A head-shaking perspective

After seeing this quote from the Senate Republican leadership, Michael Cohen concludes, “We’re governed by idiots.” It hardly seems like an unreasonable assessment.

“President Obama needs to decide between his goal of higher taxes, or a bipartisan plan to address our deficit,” Mr. McConnell and Mr. Kyl said in a joint statement. “He can’t have both. But we need to hear from him.”

It’s hard to even know where to start with such nonsense, though I would love to hear what McConnell and Kyl consider a “bipartisan” plan. If the answer is, “a plan that gives Republicans everything they want and ignores Democratic appeals,” I’d encourage them to reference a dictionary.

But to me, that wasn’t even the worst McConnell quote from the afternoon. This was.

“Where in the world has the president been for the last month?” Mr. McConnell said. “What does he propose? What is he willing to do to reduce the debt and to avoid this crisis that is building on his watch? He’s the one in charge.”

Let’s take these one at a time.

“Where in the world has the president been for the last month?” Well, he’s been leading the executive branch at a time of multiple crises. He doesn’t have time to hold Congress’ hand through the Republican hostage strategy, but he designated the vice president to give it a try. It stands to reason Vice President Biden is authorized to represent President Obama’s interests in these talks, so it’s not as if the White House has taken a hands-off approach. Just the opposite is true — the bipartisan talks was the White House’s idea.

“What does he propose?” Well, President Obama presented a $4 trillion debt-reduction plan in April. It constitutes what “he proposes,” since it’s what he proposed. If memory serves, Republicans are familiar with the plan, since they whined incessantly for days about Obama hurting their feelings after he presented it.

“What is he willing to do to reduce the debt and to avoid this crisis that is building on his watch?” Well, we know what he’s willing to do (see the $4 trillion debt-reduction plan mentioned above), but the notion that there’s a debt “crisis” that’s “building on his watch” is completely insane.

The driving factors of the debt are Republican policies, which incidentally, Mitch McConnell is partially responsible for. That’s not opinion; it’s quantifiable fact. And the only debt “crisis” we have to worry about is the one that would occur if McConnell and congressional Republicans deliberately refuse to raise the debt ceiling and crash the economy on purpose.

I don’t know Mitch McConnell, and I can’t say with confidence whether he’s dumb or simply pretending to be dumb. But if the U.S. debt had reached a “crisis” level, we’d see the government crowding out private investment and high interest rates. In reality, we see the exact opposite — it’s never been easier for the United States to borrow lots of money, give the American economy a boost, create lots of jobs, etc.

Put it this way: the yield on 10-year Treasuries is below 3%. How many times has it been this low over last half-century? Zero.

But since we’re “governed by idiots,” we’re stuck in a conversation about solving a problem that doesn’t exist, while ignoring a problem that does exist. It’s more than a little frustrating.