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The Corner

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If You Can Keep Your Head . . .



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I’m deep in the writer’s cave at the moment, finishing my new “Devlin” novel, which will be out in the fall, but wanted to chime in briefly re the media-whipped debt-ceiling hysteria. My advice: Don’t just do something — stand there. From today’s New York Post column::

America is rapidly approaching its statutory debt limit — established just last year, when Congress raised it by $1.9 trillion — of $14.3 trillion dollars. Already, we’re hearing that action is urgent. If the limit isn’t raised again at once, we face possible default on our sovereign obligations, a ruined currency . . . Somebody do something, quick!

Hold on. This is no time to panic. Instead, it’s a time for sober, serious reflection, tough judgments and hard choices. Too bad there’s nobody in Washington who seems up to the task.

Well, maybe Paul Ryan, but he’s not really in charge of anything at the moment. But where has all this “the time for talk is over” blather gotten us? Both parties have been panicking since the fall of 2008 and the only folks who are happy about it are the regulars on the Wall Street–Washington shuttle:

But can anyone seriously argue that we’re better off for having panicked? The country may be technically out of recession, but real unemployment is sky high, banks aren’t lending, purchasing power is declining, the price of gasoline is soaring, and food costs are inflating faster than a balloon at the Thanksgiving Day parade…

The real crisis that shouldn’t go to waste is figuring out not how to borrow more, but how to spend less. Republicans should call the Democrats’ bluff and demand that, in exchange for some modification of the current debt limit, every federal program be subjected — calmly, soberly — to the most rigorous practical and constitutional re-examination. Then, such programs should either be cut, reformed or otherwise reduced in cost until we’re living within our means and our currency is again on a sound footing so we can start retiring the national debt.

If Obama and the Democrats won’t agree, then they’re not serious about getting the country’s fiscal house in order.

In short, the time for panicky, peremptory action is over. The time for a serious adult conversation is now.

In other words, flip Rahm’s formulation on its head and use it to attack the whole New Deal/Great Society edifice by making it justify its continuing voluptuous existence in an era of anorexic scarcity. Who could possibly object to that? Other than an irrational Rooseveltian bitter clinger, that is . . .



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