One of the hallmarks of leadership is a willingness to say difficult things in challenging times, to buck convention and even reconsider one’s views in light of new events. Despite my disdain for Representative Rehberg, I keep hoping that one day Montana’s Congressman will decide to act like a leader, even one who is willing to take some responsibility for his own actions.
Well, today is not that day. In the face of markets in decline and an unprecedented downgrade of America’s credit rating, Rehberg stayed true to form: a blinking, dissembling, partisan hack more interested in winning elections than leading.
What did Representative Rehberg tell the Associated Press about the downgrade of America’s credit?
“The downgrade of America’s credit is a direct result of the failed policies of the big spenders in Washington, D.C.,” Rehberg said in a statement. “Time and time again, Washington has turned to bailouts and so-called stimulus programs which have done nothing but lead to trillion dollar deficits.”
I realize this is nothing new to readers of this site, but it’s important to note what neither Rehberg nor the Associated Press story mention: that the policies Representative Rehberg supports have been largely responsible for the growth of America’s debt. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes:
The events and policies that pushed deficits to these high levels in the near term were, for the most part, not of President Obama’s making. If not for the Bush tax cuts, the deficit-financed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the effects of the worst recession since the Great Depression (including the cost of policymakers’ actions to combat it), we would not be facing these huge deficits in the near term. By themselves, in fact, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will account for almost half of the $20 trillion in debt that, under current policies, the nation will owe by 2019. The stimulus law and financial rescues will account for less than 10 percent of the debt at that time.
While Representative Rehberg wants you to believe that the budget deficit is caused by “big spenders,” the truth is that the nation’s fiscal house is in disarray largely because of the spending and fighting binge caused by President Bush and a Republican Congress who loved irresponsible spending almost as much as they loved tax cuts for corporations and millionaires.
And Representative Rehberg supported that entire agenda. He may find it politically expedient to demonize bailouts, but those were paid back–unlike the billions of dollars the GOP handed out to the elite.
What’s more, Rehberg bears personal responsibility for the downgrade of American credit. That he and his fellow travelers in the Tea Party movement were willing to cause the United States to default for the sake of partisan politics certainly contributed to the decision to downgrade American credit, as the National Journal notes:
But it’s hard to read the S&P analysis as anything other than a blast at Republicans. In denouncing the threat of default as a “bargaining chip,” the agency was saying that the GOP strategy had shaken its confidence. Though S&P didn’t mention it, the agency must have been unnerved by the number of Republicans who insisted that it would be fine to blow through the debt ceiling and provoke a default.