The new Washington Post/ABC News poll on the debt ceiling tells us something remarkable: Among Republicans who believe that not raising the debt ceiling would cause serious harm to the economy, a majority of them wants Congress not to raise it anyway. By contrast, Americans overall see it in the opposite way.
This is a complicated one, but it’s worth it. The new WaPo poll asks two questions on the debt limit. It finds that 46 percent of Americans want Congress to raise the debt limit “so the government can keep paying its bills and obligations,” while 43 percent want Congress “not to raise the debt limit and let the government default on paying its bills and obligations.”
That’s roughly an even split; the debt limit tends to poll that way.
Meanwhile, the poll also finds that 73 percent think not raising the debt limit would “cause serious harm to the U.S. economy,” versus only 22 percent who say it wouldn’t. How to explain the divergence? It turns out it’s largely driven by Republicans.
I asked the Post polling team for a breakdown. Here’s the upshot:
* Republicans are far more likely to oppose raising the debt limit than anyone else; they say don’t raise it by 61-25. By contrast, Dems say raise it by 62-31, and independents split by 48-46 on raising versus not raising it.
* Republicans, however, also believe overwhelmingly that not raising it would cause serious economic harm — by 66-27. (Dems and indys tilt the same way.)
* How to square that? Simple:
Among Republicans who believe not raising it would cause serious economic harm, a majority say don’t raise it by 53-32.
By contrast, among Americans overall who say not raising it would cause serious harm, they tilt in favor of raising it by 54-35. Independents who say not raising it would cause serious harm also tilt in favor of raising it by 58-36.
And there it is: Republicans want Congress not to raise the debt ceiling, even if it would cause widespread economic harm.
Almost all economists agree that a government default on the debt would have calamitous consequences for the economy. In 2011 just the threat of a default caused a severe economic shock.
So even Republicans who recognize the dangers of a default want it to happen anyway. What accounts for this? Do they believe an economic meltdown– and the widespread suffering it would cause– is necessary for the greater good of rescuing the nation from Obama-style “socialism”?
There is something either remarkably self-sacrificing or disturbingly self-destructive about this. Take your pick.