted was institutionalizing everyone’s ability to overthrow their government.

    This guy isn’t talking about “enact my policies because they are right”, we’re talking about “enact my policies or I’ll hurt everyone, including people who agree with me. I’ll burn the house down.” It’s an economic suicide bomber.

  15. Mill Girl Says:

    Mr. Lynne. I was just making a simple point. Saying that you’ll shut down the government is not the same as actually doing it. Using the word treason for the former dilutes the effect of the word if the latter actually occurs.

  16. Mr. Lynne Says:

    Shutting down the government would actually be not nearly as damaging as what Cantor proposes. I wouldn’t consider the threat or even the act as treasonous (just hazardous). Threatening to bring down the whole house of cards - the government and all the citizens - is different by orders of magnitude. So much so, that were it to happen, people might feel very justified in calling the act treasonous because its that monstrous. If it’s just rhetoric (and I don’t think it is to many that Cantor’ is aiming this particular dog whistle at), then it’s rhetoric born of monstrosity that goes way beyond “I want to change the government” and “I’m willing to shut down the government”. This is “I’m willing to burn us all”.

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