The debt ceiling talks appear to have stalled and the August 2nd date of economic doom draws neigh. Wall Street bankers, The Fed, the Treasury Department, and most every economist on the planet believe that hitting the debt ceiling will have dire consequences, and that actually defaulting on the debt would be even worse. Estimates vary in terms of the degree of catastrophe, but virtually no one in a position to be considered an expert on macroeconomics thinks that hitting the ceiling will be no big deal.
In that light, the poll results depicted here are truly frightening. 53% of Republicans, 43% of Independents, and even over a quarter of Democrats believe hitting the ceiling won’t cause a crisis. Further, somewhere around 60 Congressmen have vowed to vote against any debt ceiling increase, no matter the deal. Clearly they aren’t worried either.
Chauncey DeVega, over at AlterNet, thinks the reason is that evangelicals have a strong hold on the GOP, and that the fervently faithful have a mindset that ignores numbers that don’t agree with their ideology. He posits that the Tea Party and other far right conservative groups are running on faith rather than fact. While there may be some truth to that, it doesn’t explain the plurality of Independents or the chunk of Democrats beholden to the notion that banging into the debt ceiling is a non-event.
I personally think there’s also an element here of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”. Political issues have become so hyperbolic in the media that virtually every issue is positioned as a looming Armageddon of one sort or another. Unless you’re following the minutiae of the debates, you’re bound to get pretty numb to all the doomsaying.
However, presumably our elected officials are above simply blowing in the media wind. They have access to data and discussions those of us in the cheap seats do not. They are in the position to be able to discern hyperbole from actual danger. Yet this would not prevent them from being blinded to facts by faith.
GOP legislators faith-blindness goes beyond the debt ceiling. Similar faith-trumps-data rationale fuels denial of global warming, belief that tax cuts don’t have to be paid for, belief that progressive tax codes constitute class warfare and destroy jobs, belief that trickle down economics is always the answer, and government regulation is always evil.
The problem is that proving that tax cuts actually lower revenue, or that CO2 contributes to global warming, requires many years of data. And even then,the results are subject to interpretation and are not readily understandable by the average Joe.
Should we hit it, the debt ceiling presents an interesting test case. If the experts are right, the impact will be felt in the very short term. It will be widespread, affecting almost everyone, everywhere. And the impact will be felt for awhile. It will be virtually impossible to deny that such an impact was directly attributable to ignoring the debt ceiling. The Conservatives who claimed it would be no big deal will be demonstrably and painfully proved wrong beyond any reasonable doubt.
Should that come to pass, the question is, will that shake the faith of Conservative politicians and supporters in their other sacred tenets? Might they be willing to entertain the reality of global warming given the catastrophic impact of their blind faith in the debt ceiling non-crisis? Or will this be swept under the rug much like the predicted May 21st end of the world predictions. That was also proved wrong, but the faithful seem to somehow have accepted that failure with no apparent impact on their other beliefs. Maybe a sufficiently strong faith is even able to overcome incontrovertible reality.
Either way, if the economy tanks, it should certainly cause the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” crowd to pay attention. Maybe that bodes well for our collective political future if we can at least get the majority of the voters to begin operating from data-based rather than faith-based policies. Although, it would be a hellish way to learn a lesson.