The Taliban have invaded our house, the House of Representatives.
We expect irrational behavior from the Afghan Taliban, who sent a suicide bomber today to blow up a Kandahar mosque full of mourners for the murdered brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
But we don’t’t expect U.S. legislators to go fundamentalist and lead the country over a cliff.
Republican House members, led by House Majority leader Eric Cantor (Va.) are dragging us towards a debt default. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke warned of "a huge financial calamity" if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling: Interest rates would rise, the deficit would soar, and economic recovery would recede even further. America’s credit rating could be downgraded and another stock market slide could follow, pulling the world economy down.
Even the threat of default could undermine faith in U.S. Treasury securities, now the global gold standard. If we don't raise the debt ceiling we face a grim choice: default, or, repay our creditors and then fall short of funds to pay other critical obligations like Social Security or veterans benefits.
Meantime, global confidence in America's financial sanity - and ability to govern itself - would tumble. But the American Taliban don’t care.
They’ve rejected major White House concessions on budget cuts, and Obama's willingness to cut entitlements as part of a grand bargain. They’ve rejected efforts by their own House and Senate Republican leaders to work out a bipartisan deal. “No compromise” is their motto.
Most experts thought the House Taliban were bluffing, and would shift gears at the brink. But, more and more, it looks like the House Taliban are willing to blow our economy up in the name of principle.
I’ve seen what happens in countries where this kind of politics is practiced and it isn’t pretty. I have seen what happens in nations where people embrace irrational political movements because they offer (false) certainty in confusing times. Is this the kind of politics we want here?
Let’s hope these House Taliban come to their senses and recognize this is America, not Afghanistan. But we have no time to lose.