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The Democrats’ disastrous debt deal

By James K. Galbraith

06 Jun 2023 · 4 min read

informed Summary

  1. In achieving a deal with the Republicans to avoid a government default, the Democrats surrendered unnecessarily both on policies and principle, James K. Galbraith writes in PS.

AUSTIN – There is an odious American political mythology concerning bipartisanship, according to which bitter adversaries, scarred by battle, find common ground, join hands, and stroll off together into the sunset. It is mostly hokum. Ulysses S. Grant did not reconcile with Robert E. Lee after Appomattox. Franklin D. Roosevelt did not reconcile with Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression, nor John F. Kennedy with Richard Nixon after the 1960 election. One does hear sugary reminiscences of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill swapping blarney. But the real O’Neill fought Reagan – on principle and on politics – with everything he had.

In the spirit of the myth, US President Joe Biden recently praised Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy after committing an appalling act of political surrender – on tax enforcement, social programs, student debt, the environment, and more. Worst of all, Biden abandoned the principle that the debt ceiling should not obstruct progressive priorities in the future. But everything is all right, we are told, because Biden and McCarthy worked things out together. They even still like each other – or so Biden claims.

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