One disaster averted; others await

With hostage negotiations successfully completed, the only drama left over the debt ceiling debate itself is whether the deal can pass in the House.

But assuming it does, America really shouldn’t breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Yes, a terrible economic disaster will have been averted, but other disasters are waiting in the wing, and they’ve become more likely with the way the debt ceiling debacle played out.

As Paul Krugman put it, the deal “will damage an already depressed economy; it will probably make America’s long-run deficit problem worse, not better; and most important, by demonstrating that raw extortion works and carries no political cost, it will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status.”

That last part cannot be emphasized too much. For the first time since the debt ceiling was established, a party used the full faith and credit of the United States of America as leverage to win a policy argument it could not win at the polls. Radical Republicans were willing to crash the American economy if they didn’t get their way – and some still want to crash it even though they did get their way.

This was radicalism combined with stunning ignorance about what the debt ceiling represents – which is the ability to pay past obligations, not a “blank check” to enter into new ones. (I think John Boehner should win the award for the single most despicable lie during this whole pathetic debate for that one.)

I sincerely hope that Americans will remember that one party brought this nation to the brink of default as a negotiating tactic. And I hope there will be a political price to pay for that. Democrats should make 2012 about this stunning abdication of responsible governance on the part of their opponents.

But Republican extortion aside, let’s not forget that this is a really horrible time to cut government spending. The fragile recovery will be put at serious risk by this deal, which makes another recession far more likely, if not inevitable. That, by the way, will not be good for the deficit. Much of the current deficit is, after all, the result of depressed revenue from the last recession.

Another recession will be bad for everyone, except maybe Republicans. A bad economy is almost always bad news for the incumbent in a presidential election, after all. And if there was any reason to doubt the ability of Republicans to put political interest above the nation’s, it should have been completely obliterated by what we saw happen with the debt ceiling.

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