Hint: the GOP doesn't really care about the deficit; if you are skeptical please hear me out. The USA is only 7 days away from a crippled-economy-crippling default. I'd think that the "fiscally responsible" GOP would be willing to go to great lengths to ensure there is no default. Of course, I'd be wrong. Instead the new GOP motto is becoming "Party above Country" but let me explain why.
The GOP is practicing opportunistic politicking and little more. Whereas Republican individuals do, rightfully, care about the deficit, the GOP leadership is manipulating that feeling into something I only assume they hope will lead to a Republican victory in 2012. In that vein, the GOP leadership is attempting to shift blame for the deficit to the Democrats. If they are against the deficit, then the Democrats must be for the deficit, right? It makes it appear as if the GOP is not responsible for it. Let me point out some contradictory facts.
Our current fiscal crisis has several major factors: two (Republican) wars, a recession (caused by Republican regulation-gutting) and the Bush tax cuts. And do not forget the expensive Bush medicare prescription program. I'm not against subsidizing drugs for seniors but I am against tying the hands of our government against negotiating the price of medication. This amounts to corporate welfare for pharmaceutical companies, which not coincidentally is the largest lobbyist industry in the country.
Recession aside, Republicans knew their other programs would greatly increase the deficit. But before they dusted off their deficit hawk-skin hat, Dick Cheney infamously said "Deficits don't matter." I cannot recall a single bit of GOP leadership criticism of that comment making national headlines. I remember having to pick my jaw off my desk after Cheney reportedly said that, and contra my expectations, the deafening GOP silence that followed.
Indeed during the W years Republicans voted to increase the debt ceiling five times. The W Administration said that increasing the debt ceiling was vital to our national interest. Where was the GOP outrage then?
The kicker though is that Republicans have already voted for this debt back when they voted for this year's budget (in April 2011). This is important to understand: the money involved in this debt ceiling increase has already been spent by Republicans (and Democrats). This is because for ugly historical reasons, Congress votes to spend money and then has Treasury balance the books. If Treasury needs to borrow money to spend the money Congress forces them to spend, they must also get permission from Congress to borrow the money they must spend. There's a really good Planet Money Podcast explaining the debt ceiling. And don't forget that for this budget, the GOP fought tooth and nail to keep tax cuts for the millionaires.
So now the GOP, having already increased our debt, is playing financial chicken with Democrats. They are trying to eat their cake and have it too. If you have a Republican Senator or Congressperson, please contact them and urge them to reach a compromise quickly. Because if you think we have a debt problem now, just wait until we default and our debt becomes really expensive. If that happens we will be flushing money down the toilet, personally flushed by the fiscally irresponsible GOP.