What Krugman leaves out of his debt limit timeline 

In his column today, recommending that President Obama go ahead and stop paying all of its bills (interest on the debt and other federal spending included) Paul Krugman rehashes:

Last December, after Mr. Obama agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts — a move that many people, myself included, viewed as in effect a concession to Republican blackmail — Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic asked why the deal hadn’t included a rise in the debt limit, so as to forestall another hostage situation (my words, not Mr. Ambinder’s).

The president’s response seemed clueless even then. He asserted that “nobody, Democrat or Republican, is willing to see the full faith and credit of the United States government collapse,” and that he was sure that John Boehner, as speaker of the House, would accept his “responsibilities to govern.”

Well, we’ve seen how that worked out.

Krugman wants to make the Democrats decision not to raise the debt limit in December seem like a simple oversight that Obama thought could be corrected later. That is just not true. The Democrats decision not to raise the debt limit when they still controlled both houses of Congress was a calculated political gamble. They wanted to use the debt limit vote to separate newly-elected Republicans from their Tea Party base. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., explained the strategy to Talking Points Memo this December:

I think it may be better to do the debt ceiling, raise it next year rather than now. … I want the Republicans to have some buy-in on the debt. They’re going to have a majority in the House. I think they should have some kind of a buy-in on the debt. I don’t think it should be when we have a heavily Democratic Senate, a heavily Democratic House and a Democratic president.

Krugman describes the debt limit situation that Obama finds himself in as “extortion pure and simple.” But that is not quite how it happened. Democrats had their chance to pass a clean debt limit. But instead, they insisted on taking the Republicans hostage by dumping the debt limit responsibility onto the newly elected members of the House.

The Republicans are more than willing to raise the debt limit. But they are not willing to give away their “buy-in” for free. That is not “extortion.” It is fair and simple common sense.

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