At a speech at the New York Stock Exchange yesterday, Speaker Kevin McCarthy affirmed the Republicans’ plan to use the rapidly approaching debt-ceiling deadline to extract spending cuts and other policy concessions from President Biden. Put simply, they plan on holding the American (and world) economy hostage. Yet the media continues to hide this truth behind its “both sides” reporting.

Herewith the three biggest myths about the upcoming debt-ceiling crisis, followed by the truth.

Myth #1: Both sides are to blame. The New York Times draws a wildly false equivalence when it says: “members of both parties are intent on painting the opposition as culpable for the turmoil that would result from a catastrophic default on the debt this summer…”. Meanwhile, CNN frames the fight as “a dangerous game of chicken,” in which “Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling without any strings attached,” while “the White House—well, they are going to the opposite extreme.” The media are even blaming Democrats for not negotiating over the debt ceiling. On NPR’s Morning Edition, political correspondent Susan Davis said, “For now, McCarthy is the only leader at the negotiating table.”

Here’s the truth:

The fight is being waged solely by the Republican Party. The Democrats did not pick this fight. When Trump occupied the White House, Republicans voted to increase the debt limit three times without incident. Over the last quarter century, it has been raised over a dozen times. Of course McCarthy is the only one at the negotiating table. The Biden administration and the Democrats are not negotiating because raising the debt ceiling should be non-negotiable.

Myth #2: The fight is over controlling the national debt. CNN anchor Jake Tapper told Rep. Ro Khanna that it would be “irresponsible” for the GOP not to force a fight over the debt ceiling, saying, “We have these crazy deficits, crazy national debt. It’s $30 trillion right now … Isn’t it time that Congress takes this seriously?” Meanwhile, The New York Times says: “If lawmakers have a problem with spending, the debt ceiling offers a way to protest….” And The Washington Post quotes Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, a conservative group, arguing that “both sides are dug in. They’ve shown no signs of moving. Something has to change the landscape to incentivize the White House and Congress to move.”

For the last half century, Democratic administrations have been far more fiscally responsible than Republican ones.

More rubbish. Here’s the truth:

The fight is being waged over paying the nation’s bills. The national debt is composed of obligations already incurred. It shouldn’t even be called the “debt ceiling”; it ought to be called the “deadbeat ceiling” because it’s what we owe our creditors—and if we stiff them and become deadbeats, the credit of the United States goes to hell. If Republicans were serious about controlling the national debt, they’d be willing to consider tax increases—including repeal of the giant Trump tax cut that went mostly to big corporations and the very rich. But the national debt isn’t on their minds.

Myth #3: When it comes to the national debt, both parties have been fiscally irresponsible. Introducing a pair of segments, CNN anchor John Berman said, “Republicans refuse to budge on demands and Democrats refuse to budge on negotiations.” Yesterday’s Washington Post proclaimed:

“Republicans have forged ahead anyway on a belief that they must act swiftly to address the national debt, which is expected to reach roughly $50 trillion by 2033, according to projections released earlier this year from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Both parties have added considerably to that imbalance, including recent social spending packages under Biden and tax cuts adopted by Republicans in 2017.”

Baloney. Here’s the truth:

For the last half century, Democratic administrations have been far more fiscally responsible than Republican ones. I was part of Bill Clinton’s administration, which balanced the federal budget after Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush had racked up record deficits. Obama cleaned up after George W. Bush’s runaway spending and tax cuts. The Trump administration added a whopping $7 trillion to the national debt.

This disinformation about the debt ceiling isn’t being peddled just by Fox News or the extreme right-wing media. It’s coming from the mainstream media that most Americans rely on for their news. If the mainstream media gets the debt ceiling wrong, how do we expect most Americans to get it right?

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