Look, I’ve never thought this whole idea of using the debt limit as a major line in the sand was a good idea. I think there are too many things that could go wrong, and I think it’s not a good idea to risk the whole economy — which IS, indeed, at risk — in order to try to win a battle that could blow up in our faces. I also seriously think that Obama welcomes a crisis, and even a bit of civil unrest, because crises and civil unrest allow him more excuse to have government step in and impose “order” and thus take more power. So this whole thing makes me profoundly nervous.
Yet, EVEN AFTER SAYING ALL THAT, I think Mitch McConnell’s back-up plan presented today is an absolute capitulation and a gift of power to Obama. Forget all the complicated procedural details. None of them matter. All that matters is that the end result is that Obama can, in effect, raise the debt limit several more times, for a total of about two trillion dollars, unilaterally. After all of the success in getting Obama to not just commit rhetorically to well over a trillion dollars in cuts, but to actually put on the table some specific entitlement savings (reportedly), it would be far worse to forfeit any spending cuts than it would be to allow a few minor tax loopholes to be closed. The McConnell plan effectively forecloses real opportunities for major savings.
I’m actually for compromise, at the edges, for a deal that achieves major spending cuts. But what McConnell has suggested is not a compromise; it would be a major loss.