By Jon Winsor
A theme we’ve been exploring at the Intersection is the Republican tendency to reject or disregard expertise, particularly scientific expertise, and also settled facts among experts on US history.
National Journal recently had an interesting and unsettling article on GOP freshmen in congress and their attitudes toward what experts have been telling them about the debt ceiling:
“This is probably the most whip-proof Congress we’ve seen in our lifetime,” said Mike Franc, a former aide to then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, who is vice president of government studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “They don’t defer to credentials and expertise very easily. You have to earn it big time with them. Whipping almost by its nature requires a certain amount of trust and deference that someone really knows what they’re doing and is part of a team, and in that way you’re dealing with a different kind of Republican Party.”
…[T]roubling to anyone fearing a U.S. default is the growing chorus of Republican lawmakers and leaders who openly and defiantly question whether the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling needs to be raised at all.
One of those debt ceiling skeptics is a Republican presidential candidate presently polling in second place in Iowa:
Newly declared GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., echoed a popular view among some Republican lawmakers on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday when she said that the August 2 deadline set by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is a lie.
Geithner holds no sway among House Republicans, whose contempt for the deadline only accelerated once Treasury, in May, moved the target date for default from July to August. That decision prompted a suspicion that the new early-August deadline is fully negotiable.
Ezra Klein has a rundown on what failure to raise the debt ceiling might look like. Josh Marshall discusses the polling numbers and the strange state of the debate around the issue, citing a Gallop poll that shows that 34% of the people polled don’t feel like they know enough about the issue to have an opinion. This actually seems sensible, considering that since 1962, the debt ceiling was raised 75 times without much fanfare–so the public hasn’t had to learn much about debt ceiling authorization. Let’s hope these people won’t need to learn…
Update: In yesterday’s column, David Brooks is onto this meme as well:
A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth of government…
But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative…
The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.