IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Republicans are testing Americans’ intelligence with debt talks

The GOP is betting Americans will blame Biden and Democrats for a potential default on the nation’s debt, even as Republicans brag about being hostage-takers.


Are you smarter than a House speaker? The debt limit discussions are a surefire way to put yourself to the test, because Republicans are betting big on ignorance. 

Republican lawmakers have been refusing to raise the debt limit, as they did routinely while running up the deficit during Donald Trump’s presidency, unless Democrats agree to massive spending cuts. It’s political hostage-taking, as Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida plainly admitted while saying that his fellow Republicans should hold out until Democrats agree to the reductions outlined in the GOP’s “Limit, Save, Grow” plan. 

“I think my conservative colleagues for the most part support ‘Limit, Save, Grow,’ and they don’t feel like we should negotiate with our hostage,” Gaetz told Semafor.

Republicans seem to believe this hostage-taking stunt of theirs — which could hurl the U.S. economy into a recession — will help them politically. 

Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, is facing backlash for appearing to say as much Wednesday morning on Fox News. McDaniel listed a potential U.S. default as one of the conditions that bode “very well for the Republican field.” Trump, the party’s standard-bearer, recently encouraged Republicans to let the nation default on its debts unless Democrats agree to slash spending. 

And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., told right-wing podcaster Steve Bannon that “no one is concerned” about a potential default — no one except “probably the New York Stock Exchange.” The Georgia conspiracy theorist claimed “regular Americans” aren’t worried about the government shutting down. Unsurprisingly, she is absolutely wrong about what everyday Americans think.

Keeping in mind that today’s conservatives aren’t exactly known for their brilliance, their public ponderings that a debt default could serve them politically are remarkable in that they show a tremendous lack of respect for Americans’ intelligence. 

Fellow Americans, Republican lawmakers think y’all are ignoramuses. Or at least they’re hoping that’s the case.

Fellow Americans, Republican lawmakers think y’all are ignoramuses. Or at least they’re hoping that’s the case.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., did a great job explaining this during an exchange with a reporter during a Wednesday news conference hosted by the Progressive Caucus. In the clip below, you’ll hear Jayapal explain news outlets’ tendency to frame the debt discussion, which centers on paying for programs that have already been written into law, as a “both sides” issue. The effect, she argues, is that Republicans are given a pass for their admitted hostage-taking — despite the fact they clearly appear to be using the debt limit as a backdoor, undemocratic method of cutting programs they theoretically could have prevented if they had won the White House and both houses of Congress in the 2020 elections. 

I think Jayapal’s point is a strong one for lawmakers to make, as well as an important factual point for members of the press to make. What we’re seeing now is, in a way, election denialism to the umpteenth degree. Conservatives largely haven’t reckoned with the fact they lost majorly in 2020. By holding the nation’s economy hostage, Republicans appear to think they’ve found a way to erase the legislative achievements of the past two years. 

And their public statements suggest they think American voters will give them a pass. If they’re actually right, many Americans will have to live with the shame of knowing they were intellectually bested by the likes of Donald Trump, Matt Gaetz, Kevin McCarthy and Marjorie Taylor Greene.