Wednesday, October 16, 2013

New Pew Poll Finds Key To Default Madness: 52% of Tea Party Supporters Say Debt Limit Should Not Be Raised

To understand the madness in Washington, look no further than the new Pew Poll finding that 52% of Tea Party supporters do not support raising the debt limit. Not at all. That poll number explains all the madness in Washington DC where the Tea Party has ruled for the last 16 days.

Never mind that 99% of economists, Tea Party funders like the US Chamber of Commerce, and major business leaders with profit and loss responsibility all say the consequence of default is an economic disaster more serious than the 2008 meltdown.

Tea party congressmen are impervious to economic knowledge or facts about the debt limit and default, as they are to the findings of 99% of climate scientists or 99% of scientists who support evolution. The combination of Tea Party ideology and its political power within the Republican Party is disastrous not only for the Big Money creators and enablers of the Tea Party but also tragically for the nation itself.

The only small hope that I can sift from the wreckage created by the Congressional horror house is a possible dawning among the nation's business elite and right wing billionaires, the funders of GOP extremism, that things are now out of their control. Perhaps, the US Chamber of Commerce that ranks among the top enablers of Tea Party madness and other sobering parts of what is left of the GOP establishment just might stir themselves to disable the monster they have created.  Yet, even if they move now to undo their historic mistake, it may be too late to avert disaster.


  1. Dear Mr. Hanger, this post does not seem to me to be void of ideological junk, like the tagline of the blog suggests.

    OK, so I'd like to be persuaded that this post is not along the lines of "ideological junk." That tagline was what first attracted me here. It's nothing more than an appeal to an imagined authority to suggest, "99% of XYZ believe ABC." There's no need to debate the details here, I don't imagine they are up for consideration. So you are saying that people who disagree with you about government spending are like people who deny evolution? Furthermore, the 99% climate consensus that you report is a consensus about what? This is a tiring meme to sift through time and again in factless rants. To point out a couple of nutty republicans who deny that CO2 is even a greenhouse gas is not sufficient. As you surely know, the "real" consensus extends ONLY as far as this:

    Here are some facts are about the climate that are part of the consensus:

    The planet has warmed about at about 0.7 degrees centigrade over the past century. Who is denying that? It ain’t me.

    Carbon dioxide has been demonstrated to be a greenhouse gas. Who is denying that? It ain’t me.

    Our basic climate understanding (i.e. the models) indicate that if we doubled CO2 from pre-industrial levels (which were close to 280 ppm, we are very near 400 right now) then temperatures, knowing what we know about carbon dioxide, should double. The 0.7 increase does seem to be in line with that (mostly, I have seen, even among alarmists, “concern” that this number ought to have been larger). Hence if we continue to double CO2 over the next century, the planet will warm by 1 degree centigrade, all else equal. Who is denying that? It ain’t me.

  2. But that’s about where the real scientific consensus ends, and certainly where the major disagreements begin. Because as others have pointed out countless times, only to be slandered as anti-science lunatics, in order for us to need to roll back industrial civilization, in order for us to rapidly impose decarbonization, in order for us to retreat to the pre-civilization gift economies that so many folks seem to long for, one would have to demonstrate that:

    When CO2 concentrations increase, the planet will warm by much more than the basic greenhouse gas theory indicates. So, the climate models believe that there are positive feedback loops which will amplify the impacts of 1 degree of warming into something closer to 6 degrees of warming. There is absolutely no settled science here.

    Call this step 1a: we have to assume that even with our limited knowledge that we have any capability at all of modeling something as complex as climate – with really only 100+ years of data using measurements (even if all of those measurements are correct) and at best another 1000 years or so using temperature proxies (assuming no problems with those things). We’ve discussed this in the past in terms of how it compares to macroeconometric modeling. Let’s just say this is little more than a guessing game.

    Then we are going to have to assume that all of the warming that we have observed (and model) comes from humans. Of course it is almost surely true that humans are the reason why CO2 concentrations are higher today (there are some legitimate folks who do not think this is necessarily true, but ignore them). And by extension we’d have to argue that all of the potential future catastrophically bad warming will be solely because of human activities.

    Then we have to know, with some degree of certainty, exactly what will happen to the Earth as it warms. And we will have to argue that as this happens over the course of decades or perhaps a century-long time scale that the challenges will prove un-over-comeable. So, we’d have to draw linkages between warmer climate to rising seas (easy enough), expanding malarial ranges (almost as easy), changes in farm productivity (sort of easy) and so on.

    But not only that, we have to know with some degree of certainty that these changes caused by warming, are not only tough to deal with, but are catastrophically bad.

    But not only that, we have to know with more than some degree of certainty that rolling back industrial civilization is the way to best deal with (5).

    All of this is assuming of course that in nowhere along the way is anyone motivated by political or ideological reasons either on the science or policy side, so that we actually could be having a serious entertainment of the inquiry. But I’m a 9 foot tall Nobel Prize winner if that is true.

    There's more to say there.

    1. Well, at least you seem to accept that there are such things as greenhouse gases: gases that trap heat. You seem to accept that the concentrations are rising. You may accept that the concentrations are today at levels not seen in millions of years or well before human beings walked the earth. You do also seem to accept temperatures are up. That's a start. I would agree there is plenty of important discussion about what to do about it. To do absolutely nothing, however, makes no sense.

  3. And then onto the unquestioned authority with which you talk about the debt limit. You know, some folks want a smaller government, on either deontological grounds or even on consequentialists grounds. Saying that 99% of economists think this would be bad tells us little about what the empirical evidence says, totally dismisses the preferences of a substantial share of the US population, and also says nothing of the fact that the US can easily fund itself for the next 6 months without coming close to default - the default you suggest here is actually going to be a policy choice if indeed we get that far. And that is for two reasons - the fact that cash flows can easily be reprioritized certainly as tax revenues far exceed any debt interest obligations and secondly since the Treasury is indebted to the SSA to the tune of nearly $3 trillion - and the SSA redemption of the $3 trillion would lower the debt outstanding by this amount. $3 trillion is enough to fund the federal government for almost an entire year.

    So, do you think folks who wish to see a smaller, yet more effective, government are not worthy of consideration? Are they all anti-science cranks? Do they all have the brain power of a typical 4th grader? I'm sorry, but commentary such as the one you have provided for us (freely of course, which is your right) does not advance us any one bit anymore than you and I having an argument over which of our two states is prettier - that would be New York of course.

    1. It is a FACT that the overwhelming number of economists say the US not paying its bills (and that includes much more than interest payments) is an economic disaster. Only Tea Party ideologues deny that FACT. Even Tom Donahue, the head of the US Chamber of Commerce, says the default deniers know nothing about which they talk. Economists across the political spectrum say the default position of GOP extremists is madness, dangerous madness. To refuse to say what I have just written is to enable ideological junk in its most virulent, plainest form.

    2. Thank you for the responses. With all due respect, I too am an economist and I too am in the cadre of economists who know a true default would likely bring recession and poorer macro results in the short term. But this is not the point I am making, but perhaps is the one you intend to. The deeper points are that this may perhaps be desired by folks in the long run, and there is certainly no economic consensus on the long term result from lower spending, which presumably comes along with the bad stuff from the default. Second, my point is that default is not imminent right now. If the government defaults, it is still at this point a CONSCIOUS policy choice for the two reasons I outlined above. To ignore that and to point to tomorrow as "THE day" is akin to ideological junk - and again, no economist I know disagrees. To paraphrase your last point, to refuse to say what I just wrote is certainly to enable ideological junk as well. So where does that leave reasonable people?

    3. Anyone can argue for a radically smaller government. That's fine. But pretending that putting the full faith and credit of the US at risk as a means to that end is not dangerous is ideological junk. Economic damage has already been done. Interest rates on Treasuries have risen. Fitch has indicated a downgrade is now possible. The Chinese are talking about leading an effort to "de-americanize" the world financial other words remove the dollar as the world's reserve currency. The key to any financial system is CONFIDENCE. That's why virtually all economists and financial experts are appalled or just scared by the Default Denier ideology at the root of the Tea Party extremism. The confidence of investors has been shaken. Hopefully, the remaining adults in DC will be able to stop the madness before confidence breaks, as it did on September 15, 2008 within hours of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. This whole situation is reckless beyond words.

  4. I think we must control our spending and take a hard look at everything - even the third rail and revising the tax code. Also - i think that the health care law should be applied equally and to all elected officials and govt agencies and all union contracts with govt and school districts.