10/03/2013 07:14 pm ET Updated Oct 03, 2013

Fix The Debt Isn't Too Concerned About The Debt Ceiling Crisis


Over at Daily Intel, Kevin Roose poses a very interesting question in a piece titled, "Why Doesn’t Fix the Debt Try to Do Something About the Debt Ceiling?"

Inquiring minds want to know, after all, and for good reason. As Roose notes, the group is well-funded by business types, and features a "CEO council" made up of such Wall Street luminaries as Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein -- precisely the sort of people who'd be in the position to know what is at stake in the debt ceiling fight, and the dreadful after-effects that would follow if the debt ceiling was breached and the government defaulted on its obligations. What's more, the group was very active at the end of last year, during the whole fiscal cliff melodrama -- which posed minor versions of the threats that a debt ceiling default would put on steroids.

Roose notes that the best the group has been able to do lately is offer up the sort of "mealy mouthed, pox-on-both-their-houses statements," that fail the Fallows Test of false equivalence. This led Roose to understandably wonder why the group hasn't gotten into the battle as heavily as it did when the fiscal cliff was looming. "Why not drop the bipartisan pose," he asks, "and take a group-wide pledge not to write any more campaign checks to House Republicans unless they agree to raise the debt ceiling?"

Roose attempted to pin down Maya MacGuineas, the group's de facto spokeswoman, on these points, but she dodged them:

"The organization is set up to be Fix the Debt," she said. "That's the mission. But suddenly, you get caught up in all these insane antics, and the question is, do you weigh in on every one of those?"

I pressed on this point. Wouldn't a debt default — an unprecedented event in American history, and one that would make many investors run for the hills — make for a far bigger deficit and a grimmer long-term debt picture than any government overspending scenario the group could imagine? Isn't lobbying hard for a debt-ceiling hike the single biggest thing you could do to ensure America's financial stability?

"We have to worry about mission creep," she said. "There are a lot of things that come along that make the debt potentially worse that we don't weigh in on. For the moment, we have to keep focused."

In the end, MacGuineas didn't close the door on getting involved in the fight at some date in the future and trying to leverage support for raising the debt ceiling. But the question still remains, why not now? After all, for all intents and purposes, the debt ceiling crisis is upon us, and there's no time like the present.

Maybe Fix The Debt holds out hope that the crisis will simply resolve itself. Maybe they feel that their involvement will be a detriment. Maybe they're all deeply unserious people who don't know what they're talking about.

My theory loops back around to Roose's original description of the "mission" from which MacGuineas does not want to "creep."

The group's original purpose was to lobby for a grand bargain to reduce the deficit — ideally, a center-right bargain that included cuts to programs like Medicare and Social Security.

That's pretty much the whole shooting match. The thing that one must remember about Fix The Debt -- most deficit peacocks, actually -- above all others is that its main purpose is to immiserate the elderly recipients of earned benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare, and earn enough deficit reduction to lessen the fervor for getting their benefactors to pay their share. And far from being worried about the debt ceiling, the group likely holds out hope that the debt ceiling crisis will present an opportunity to bring about this bait and switch. As long as that end is possible, they'll bless the means.

That stuff about Fix The Debt being made up of deeply unserious people who don't know what they're talking about is also true.

Why Doesn’t Fix the Debt Try to Do Something About the Debt Ceiling? [Daily Intel]

[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not?]



2013 Government Shutdown