Struggling with the ‘Reality Gap’

Dave Weigel noted yesterday, “There is a Reality Gap in the negotiations over the debt limit.”

I not only think that’s true; I think that gap is beginning to define American politics.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) appeared on “Hardball” the other day, and was asked to defend his pro-default approach to governing. Pressed by Chris Matthews for evidence, King replied, “I don’t trust the words of any source.”

This was amusing, in a soul-crushing sort of way, but it was also predictable. As David Brooks recently noted, the contemporary Republican Party is dominated by those who “do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities.”

This would include those who believe in arithmetic. Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) argued today that if the government raises revenue, it will make the debt worse. Why? Because taxes lead to “fewer revenue dollars.” In other words, having more money in the Treasury would mean having less money in the Treasury.

He wasn’t kidding.

Then there’s this gem, that actually managed to surprise me.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), another freshman, said that a much bigger fear was that raising the debt ceiling would enable Washington to spend itself into paralyzing debt in a few years.

“A debt-ceiling problem, as large as it is, is not anywhere near as a big or as bad as” that, Brooks said. If Aug. 2 arrives without a deal, Brooks said, the federal government could continue paying creditors. He said that a show of tough fiscal self-discipline could actually improve creditors’ confidence.

“There should be no default on August 2,” Brooks said. “In fact, our credit rating should be improved by not raising the debt ceiling.”

Got that? Here we have an elected federal lawmaker who believes failing to raise the debt ceiling will be good for the nation’s credit rating. He’s even willing to admit this belief on the record, to one of the nation’s leading newspapers.

A senior administration official recently noted those who simply choose not to believe any of the warning related to the debt limit. “These are the kinds of people who get eaten by bears,” the official said.

That’s true, but what happens when these lunatics hold us all back so severely that that the bears get all of us?

The problem that plagues the nation is not about competing parties, ideologies, or creeds. It comes down to a dispute between those who believe empirical reality exists and deserves to be taken seriously vs. those who don’t. With Republican members of Congress and their supporters choosing the latter, it’s increasingly difficult to imagine the United States thriving in the 21st century.