Yeah, I know. Obama’s childish, petulant, and tyrannical tantrums over the continuing resolution makes me want to fight like an angry cat, too.
But I don’t actually want to fight. Fighting isn’t in our interest. As Sun Tzu said:
Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
I want to succeed in repealing Obamacare and forcing government into its constitutionally limited box.
Republicans face limited options. They control one-third of the legislative process. Squishes like Pete King of New York threaten their unity. A national press that’s 98.4% opposes anything they do, even restoring funding to help kids dying of cancer. And they’re dealing with a public that, by and large, can’t point out DC on an annotated map of the District of Columbia.
So what can they do?
House Republicans can pass a clean debt ceiling bill and send it to the Senate.
Here are four reasons why that’s their best choice right now.
1. Never Let Your Position Overcome Your Interests.
Positional bargaining focuses on specific goals, like “repeal Obamacare.” It focuses on “what” you want. Interest bargaining focuses on “why” you want it. King Solomon gave us the perfect example. Two women each claimed a child was her son. Each held the same position: “I want the child.” But their interests were different. Solomon resolved the dispute by ordering the child cut in half, with woman getting an equal portion.
At that point, the child’s true mother dropped her position and focused on her interest: the best possible outcome for her child. The mother told the king, “let her have him.” Solomon, of course, restored the child to its true mother.
Our interest is broader than “repeal Obamacare.” For example, what if Obamacare were replaced with a single-payer system and all healthcare workers became draftees into a government-run national healthcare horror show? Yes, we’d have achieved our position but at the sacrifice of our personal and national interest.
Passing a clean debt ceiling bill now lets us focus on our interest of restoring self-governance and constitutionally limited government.
2. Take Away Obama’s Best Strategy: Confusing Low Information Voters
There are two government financial issues at play now: the federal budget and the debt ceiling. The House took its stand against Obamacare over the a resolution to extend the last federal budget. That’s the continuing resolution. The other issue is the debt ceiling.
The consequences of a government shutdown are mild, short, and familiar. We know this because there’ve been 17 shutdowns since 1974, mostly because Democrat Speaker Tip O’Neill figured out how to extort money for his friends through shutdowns in the 1970s and 1980s.
The consequences of the world’s largest economy defaulting, however, is a different story. It’s never happened before, and no one knows what the consequences would be. Anyone who tells you they do know what would happen as a result of a US default is either lying or foolish. No one knows with any degree of precision or accuracy. Smart economists say so.
Some possible consequences include:
- Total collapse of the US dollar
- Total freezing of world financial flows
- Global depression
Other possibilities include:
- Nothing really happens at all
I don’t know. But neither do you, Jack Lew, Barack Obama, Ben Bernanke, or Warren Buffet. When it comes to a US debt default, you’re just as smart as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Obama and the press use expert uncertainty combined with public ignorance to treat the continuing resolution and the debt ceiling as one. That’s wrong, and they know it. But they do it because polling shows the vast majority of Americans don’t understand either.
By passing a clean debt ceiling bill that lets government borrow through April 2015, Obama can no longer conflate the two issues for PR leverage. That lets us focus on Obamacare and the continuing resolution, which advances our interests at the expense of a position. And smart people always put their interests ahead of their positions.
3. Strategic Thinking Says Don’t Take Unknown Risks If You Don’t Have To
When I was 17, I wanted desperately to go out with the cutest girl at Bishop DuBourg High School. I won’t embarrass her by telling you her name. It took forever, but I finally asked her out. She said yes.
That was a known risk. I could reasonably calculate the consequences. She could say yes, no, or maybe. If she said “yes,” I win. If she said “no,” I’d meet somebody else, though I’d be in pain for a long time. If she said, “maybe,” I’d take that as a yes and continue pursuing a stronger yes.
Every possible outcome was knowable, and I could live with any of them. I could plan a strategy for dealing with any of them.
An unknown risk, on the other hand, has at least one possible path that is completely unknowable. Or it has so many possibilities and combinations that no one can reasonably determine where the chain of events will lead. That’s an unknown risk, and it’s very dangerous.
As I stated above, the House has taken a known risk by passing a continuing resolution that Obama doesn’t like. We know what’s likely to happen, and we’re willing to chance it.
The debt ceiling is an unknown risk. Taking that risk when there’s an alternative would be silly and dangerous. By passing a clean debt ceiling increase now, only Obama and the Democrats could force a US debt default. They would get the blame in that case.
Plus, by fear-mongering about the debt ceiling, Obama has put himself in a position where he’d have to sign the bill. That would screw up his PR strategy, as we’ll see next.
4. Obama’s Losing the Continuing Resolution PR Battle But Winning the Debt Ceiling Debate
On Friday, Obama held a press conference. His sole purpose was to trigger a stock market crash and a financial panic. He spoke under the guise of the continuing resolution debate, but spoke only of the consequences of a debt default. He urged investors to panic-sell all their stock to trigger a market crash. Very calculated, very cold, and very irresponsible. Completely unworthy of a US President.
As the Detroit News put it:
Stocks finished the government shutdown week mostly down, but not nearly as much as they could have fallen, given President Barack Obama’s efforts to panic investors. When Wall Street gave a ho-hum response to the shutdown, Obama went on TV to question why the markets weren’t more concerned by the standoff in Washington, and warned the U.S. could default on its debt.
Why would a president want to trigger bank runs, market crashes, and financial disasters?
Because the president is losing the battle on Obamacare and the continuing resolution.
The White House’s shutdown strategy was to inflict maximum pain on the largest number of people. So Obama ordered the WWII Memorial closed. And the Vietnam Wall. He tried to shut down private businesses around the country. He threatened to arrest Catholic priests who crossed his picket line to say mass for Catholic troops in the armed forces. He even tried to close the Atlantic Ocean.
All of his attempts at punishing people failed, because we know he’s little more than the Wizard of Oz’s evil twin. And Obama’s approval rating has plummeted to 41 percent–just 2 points above the “point of no return.”
Clearly, the world hasn’t ended because of a partial government shutdown, and everyone knows it. So Obama’s conflating the shutdown with the debt ceiling.
By passing a clean debt ceiling bill, Obama will be forced to deal solely with his failed government shutdown. That will force him to negotiate. Something he’s sworn repeatedly is beneath him.
Pass a Clean Debt Ceiling Bill Now
Ask @RepAnnWagner and @RoyBlunt to push their leadership to pass a clean debt ceiling bill this week. Base it on the deficit of the last three months. Raise the debt limit to allow the government to borrow through April of the next Congress, so the next Congress can re-evaluate and adjust. Even Erick Erickson agrees:
I think the GOP focus needs to remain on funding for Obamacare. So we all need to think about a clean debt ceiling increase.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) October 4, 2013
If we take away Obama’s ability to confuse low-information voters while we demonstrate reasonableness in facing unknown risks, Obama will have to negotiate to re-open the government.
Because Obama’s position is “no negotiations, period,” forcing negotiations will destroy his position. He will be exposed as a liar and a fraud whose power is based on mythical fear not respect or Constitutional authority.
Taking a debt default off the table will damage Obama’s domestic credibility as thoroughly as Syria wrecked his international esteem.
So what should we do? I think somebody like Steve Scalise, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, needs to propose a short-term debt limit for a few weeks and attach to it the Full Faith and Credit Act that ensures the Treasury Department prioritizes interest payments in the event the debt limit is ever not increased. This would buy us some time to finish the fight to defund Obamacare and set us up well to fight the next long-term debt limit increase to the death by removing some of the President’s scare tactics. How do Republican Leaders not adopt and push such a proposal? How does Obama not accept it without looking completely unreasonable?