Ted Cruz and the sedition caucus never intended to raise the debt ceiling. The 144 Republican House members and 18 Republican Senators voted against reopening the government and raising the debt ceiling because default was their goal. Sure, they wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. However, that was an added sugar coating to their objective of destroying our credit rating and ultimately, repudiating our debt.
Debt repudiation originated with Confederates who resented taxation to repay the Union’s war debt, while the Confederate debt was repudiated. That resentment is why section 4 was added to the 14th Amendment of the Constitution that the Tea Party always says it loves, but prefers to ignore.
Bruce Barlett explains the connection between the post-war South and today’s debt repudiators.
The Columbia University historian Eric Foner, an expert on the Civil War, recently recounted the debate over the postwar debt and demands by Southerners for repudiating the Union debt, which are echoed by many default advocates today. In those days, it was Democrats who supported default while Republicans opposed it; today it is the reverse.
There are still many in the South, where the Republican Party is now based, whose hostility to the national debt traces back to those days.
Cancelling the debt was always popular among far right wing economists and members of the fringe. Default enjoys support from 69% of the Tea Party.
In 1988, Pat Robertson used religion to advocate for debt repudiation. He wanted to declare a year of jubilee in which the debt would be cancelled. Newt Gingrich advocated default when he tried to crash the economy during the Clinton years. When Dick Cheney said the debt doesn’t matter, he was chanting the debt repudiator’s mantra.
The idea of debt repudiation enjoyed a dramatic increase in popularity when Barack Obama won the presidential election in 2008. Aside from achieving economic Armageddon, the debt repudiators fantasized about history blaming the black guy.
In fact, Donald Trump said it during a 2011 interview on Fox and Friends.
When it comes time to default, they’re not going to remember any of the Republicans’ names. They are going to remember in history books one name, and that’s Obama.
The idea gained legitimacy within the Tea Party because, according t0 Bartlett, it was espoused by Nobel Prize winning economist James Buchanan. Buchanan asserted that much debt based government financing and taxing people to pay for it is immoral. The Tea Party got its argument that default would force the government to balance the budget from Buchanan.
In his essay on The Ethics of Default Buchanan made an argument often repeated by libertarians and Tea Party members: if the Treasury were to default, no one would ever lend it money again, thus imposing a balanced budget; the government could only spend as much as tax revenue permitted.
That’s why Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and their House counterparts are trying again. They will keep trying just as their predecessors did as long as they are in Congress.
Ted Cruz and the sedition caucus are the latest to try to achieve what Gingrich couldn’t and what Robertson and Trump dreamed about.
There is nothing new about Ted Cruz or his approach. Cruz claims to be fresh and bold. However, he exploits ideas and resentments dating back to the Civil War. With these old ideas and resentments, he justifies his equally dated strategy of sedition.
Image: The Swash Zone