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    Getting real

    As the clock ticks down toward financial catastrophe – we’re now just 11 days away from America defaulting on its debt – the uncompromising, tea-partying House conservatives who are holding the nation hostage may well wish to contemplate this new warning:”Default is not an option….Failure to raise the debt ceiling would have calamitous results. It would halt government operations, make our debt and deficit situation worse, debase the value of the dollar and threaten its status as the world’s reserve currency, and hamper U.S. growth and job creation.” Regardless of who’s to blame for the crisis, “jeopardizing our country’s credit rating and fiscal security while refusing to compromise isn’t the answer.”Some liberal must have said that, right? Some hyperbolic Obama socialist, right?Wrong. That warning about “devastating” consequences, that urgent plea for compromise, was voiced yesterday by R. Bruce Josten, executive vice president for government affairs…at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Yes, even the Republicans’ most loyal friends in the business world understand that there are times when uncompromising absolutist ideology must yield to the exigencies of factual reality.And here’s a similar plea, voiced on television the other day:”There’s got to be a compromise…They’ve got to get this done immediately, or the uncertainty for the business community is going to be just devastating to our country….It’s not going to get done without some compromise, and when it’s affecting states now, it’s creating great uncertainty, there’s massive unhappiness with the federal government generally over its inability to do the basic things that government needs to do.”There are two takeaways from that quote: (1) compromise is crucial, and (2) the federal government has a vital role to play in helping this nation function. So that’s gotta be a liberal talking, right?Nope. That was Virgina Governor Bob McDonnell, a conservative Republican.Care to guess why McDonnell has opted to get real? And why he wrote a letter to all the Washington players this week, lamenting that “your failure to get the job done is hurting the businesses and citizens of our commonwealth”?Because all of a sudden this debt ceiling crisis is no longer an abstraction, no longer a plaything for the ideologues. It has become very real, with real consequences for real people.For starters, even conservatives like McDonnell have come to realize that all kinds of federal money needs to keeps flowing unabated to the states – because if the flow is interrupted, if a defaulting federal government has to decide which payments to make and which payments to skip, the states will be up the creek.It’s one thing to rhetorically inveigh against the purported tyranny of Washington. But as McDonnell well knows, states such as Virginia depend on the nuts-and-bolts Washington transactions that would be jeopardized by a credit default: namely, the timely arrival of Medicaid payments, jobless payments, highway construction payments (at the peak of roadwork season), tuition assistance payments (on the eve of the new academic year) – you know, little trifles such as those.Compromise, of course, will require that the anti-tax House absolutists face reality and recognize that a deficit-reduction deal must include some tax revenue hikes (if only on the rich). Yet their commissar, Beltway lobbyist Grover Norquist, insisted in print this morning that “fiscal conservatives must stick to their commitment to oppose tax increases…the commitment is to the people of their states and the nation.”Yeah, go tell it to the parents – of all political persuasions – whose federal tuition assistance will be imperiled.And even though House Speaker John Boehner is reportedly negotiating with President Obama for a “grand bargain” deal that would supposedly include some higher tax revenues some time down the road (via a tax code overhaul), he continues to send out mixed messages. While talking to reporters yesterday, he said something downright adult (“At the end of the day, we have a responsibility to act”), before promptly kowtowing to the extremists in his ranks (“I’ve never voted to raise taxes, and I don’t intend to”). He also bowed at the feet of Rush Limbaugh, declaring on the air that he is not a compromiser: “Well, Rush, there is no deal. No deal publicly, no deal privately. There is absolutely no deal.” Which is why a deficit-reduction deal is still not getting done; and without a deal that’s amenable to the Republican extremists, there won’t be a vote to raise the debt ceiling. Folks, we’ve now reached the point where the House Republicans are positioned to the right of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. What more will it take for these people to get real?——-How weak is the Republican presidential field? According to the newly-released Fox News poll, Obama would easily beat all the candidates (plus prospective aspirant Rick Perry) if the election was held today. He’d defeat each of them by double digits, with the sole exception of Mitt Romney, who’d lose by six points. All this, despite the sour public mood and rotten economic climate.But take heart, Republicans. Donald Trump told Fox News this week that he might still take the plunge.——-Speaking of taking the plunge, stay cool this weekend. The heat index in the Northeast is slated to soar into the triple digits…but wait, did you know that the very concept of a “heat index” is merely a “manufactured” Big Government conspiracy to sell the canard of global warming?So says Rush Limbaugh. On the air yesterday, the pasha of blowhard radio said: “They’re playing games with us on this heat wave, again!…Going to be ‘116’ in Washington. No, it’s not! It’s gonna be like 100, maybe 99! A ‘heat index,’ manufactured by the government to tell you what it feels like when you add the humidity in there!”Good grief, we’re so polarized these days that we can’t even agree on the weather.

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