Friday, August 12, 2011

Catch of the Day

I really enjoyed this Greg Sargent item about Michele Bachmann. Turns out that just after Bachmann claimed (again) during the Ames debate that the S&P downgrade proved her right, the folks at S&P made it even clearer than previously that, no, a big part of the downgrade was actually the prominent political influence of people (such as Michele Bachmann) who welcome default.

Remember, Bachmann's position isn't that the deficit deal wasn't good enough. Her position was -- is -- that the debt limit should never go up. Period. End of story. No matter what the trade-off. In that sense, S&P isn't entirely wrong. The risk of US default would equal the risk that (1) Bachmann becomes president, and (2) actually carries about the policy she has pledged to carry out. I continue to believe the odds of that first one are remote indeed, and I have no idea about the second part of it, but I suppose I also have no idea how S&P should go about assessing the risk of all of that happening.

I'm not sure I can think of a presidential candidate similar to Bachmann, with her combination of fringe positions, well-rehearsed rhetoric, and lack of contact with reality. She's very different from Sarah Palin or George W. Bush, both of whom were mostly indifferent to and ignorant of government and public affairs. Bachmann isn't that. She's a lot more like Ron Paul, in some ways, but there's a partisanship to her that works a lot differently than Paul's views work for him.

See also Joe Scarborough, quoted here.

And: great catch!


  1. Isn't Bachmann truly irrelevant (I mean Ron Paul type irrelevance) now that Rick Perry is in?

  2. Bachmann may be irrelevant, but her views and the forces attracted to or influenced by them aren't.

    In the world that JB dwells in, the world in which what he knows continues to work, he's right that Bachmann's only slightly more likely to become president than JB himself, and that's good enough - as long as the world keeps on running more or less as it has for most of modern American history. But Bachmann and Perry are both recognizable types on the American scene, taken seriously by one of our two major parties, and especially by its most committed and active segment. It's not hard to imagine the type growing in prominence, radicalism, and power over a decade or so, especially in a bad larger historical/economic/political context, while also encountering diametrically opposed forces escalating from the other direction, forces with even more cavalier attitude towards debt, or, more specifically, the particular holders of debt. If you're S&P or anyone else expected to estimate macro-level risks, you don't have to consider the scenario likely to treat Tea Party radicalism as at least potentially a harbinger.

  3. But I for one think that there's virtually no chance that a President Perry would welcome default in January 2013; if Perry wins, I expect that the debt limit will be raised without much fuss. Sure, Perry and some of the others are willing to say all sorts of crazy things, but as we just saw the evidence is that they don't really believe it.

  4. "I'm not sure I can think of a presidential candidate similar to Bachmann, with her combination of fringe positions, well-rehearsed rhetoric, and lack of contact with reality. "

    Ronald Reagan?

  5. Prez Perry (shiver) would no doubt declare that the debt limit, so tragically, had to be raised to pay for all of his pathetic predecessor's "big government schemes." That could continue to be the line, to whatever extent anyone was interested in the question: Look at this horrible thing that big government traitors to Real America, Inc. have forced us to cope with. The real danger to full faith and credit probably wouldn't be debt limit hostage situations, but the breakdown of American social-political integrity - which is what the specter of default always really meant. Again, you don't have to see any of the various "deadly scenarios" as likely futures to acknowledge them as a little more believable, by the difference between AA+ and AAA.


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