John Boehner gave a very telling press conference where he used the usual tool available to politicians to get his colleagues to do what he wants: fear.

In a political role reversal Friday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) warned that Congress risks severely harming the economy and exacerbating the unemployment crisis if it fails to raise the national debt ceiling in the next four weeks.

“While some think we can go past August 2nd, I frankly think it puts us in an awful lot of jeopardy, and puts our economy in jeopardy, risking even more jobs,” Boehner told reporters at his weekly Capitol briefing.

Boehner added that he didn’t think “this problem has narrowed at all in the last several days.” But the first statement gives the game away. Boehner is signaling to his membership that there has to be a bill on the President’s desk before August 2. And we know that the President threatened to veto any debt limit deal under $2 trillion. So Boehner is going about the work of getting as many Republican votes as possible for the inevitable deal. He wants to make the deal, and he doesn’t want to preside over a default event.

Have I mentioned that you can purchase short-term Treasury debt right now at the low low cost of 0.000%? The US government can literally borrow money for free at this time. This tells us a couple things. One, the fact that we’re not taking advantage of this historic opportunity to borrow money and engage in massive job creation is literally insane, given the jobs crisis. Two, nobody on Wall Street is particularly worried, four weeks from reaching the debt limit, that the limit won’t be increased. Short-term government paper is exchanged by professional traders. They aren’t worried.

Boehner just reassured them. And yet the two sides are supposed to be massively apart. So, someone’s either misreading the situation in a big way, or the fix is in.

David Dayen

David Dayen