CANTOR: ‘AMERICA PAYS ITS BILLS,’ EXCEPT WHEN IT DOESN’T…. I don’t expect much from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), but his comments on the debt ceiling on CNBC this morning, flagged by Pat Garofalo, were especially annoying.

“First of all, Joe, you know, America pays its bills. I think everybody sort of agrees that we’ve got to pay our bills, but I don’t think that that comes at the exclusion of trying to fix the problem here. We are in a debt crisis, I think the markets, global investors, the American people are expecting us to deliver on our commitment that we’re going to change the spending crisis in Washington. So together with that debt limit vote has to be some real reforms. And I mean real.”

The notion that the United States is “in a debt crisis” is demonstrably ridiculous. It’s not only dumb for the House Majority Leader to talk like this on national television, it’s strikingly irresponsible. This guy just doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and the last thing we need is for investors, financiers, and foreign governments taking our conspicuously unintelligent House leader seriously about a “debt crisis” that doesn’t exist.

But what’s especially interesting about the quote was Cantor’s initial attempt to sound sensible: “American pays its bills.” That’d be far more encouraging if Cantor didn’t say, just seconds later, that he’s prepared to ensure that America won’t pay its bills unless he’s satisfied with the ransom Democrats pay in this little hostage strategy.

In the meantime, a couple of weeks after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) reached out to Wall Street, asking how much time he has to screw around on this before Republicans do real damage, the financial industry is now taking a more proactive role.

Wall Street executives and their Washington lobbyists have been meeting quietly with members of Congress — particularly reluctant House GOP freshman — to urge that they vote in favor of raising the $14.29 trillion debt limit as quickly as possible, sources close to the matter said.

Executives from the deep-pocketed industry that traditionally pumps millions into political campaigns are warning members that failure to raise the limit would risk a spike in interest rates, a possible collapse in equity prices, bank failures and a severe depression. […]

The executive said lobbyists and bank officials were instead meeting privately with members over coffee to make the case that the debt limit should be separated from the debate on long-term deficit and debt reduction.

Ordinarily, this would matter quite a bit when it comes to influencing GOP officials. We’ll see if it has any effect now.

In the meantime, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner wishes he didn’t have to, but he’s already “begun juggling the books to conserve cash, draining a special account at the Federal Reserve,” preparing for a mess Republicans are creating on purpose.

We’ll hit the debt limit in a few weeks. The breathtakingly reckless Republicans in Congress, for now, don’t seem to care.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.