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Polling Finally Shows Americans Concerned About Letting Debt Limit Lapse

It took nearly a year, but the public has begun to recognize that refusing to pay the nation’s bills and causing a catastrophic default would probably be a bad thing. NBC/WSJ:

A majority of Americans say that Congress failing to raise the debt ceiling would be a real and serious problem, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Fifty-five percent of all respondents — including 63 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of independents and 47 percent of Republicans — believe that not raising the ceiling would be problematic.

That’s compared with just 18 percent who say it wouldn’t be a real and serious problem. But that number jumps up to 33 percent among self-identified Tea Party supporters.

Only 1/3 of tea partiers think default wouldn’t be a big deal. So the message has been delivered. And Democrats are piling on with an address from St. Ronnie, seen above, from 1987.

The worm has definitely turned. Republicans may be playing kabuki with the Cut, Cap and Balance Act today in the House, but the majority of public opinion and even among conservative opinion makers is that they irresponsibly took a hostage with the debt limit that could seriously damage the future economic and political status of this country around the world. They’re caught now.

I think George Packer gets this right and he doesn’t really have a kind word for either side, though he does make a value judgment:

The sociologist Max Weber, in his 1919 essay “Politics as a Vocation,” drew a distinction between “the ethic of responsibility” and “the ethic of ultimate ends”—between those who act from a sense of practical consequence and those who act from higher conviction, regardless of consequences. These ethics are tragically opposed, but the true calling of politics requires a union of the two. On its own, the ethic of responsibility can become a devotion to technically correct procedure, while the ethic of ultimate ends can become fanaticism. Weber’s terms perfectly capture the toxic dynamic between the President, who takes responsibility as an end in itself, and the Republicans in Congress, who are destructively consumed with their own dogma. Neither side can be said to possess what Weber calls a “leader’s personality.” Responsibility without conviction is weak, but it is sane. Conviction without responsibility, in the current incarnation of the Republican Party, is raving mad.

Representative Austin Scott […] addressing the possibility that the United States might default on its debt, offered this blithe assessment: “I certainly think you will see some short-term volatility. In the end, the sun is going to come up tomorrow.” It was Lenin who first said, “The worse, the better,” a mantra adopted by elements of the New Left in the nineteen-sixties. This nihilistic idea animates a large number of Republican officeholders. The battle over the debt ceiling is a contest between grown-up sobriety and juvenile righteousness, which doesn’t leave much choice.

Nor does it leave much hope. President Obama, responsibly acceding to the reality of divided government, is now the leading champion of fiscal austerity, and his proposals contain very little in the way of job creation. More important, he no longer uses his office’s most powerful tool, rhetorical suasion, to keep the country focussed on the continued need for government activism. His opponents’ approach to job creation is that of a cargo cult—just keep repeating “tax cuts”—even though the economic evidence of the past three decades refutes such magical thinking. What does either side have to offer the tens of millions of Americans who have settled into a semi-permanent state of economic depression? Virtually nothing.

That’s the battle we’re seeing play out – a conversation utterly disconnected from the pain and suffering across the country.

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David Dayen

David Dayen