National Review's Charles Cooke and Ramesh Ponnuru engage in a short dialogue about Democrats and the debt limit, and found their latest complaints to be laughable. "So: It’s ok if Republicans pass a debt-ceiling increase, or pass a debt-ceiling increase with spending cuts and tax increases," writes Ponnuru, "but it’s “hostage-taking” (they use the metaphor) to pass it with spending cuts and no tax increases."
Well, yes. Until 2011, Congress had never passed a debt limit increase with a corresponding package of mandatory spending cuts. Republicans demanded this, and refused to raise the debt limit without it. Their rationale: It wasn't hostage-taking, because if the cuts weren't made then, the cuts would be made later. "If we do not solve our debt problem now," argued Rep. Patrick McHenry, in a typical statement from the time, "raising the debt ceiling will no longer be an option in the future – a reality that faces nations like Greece and Portugal." (Those countries don't have debt limits that need to be raised legislatively, but that's neither here nor there.)
That was the argument, but it sounded a lot like hostage-taking. After all, if you nab some 12-year old scion of a millionaire, and threaten to do something bad to them unless you get $1 million, you're taking a hostage. The fact that the 12-year old will eventually age and die of natural causes doesn't mean you're not forcing somebody's hand. But Republicans realize that they're blamed when they demand these cuts, so they're trying to shift the Overton Window and claim that whiny Democrats are just pitching a fit. The reframing is not working so far.
TODAY IN SLATE
Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS
But the next president might.
IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.
Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You
How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?
Here are the facts.
Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows
The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything
It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.