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A Debt Ceiling Solution from Netflix's 'House of Cards'

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It seems pretty obvious at this point that the only way to get a clean debt ceiling increase though the House of Representatives is to marginalize the extremists and pass a bill by relying on nearly all the Democrats together with a few less radical Republicans. Speaker John Boehner is apparently terrified of this option because it will enrage the Tea Party and quite possibly result in the loss of his Speakership. Now, whatever you may think of Boehner, things could be worse. Imagine the prospect of a Tea Party Speaker with the power to prevent any bill not to his or her liking from reaching the floor of the House.

There is a possible solution to this dilemma, and it was presented in Netflix's hit political series, "House of Cards." In one episode Kevin Spacey's character, Frank Underwood, tries to incite a revolt in the House and overthrow the current Speaker. He does this by proposing that the opposing party cross the aisle and support the new candidate. As is pointed out in the show, this would be historically unprecedented.

Of course, defaulting on our national debt would also be historically unprecedented--and in a much bigger way. So why don't Democrats make a deal with Boehner? As long as Republicans hold a majority, they'll agree to cross the aisle and support him for Speaker. They may be able to demand something in return--perhaps an end to the "Hastert Rule" which says only bills supported by a majority of Republicans can reach the floor.

Would Boehner go for this? I think he ought to give it some serious thought. John Boehner has reached the pinnacle of his career, and things are not going so well. He ought to start thinking about his historical legacy. Does he want his great grandchildren to open their history books and read that he was a ineffectual Speaker who couldn't control his caucus and led the country to the edge of the abyss again and again? Or would he perhaps prefer to be remembered as the first bipartisan Speaker--and the man who helped America to once again become governable?

Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner should get together and make a deal. We need a new paradigm in Washington.

Martin Ford is the author of The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future (available from Amazon or as a PDF download). The book argues that accelerating information technology, and in particular robotics and artificial intelligence, is likely to have a disruptive impact on the future job market and economy. He also has a blog at econfuture.wordpress.com.