by Mark Byrnes
Only a matter of hours after the federal government barely averted a shutdown, Tea Party Republicans are making noises about using another procedural deadline, this one concerning the debt limit, to blackmail Democrats into even deeper spending cuts. And one of the leading voices is newly elected Rep. Mick Mulvaney from South Carolina’s 5th Congressional district.
An article in Sunday’s New York Times quotes Mulvaney demanding “real structural, cultural-type changes tied to this debt ceiling…. There has [sic] got to be game-changing kinds of changes to get us to vote for it.”
This, despite the fact that a failure to raise the debt ceiling could have horrible economic consequences. People like Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase, told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that “anyone [who] wants to push that button, which I think would be catastrophic and unpredictable, I think they’re crazy.”
Mulvaney, however, is unconcerned. The Democrats, he says, should bear all of the responsibility. “It’s their debt,” he told the Times. “Make them do it. That’s my attitude.”
And that attitude is the problem. It isn’t the Democrats’ debt. It’s America’s debt. Both parties have contributed to it. Moreover, that debt was diminishing before the six years of undivided Republican rule from 2001-2007. As a chart accompanying the story shows, the Bush tax cuts, unfunded Medicare prescription drug benefit, and unfunded wars added as much to the debt as existed before Bush took office.
The new class of Republicans in Congress are going to have to learn to deal with such issues “as adults.” That’s not my view. It’s what Speaker of the House John Boehner said back in November. Based on what he told the Times, Mulvaney has some political growing up to do.
Mark Byrnes is an associate professor of history at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC. He blogs at The Past Isn’t Past. Mark’s obsessive interest in politics goes back to watching the Watergate hearings as a child (seriously). You can follow him on Twitter at @byrnesms.