On September 26, The New York Times published another article helping to cover up the dangerous actions of Senate Republicans as they prepare to filibuster an increase in the debt ceiling — which would push the federal government into default, setting off an economic cataclysm — and instead chalking it up to a bipartisan “political game.”
The article was titled “America’s Need to Pay Its Bills Has Spawned a Political Game” and carried a sub-headline reeking of a both-sides narrative: “Republicans and Democrats have long sparred over raising the debt ceiling. But this time, the odds are growing that the U.S. could default.”
The third paragraph let Republicans off the hook for pushing the country toward a potential default: “Republicans agree the U.S. must pay its bills, but on Monday they are expected to block a measure in the Senate that would enable the government to do so.”
It was not until the 10th paragraph that any of the history of this supposed “sparring” was explained — and it showed that the hypocrisy and brinkmanship was entirely on the part of Senate Republicans, while Democrats had cooperated in raising the debt ceiling when they’d been out of power.
Republicans say they will not supply any votes to lift the debt cap, despite having run up trillions in new debt to pay for the 2017 tax cuts, additional government spending and pandemic aid during the Trump administration. Democrats, in contrast, helped President Donald J. Trump increase borrowing in 2017 and 2019.
“If they want to tax, borrow, and spend historic sums of money without our input,” Mr. McConnell said on the Senate floor this week, “they will have to raise the debt limit without our help.”
Unlike another shoddy Times article from last week, this article did contain the key piece of information that Senate Republicans are threatening to use the filibuster to impose a 60-vote threshold, thus hindering the Democratic majority in Congress from being able to avert a default on U.S. debt. But instead of spotlighting just how unprecedented and destructive this is, the article flipped the script back to Democrats for not using the option of incorporating the debt ceiling into the budget reconciliation process. (The procedures to do so are more complicated than the Times lets on, and a key Democratic lawmaker has said there isn’t enough time for it.)
The article’s 8th paragraph said that “congressional leaders and President Biden aren’t even attempting to negotiate a resolution,” but were instead “sparring over who should be saddled with a vote that could be used against them.”
It wasn’t until the 23rd paragraph that the article communicated that there was no basis for a negotiation at all — because of Republicans.
“The Republicans aren’t asking for anything,” said Jon Lieber, a former aide to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who now works for a prominent Washington consulting firm. “So their position is, there’s nothing you can do to get us to vote for a debt ceiling increase. That’s a dangerous situation.”
The Washington Post has previously reported on the potential economic consequences of a default: “Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, found that a prolonged impasse over the debt ceiling would cost the U.S. economy up to 6 million jobs, wipe out as much as $15 trillion in household wealth, and send the unemployment rate surging to roughly 9 percent from around 5 percent.”
And it’s articles like this in the Times, along with other mainstream media coddling of McConnell, that helps bring the country closer to that tipping point by conferring impunity on the perpetrators.
Update (9/27/21 5:00 p.m. EDT): The Times’ obfuscation continued into September 27, with an explainer piece titled “Explaining the U.S. Debt Limit and Why It Became a Bargaining Tool.” The piece continued to blame “political polarization” and “Congress” in general, before eventually acknowledging that Republicans had previously voted to raise the debt limit during the Trump years.