The current game of chicken over the government default issue is putting enormous stress on the national consensus that we are a law-abiding society.
Tea Partiers, living in a bygone era, think they are being courageous in standing up to liberals and others who want to change the nature of the land they grew up in and love. Their ideological ferocity has found its outlet in exploiting some technical wrinkles in our financial system, to the point where they insist that unless the President capitulates, the government won ‘t have enough money to pay its bills and will default on its debts, causing a financial earthquake with global repercussions. However, the President has a strong hand, and can be expected to stand firm. As the liberals frequently point out, he is upholding an existing law, and that’s what it’s all about.
As many experts have pointed out, if the default happens the President will either break one law, and print more money in spite of its being against that law, or break several others, involving the government’s legal financial obligations.
As this becomes obvious it will become clear that the Tea Party’s dogged foolishness threatens not just the President’s program, not just the Republican prospects in the next election, but the people’s respect for the law itself. That respect is an essential ingredient in our country’s ability to hang together.