Chuck, Nancy, Don­ald worked on debt, the part that re­ally mat­tered

The Maui News - - OPINION - FROMA HARROP

Don­ald Trump’s deal with “Chuck and Nancy” has rained new angst on his party (the Repub­li­can Party). It ex­tended the debt ceil­ing for three months and pro­vided hur­ri­cane re­lief.

“Repub­li­cans, sorry, but I’ve been hear­ing about Re­peal & Re­place for 7 years, didn’t hap­pen!” Trump tweeted, the sub­ject be­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act. To rub it in — or per­haps to get some­thing done — he turned to Democrats, Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, for ac­tion on other is­sues.

Some on the left grum­bled that co­op­er­at­ing with Trump car­ried risks for Democrats.

They could be seen as nor­mal­iz­ing a man whose char­ac­ter they ab­hor, whose toxic poli­cies they plan to run against.

Let us now in­ter­rupt this de­bate over who won and who lost to dis­cuss whether what hap­pened is good for the coun­try.

It is good for the coun­try — though not as any dawn of a new era of bi­par­ti­san­ship.

The part that mat­tered was the plan to wrench the job of rais­ing the debt ceil­ing from the hands of Congress.

What does rais­ing the na­tion’s bor­row­ing limit do? It af­firms Amer­ica’s prom­ise to honor its debt obli­ga­tions. That should be a law­maker’s duty, not a con­ces­sion. Let­ting the United States go into de­fault for any rea­son would desta­bi­lize the global econ­omy, with dis­as­trous re­sults for this coun­try. The right has made a spe­cialty of threat­en­ing Amer­ica’s com­mit­ment to make good on its bonds, notes and bills. Be­lief that the mighty United States stands be­hind its Trea­sury se­cu­ri­ties has made them among the safest in­vest­ments in the world. And that has kept the in­ter­est we (the tax­pay­ers) pay on them rel­a­tively low.

Democrats and Repub­li­cans used to rou­tinely ap­prove in­creases in the debt ceil­ing. Repub­li­cans made no trou­ble dur­ing the Ge­orge W. Bush years when the na­tional debt dou­bled.

Then Barack Obama be­came pres­i­dent, and Repub­li­cans de­cided to play games with Amer­ica’s pledge to pay back what it owed. They with­held sup­port for rais­ing the debt ceil­ing to force through their tax and spend­ing pri­or­i­ties.

In 2011, they drove the U.S. so close to de­fault that the stock mar­ket plunged, con­sumer con­fi­dence col­lapsed and Stan­dard & Poor’s low­ered Amer­ica’s credit rat­ing. The stunt cost tax­pay­ers bil­lions.

To dis­cour­age an­other debt ceil­ing show­down three months hence, Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin and bud­get di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney re­fused Repub­li­can en­treaties to com­mit in ad­vance to spend­ing cuts.

(Trump’s re­spect for our debt obli­ga­tions is a re­fresh­ing change from his cam­paign talk of re­pay­ing the debt for pen­nies on the dol­lar.)

Repub­li­cans booed Mnuchin and Mul­vaney. Of course, noth­ing would stop them from at­tack­ing gov­ern­ment spend­ing the old-fash­ioned way, through bud­get­ing.

They have a ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate, a ma­jor­ity in the House and a Repub­li­can in the White House, af­ter all.

They might have to work with Democrats on some de­tails, but life is so un­fair.

Politico had one top Repub­li­can, un­named, say­ing Trump had handed “a loaded gun” to Nancy and Chuck. An­other Repub­li­can, also un­named, told Ax­ios that it was like giv­ing “an en­tire stock­pile of weapons” to Democrats.

For all this self-pity about arm­ing the op­po­si­tion, it needs re­peat­ing that Repub­li­cans are chiefly re­spon­si­ble for hav­ing weaponized the debt ceil­ing.

Their chief com­plaint, re­ally, is that by re­mov­ing it from par­ti­san play, they can no longer take “the full faith and credit of the United States” hostage.

Democrats can rest as­sured that any mem­o­ries of Trump work­ing with their lead­ers will soon be buried in a slag heap of new in­sults.

To the ex­tent that they’ve ad­vanced the cause of pro­tect­ing Amer­ica’s rep­u­ta­tion as a trust­wor­thy bor­rower, they should pat them­selves on the back.

Froma Harrop is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. She can be reached at fhar­rop@gmail.com or fol­low her on Twit­ter@Fro­maHar­rop.

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