Picking winners and losers

If the August 2nd deadline comes and goes with no increase to the debt limit, on August 3rd, the Obama administration will have an exceedingly unpleasant task: deciding which bills will get paid and which won’t.

Far-right congressional Republicans, who fully intend to create a crisis on purpose, have begun arguing this week that they want seniors, troops, and bondholders at the front line. Which specific obligations would conservatives prefer to see the president ignore? As it turns out, they don’t want to talk about that.

[W]here will the immediate 44% cut in overall spending needed to avoid default come from instead? Michele Bachmann, who has gone so far as to demand the debt ceiling never be raised, dodged questions on the issue Wednesday by simply repeating her assertion that Social Security and troop pay be left sacrosanct.

Asked by TPM about what areas might need to be cut offset their proposed guarantees, Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-NY) offered a similar response, repeating that Social Security, Medicare, military pay, and veterans’ benefits should all be off limits. Pressed to name any savings — furloughing federal employees, shutting down various agencies — that might be preferable, she said her focus was only on calling out Obama’s threats.

Right. A party that doesn’t understand or care about governing decisions can’t be expected to answer governing questions. They know what sounds nice in a press release, but aren’t prepared to go any further. It’s easy to pick their favorite obligations; just don’t ask them to go further.

Congressional Republicans will gladly leave concepts like “depth of thought” to liberals. Silly eggheads.

Marie Diamond noted that several Democratic senators held an event this afternoon, pointing out that if the government “chooses to pay Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, military troops and interest on the debt, there would be no money for anything else.” As Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) explained, “We don’t have a dime for student loans. We don’t have money for the FBI. You don’t have anyone at the border. No one inspecting food.”

Federally-funded medical research would stop. Federal prisons, some of which house terrorists, would be cut off. Federal loans to small businesses would cease to be. We could keep this list going all day.

China, meanwhile, piped up this afternoon, urging Congress to do the “responsible” thing — and wouldn’t you know it, China just happens to be one of the United States’ biggest creditors (i.e., if there’s a list of who’ll be paid first, they expect to be near the top).

Every day, I have the exact same thought running through my head: I can’t believe this might actually happen. For all of my concerns about Republicans’ values and priorities, I’ve always assumed they love their country too much to deliberately go down this road. Here’s hoping they come to their senses before it’s too late.