The ’cause’ of the crisis

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had a fairly long harangue on the Senate floor this morning, not only touting House Speaker John Boehner’s (R) budget proposal, but identifying what he considers the “cause” of the current crisis. As McConnell sees it, “the debt crisis” has “brought us to this point.”

“The crisis our nation faces at this moment has a very simple cause: Washington spends a lot more money every year than it takes in. […]

“Right now the president is asking Congress to raise the debt ceiling by more than it’s ever been raised before, even as the nation is teetering on the edge of a crisis caused by debt. Let me repeat: our nation is facing a crisis because of the size of our debt.”

I have no idea if McConnell believes a word of this. It’s possible the Senate Minority Leader just isn’t an intelligent person, who struggles to keep up with current events, and it’s also possible McConnell is playing a cheap game, throwing around false claims and hoping no one knows the difference.

But in case there’s any confusion here, I’m delighted McConnell believes we’re in the midst of a crisis. Some Republicans seem to think there’s no real threat here, but the Minority Leader, to his credit, kept using the “c” word, suggesting he’s not completely oblivious to the seriousness of the situation.

The problem is, McConnell knows there’s a crisis, but he doesn’t know what it is.

The confused Kentuckian’s rhetoric is just gibberish. To hear him tell it, the deficit and debt have reached crisis levels. If only McConnell could take the next step and explain why he believes this. After all, the United States has a manageable debt, low interest rates, low inflation, and the ability to borrow on the cheap. We’re not even seeing the debt crowd out private investment. If the United States were in the midst of a debt crisis, the interest rate on 10-year bonds would be soaring. Instead, the rates are at all-time lows.

McConnell, in the other words, isn’t quite sharp enough to realize why we’re in the midst of a crisis. He knows something’s wrong, but he’s identified the wrong problem.

In Grown-Up Land, the crisis we’re struggling to contain has been manufactured entirely by McConnell and his fellow congressional Republicans. They’re refusing to raise the debt ceiling, which is threatening the economy, stability, and credibility of the United States in ways unseen in our history. If McConnell and Boehner want to resolve the crisis, it’s within their power to do so today — they can raise the debt ceiling.

But they don’t want to, even after Democrats have made overly-generous offers. That‘s the “very simple cause” of the crisis.

If McConnell doesn’t understand this, he should ask someone to explain it to him, not lie about it on the Senate floor.