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Make My Day

By Eugene Robinson - July 15, 2011

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In a larger sense, though, it doesn't matter whom we owe. Choking off the government's ability to borrow would cause an unimaginable cash-flow crisis -- at least $306 billion in bills for August against just $172 billion in revenue.

The most hopeful sign is that some Republicans, at least, understand that their refusal to give an inch, even as Democrats show a willingness to compromise, means the GOP will be blamed if Social Security checks don't go out on time. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that the party's "brand" could be destroyed.

Indeed, a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday bears McConnell out. The survey found that 48 percent of voters would blame the GOP in the event of default while 34 percent would hold the Obama administration responsible. Even 20 percent of Republicans would point the finger at their own party. The business community -- both Wall Street and Main Street -- is increasingly nervous.

What's needed at this point is a way for House Republicans to climb down from the ledge on which they've marooned themselves. Obama has offered them a ladder -- about $1.7 trillion in budget cuts with no offsetting revenue. All they have to do is approve a big enough increase in the debt ceiling to avoid having this same fight every few months. They refuse.

McConnell has offered a plan that would essentially let Obama raise the debt ceiling himself -- taking the political heat -- with no mandatory budget cuts. House Republicans say no.

It would be satisfying to stand back and watch Republicans take the plunge. This must have occurred to Obama as he told the smirking, eye-rolling Cantor to bring it on -- but the president ended the meeting by telling congressional leaders he'd see them again Thursday.

Obama will continue to offer Republicans sensible ways to refrain from committing a shockingly unpatriotic act of economic vandalism. The unfortunate fact is that if they blow themselves up, they take the rest of us with them.

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eugenerobinson@washpost.com

Copyright 2011, Washington Post Writers Group

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