Last week we discovered, thanks to a niche media outlet, that Republicans are right now plotting about how they’ll destroy the economy as well as Social Security and Medicare if they take Congress. Last Tuesday, Bloomberg Government reported on Republican plans to use an must-pass increase debt ceiling next fall to make massive cuts to social insurance programs, like Social Security and Medicare, and force right-wing policies like spending caps and work requirements on safety net programs.
Not increasing the debt ceiling would mean the U.S. would default on its debts, which would be economically catastrophic, and not just domestically. Even flirting with a default is economically damaging—we know that now because Republicans did it in 2011 and 2013, increasing borrowing costs by $1.3 billion and as much as $70 million in those years, respectively.
But like every disaster Republicans court, the traditional media is treating this as though it were business as usual. They don’t point out every time it happens that Republicans are filibustering every important piece of legislation, and that this is abnormal and destroying the institution of the Senate. They treat Republicans’ annual threat of a government shutdown—which sometimes happens more than once a year—as just another thing Congress does.
And, as Media Matters records this time around, the traditional media is not even reporting that Republicans right now are talking about what they’ll do to the country and to Social Security and Medicare if they win Congress. In an election that’s supposed to be all about the economy—Republicans say so!—this should be as high a priority for headlines as gas prices anywhere.
MSNBC had one segment in the past week on this; Chris Hayes interviewing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). It’s an excellent interview. “The Republicans are loud and clear about this,” Warren told Hayes. “There are already Republicans saying that if they can get control of the House or the Senate then they’re going to hold hostage things like Social Security and Medicare.”
And, that was it: “the story hasn’t been referenced elsewhere this week on MSNBC, or on CNN, or on Fox News,” Media Matters reports. They know because they record it all. “The nationally broadcast morning and evening news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC haven’t discussed it. It hasn’t been mentioned in the pages of major newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today.”
“Republicans Gain Edge as Voters Worry About Economy, Times/Siena Poll Finds,” a headline on the NYT website Monday shouts. A quick search for “Republicans, debt ceiling” for the past week turns up nothing. The same at the Post, although they do have a story about Republicans’ economic goals for their potential majority: extending the Trump tax cuts to the rich, and it contains one sentence about their plans for the debt ceiling and Social Security.
Republicans just can’t shut up about how they intend to end the Social Security and Medicare. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida wants them to sunset every five years. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin thinks they need to be voted on and authorized every single year. There are some very concrete threats.
So is saying out loud, right now, that the debt ceiling is going to be a hostage if they make it. It’s on par with this spring’s leak of the Supreme Court’s abortion decision in terms of norms being broken and potential impending disaster. It should be front and center every time anyone in the traditional media talks about how the economy is driving this election.
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