Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

GOP's posturing during debt ceiling crisis brought U.S. to verge of disaster

Yes, boys and girls, playing with matches really can burn down the house.

I hope this lesson is sinking in as Rep. Richard Nugent, R-Spring Hill, watches the ongoing economic flame-out — though from the looks of things so far, it's not. On Tuesday, his office put out a statement blaming the Democratic Senate for this mess.

Which is nonsense, because when it comes to the debt ceiling fiasco, the downgrading of this country's government bonds and the subsequent stock market plunge, even the most nonpartisan observer would have a hard time avoiding the following conclusion:

This, folks, was the fault of Republicans, and specifically the right wing that now dominates the party — the wing embodied by Nugent's freshman class in the House of Representatives.

It managed to pick such an ugly fight over a point of widespread bipartisan agreement — yes, of course the United States needs to reduce its deficit — that the loss of credibility has brought us to the brink of another recession.

Hopefully, the economy won't take this devastating plunge. We won't know that for a while — or whether the main cause is the artificial crisis here or the real ones in Greece, Spain and Italy.

But we do know that the squabbling didn't help, that our 401(k)s are a lot smaller now than they were a couple of weeks ago, and that Nugent had a hand in it.

No, he's not as radical as some members of Congress. He voted for the compromise bill designed to eventually cut $2.4 trillion from the $14.3 trillion national debt. Five of the 19 Florida Republican House members voted against it.

And you could see what he's up against at last week's town hall meeting in Brooksville: a significant number of voters who seemingly won't be happy until U.S. Treasury bonds are downgraded to junk status.

"(President Barack) Obama will reign again in 2012 because Republicans are wimps," a disgusted Carolyn Zivkovic told Times staff writer Tony Marrero as she left the meeting.

But if Nugent seems moderate compared to such hard-core tea partiers, what if he'd been just a little more moderate? Moderate enough to be in line with the traditional values of his party, moderate enough to support an earlier, informal agreement between House Speaker John Boehner and Obama that through a lot of cuts and much smaller tax increases would have reduced the deficit by $4 trillion?

My guess is the U.S. would get respect for making a significant dent in the deficit, doing it with a relatively balanced approach and with more care than a college kid throwing together a last-minute term paper.

That didn't happen, of course. Now we have a terrifying economy, which guarantees that all those tax savings hoarded by rich folks over the years will stay hoarded. More frightening still, we have no meaningful prospects of getting the economy going again.

Here's the most generous possible interpretation of Nugent's performance, of his cruel refusal to consider tax increases for the wealthy in a time of historic inequity, of his backing of the distracting and gimmicky "cap, cut and balance" bill as the country headed toward crisis:

He's a Washington newcomer who didn't know the true consequences of posturing when the country's future was on the line. From now on, he won't have that excuse.

GOP's posturing during debt ceiling crisis brought U.S. to verge of disaster 08/09/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 9, 2011 7:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas detectives investigating shooting that led to car crash

    Public Safety

    LARGO — Pinellas Sheriff's detectives are investigating a shooting that investigators said led to a man crashing his car after he was shot in the abdomen early Tuesday.

  2. Trump tweets, McCain return set stage for health bill vote (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump urged Republicans to "step up to the plate" for Tuesday's crucial Senate vote on their bill eviscerating much of the Obama health care law. The stage was set for high drama, with Sen. John McCain returning to the Capitol to cast his first vote since being diagnosed with brain …

    President Donald Trump, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, and others, speaks about healthcare, Monday, July 24, 2017, in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington. [Associated Press]
  3. Teenage driver livestreams crash that killed sister in California (w/video)


    FRESNO, Calif. — A teenage driver lost control of her car while she was livestreaming on Instagram and recorded part of the crash that authorities say killed her younger sister in California.

    This July 22, 2017 photo provided by the Merced County Sheriff, shows Obdulia Sanchez in Merced, Calif. Sanchez has been arrested in California on suspicion of causing a deadly crash that she recorded live on Instagram. She was booked into the Merced County Jail on suspicion of DUI and vehicular manslaughter after Friday's crash that killed her 14-year-old sister and badly injured another 14-year-old girl. [Merced County Sheriff via AP]
  4. Fiancee: Clearwater driver in truck trafficking case helped people


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — When a long-haul truck driver from Clearwater called his fiancee Sunday from a jail more than 1,000 miles from home, he had only a few minutes to describe the gruesome events that led to him being charged with a crime in which he could face the death penalty.

    James Mathew Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, center, is escorted out of the federal courthouse following a hearing, Monday, July 24, 2017, in San Antonio. Bradley was arrested in connection with the deaths of multiple people packed into a broiling tractor-trailer. [Associated Press]
  5. Citizens fill a Pinellas County School Board meeting in 2016.