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BY ALAN JENKINS: As the deadline nears for national default if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling, the two parties appear deadlocked over ending tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, which Republicans oppose, and deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare, which Democrats reject.  In our current political environment, and with Tea Partiers and pending Republican primaries in the mix, it is conceivable that leaders may allow the country to default for the first time in our history, with catastrophic results.  But doing so would be Armageddon not only for our economy, but for conservatives in America.

In order for conservatives to sell their world view of limited government, unregulated financial markets, and ever-lower taxes, they need government’s positive role in our daily lives, and in the economy, to remain invisible to the public.  When government’s image is as a giant, lumbering ogre—good for military defense, but too clumsy for any other purpose—the conservative take has resonance.  But when Americans are reminded that our federal government is about airline safety and mail delivery, healthy food and safe workplaces, Coast Guard and Internet, a different picture emerges.

That’s why the last government shut-down worked so powerfully in President Clinton’s favor back in the 1990s.  Americans value the federal government’s role as protector of fair rules, opportunity, and the public interest, even as they are often skeptical about its competence.

Economists agree that national default would be devastating, with consequences ranging from collapsing financial markets to plummeting pension funds and 401(k) savings to the disappearance of loans Americans need to get a mortgage, buy a car, start or expand a business.  Unemployment would rise, and the economy could slip into another Great Depression.  Think of the financial chaos around the possibility of default by Greece, then multiply that by ten thousand.

If conservatives are irresponsible enough to let default happen, its dire consequences will dispel their depiction of the private economy as an efficient and independent actor that suffers when government gets involved.  It will remind Americans that the economy needs government, including government debt, to operate.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    doc2, TomP, jfromga, HylasBrook

    State of Opportunity - a blog about human rights and the American Dream.

    by The Opportunity Agenda on Tue Jul 12, 2011 at 11:15:43 AM PDT

  •  This is true. But the marauding (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    GOP masses demands that their Party go to the mattresses. So they will.

    I'm in the I-fucking-love-this-guy wing of the Democratic Party!

    by doc2 on Tue Jul 12, 2011 at 11:21:04 AM PDT

  •  only government that does things (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    for other people is bad.    Most people have no clue how much their well being depends on the federal government.  While far from perfect, and sometimes down right awful, people will find a world of a defaulted federal government much worse than a large federal government that is occasionally incompetent and sometimes downright stupid.

  •  They're Not Worried About That (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skod, HylasBrook

    With voter suppression, a perennially low energy Democratic party, and total domination of the public square, they appear to be angling to become the permanent ruling minority.

    That and/or having SCOTUS ruling most of progressivism unconstitutional.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Jul 12, 2011 at 11:31:55 AM PDT

  •  I really worry that the public won't blame the GOP (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JamieG from Md

    Obama is president, not Boehner or Cantor; it's the Democrats who always make such a big deal of negotiation, compromise, and working together for a better America for us all as a matter of principle; and many voters might not expect anything better from the GOP, but do expect better from Democrats.  I worry that if the ceiling isn't raised on time, people will look at Obama and the Democrats and go "Yeah, the Republicans were being stupid and immature, but that means you had to work that much harder to get the job done", because that's certainly what the Republicans will be saying.  Even if the debt ceiling is raised, people will be angry about the massive spending cuts and especially cuts to SS, Medicare, etc.

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