There is a cancerous cult stalking our nation’s discourse. It is not the curse of ill conceived nazi analogies, though those are always great fun. Rather, it is the “journalistic” tic of false equivlence.
Let us understand what is happening in Washington DC today. While I write this, 97% of the US Federal government is shut down. Much of the remaining 3%- including the FBI and air traffic controllers- are being asked to work with only the hope of retroactive pay. As this is happening, we grow ever closer to a point at which the US Federal Government will need to pay certain bills, but not have the legal authority to borrow the funds to pay those bills.
These are two separate events. Either of them taken alone would be bad enough. The fact that they are occurring together is- like an earthquake during open heart surgery- a potentially catastrophic coincidence.
The debt limit thing is a bit hard to explain the details of, so let me be super simple. People are willing to lend us money because we have always paid them back. _Always_. When you have a reputation for always repaying your loans, people start being being willing to pay you for the privilage of loaning you money. Like as if you gave me a dollar today with the promise that tomorrow I would give you 99 cents back. That’s a fantastic deal. it exists because financial world craves solidity and order.
The sun goes down, the sun comes up, the US pays its bills. If the US government defaults on even one loan, it will be the first time in nearly 300 years it will have done such a thing. That would cause as much turmoil to the world financial markets as the sun stopping at midday would to human physicists.
So on one hand we have a Republican party that is willing hit the debt ceiling and not pay (some or all) our bills. And we have a Democratic party that really, _really_ does not want to do this. And similtanously we have a Republican party that likes the fact that the government is shut down, and a Democratic party that does not. And there, in that very second link above is Chris Matthews writing about how “both sides” need to give and take.
What president Obama and the Democratic party have decided- what all decent Americans should decide- is that paying our bills and having a functional government are not negotiable. They are certainly not bargaining chips. They are, in fact, the starting points of a functional American society. They are the sine qua non of any society. America has invaded other nations for less cause than defaulting on our loans would be giving, say, China.
Not to mention the global catastrophe that would happen if large banks/nations were planning on repaying their loans with the money they were expecting to get back after having loaned it to America.
We can argue- and should- about the things the government ought to do. We can even argue that it is wrong for the government to assume more than a certain amount of duties even if all the things we’d like it to do are wholly legitimate. But once we make protecting the existence of the government the responsibility of one party we begin a very short road to disaster. I’d like the media to be doing a much better job explaining this. This is a another problem we have, separate from the shutdown, the potential default, and conspiracy of math that makes the first two problems almost inevitable.
The difference between this problem and the others is that we can ignore Chris Matthews until he stops being so fucking stupid.