Tag: hugh hewitt
Far Right Pundits Urge 'Game Of Chicken' On Debt Ceiling

Far Right Pundits Urge 'Game Of Chicken' On Debt Ceiling

Prominent right-wing media figures are encouraging House Republicans to use the debt ceiling as leverage to extract their political aims from a Democratic White House and Senate. Their hostage-taking approach courts an economic catastrophe and the unraveling of the constitutional order.

Fox News prime-time host and Republican propagandist Sean Hannity used a Tuesday night interview with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from the U.S. Capitol to urge him to ignore critics and play “a game of chicken” when the debt limit approaches later this year, without specifying what Republicans should demand as their price for raising it.

Hannity’s upmarket counterpart Hugh Hewitt, the Salem Radio host and Washington Post columnist, tweeted on Wednesday morning that House Republicans should “adopt the summary line: ‘We won't raise the debt limit until we close the border.’”

An hour later, he promotedNational Review writer Jim Geraghty’s suggestion that they instead demand “repeal of the authorization of 87,000 new IRS personnel.” (Republicans and right-wing media oppose IRS funding included in the Inflation Reduction Act that would increase revenue by targeting wealthy tax cheats.) Hewitt added: “That may even be better than border security. Both building the wall and repealing the 87,000 are key priorities. Pick one.”

It’s not a great sign that right-wing media decided to take a hostage before settling on their demands.

Congress passes laws that dictate how the federal government raises and spends money. Since the revenues brought in by those laws are insufficient to cover the outlays, the U.S. Treasury funds the deficit by selling debt. Congress created the debt ceiling through a 1917 law, setting a statutory limit on the total debt the government can accrue.

Some have argued that the law is unconstitutional because the government can’t run up debts and then refuse to pay them. But the question has largely been moot since Congress has regularly raised or suspended that limit ever since, most recently in December 2021, when it was set to “just under $31.4 trillion”; a figure that will be reached some time in 2023.

The debt ceiling has at times been a focus of intense political debate. Congressional Republicans used the threat of a debt ceiling breach during President Barack Obama’s tenure to push for deficit reduction. That tactic faded from use under President Donald Trump, who was happy to run up large federal deficits.

But with a Democrat back in the White House, Republicans divulged in late 2022 that they would use debt limit brinkmanship to force big cuts to social safety net spending if they took back the House in the midterm elections. And after they won a narrow majority, the party’s right flank reportedly demanded that McCarthy pledge “to not raise the debt limit without major cuts — including efforts to reduce spending on so-called mandatory programs, which include Social Security and Medicare,” as their price for supporting his speaker bid.

The results of a debt ceiling breach would be calamitous.

“Once the government hits the debt ceiling and exhausts all available extraordinary measures, it is no longer allowed to issue debt and soon after will run out of cash-on-hand,” the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reports. “At that point, given annual deficits, incoming receipts would be insufficient to pay millions of daily obligations as they come due. Therefore, the federal government would have to at least temporarily default on many of its obligations, from Social Security payments and salaries for federal civilian employees and the military to veterans’ benefits and utility bills, among others.”

Hannity, in his comments to McCarthy, suggested that the impact would be negligible, but seems to be conflating a debt limit crisis with the sort of partial government shutdown that occurred most recently during the Trump administration. As CRFB notes, “many more parties are not paid in a default. … While a government shutdown would be disruptive, a government default could be disastrous.”

How disastrous? “An actual default would roil global financial markets and create chaos, since both domestic and international markets depend on the relative economic and political stability of U.S. debt instruments and the U.S. economy,” according to CRFB. “A Moody’s Analytics report released in September 2021 estimated that a default could have similar macroeconomic consequences to the Great Recession: a four percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline, nearly six million lost jobs, and an unemployment rate of nine percent. In addition, Moody’s predicted a $15 trillion loss in household wealth, with stocks dropping by as much as one-third at the depths of the selloff.”

There are options available to avert such a disaster. The White House and House and Senate leaders could agree on some sort of deal that provides Republicans with a fig leaf. If the House GOP leadership remains intransigent, some of its members could sign onto a dispatch petition putting a clean debt limit increase on the floor. The Biden administration could also act unilaterally by using its authority to mint a $1 trillion platinum coin so the government can pay its expenses; or adopt Matt Yglesias’ plan of “swapping out old bonds with high face values and low interest rates for equivalent-yielding bonds with low face values and high interest rates”; or say that the debt limit is unconstitutional and that Biden will violate it rather than violating all the other laws that require him to spend money.

But Republican extremists and their right-wing media supporters are unlikely to take any of those options lying down. They want chaos and massive, unpopular spending cuts, and are already signaling that they will fight to get them.

And that means we may be looking at two years of a very chaotic Congress.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Trump Is Full Of Bluster -- But We Have To Take His Threats Seriously

Trump Is Full Of Bluster -- But We Have To Take His Threats Seriously

The last time, following the search of the former president’s resort/club/residence at Mar a Lago, he had Lindsey Graham making his threats for him: “And I’ll say this. If there is a prosecution of Donald Trump for mishandling classified information after the Clinton debacle … there will be riots in the street,” Graham said during an appearance on a Fox News show on August 28.

This time, Trump isn’t deputizing others to do his dirty work for him. Appearing on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show – yes, the smiling face of the so-called reasonable right has a show, as well as a column in the Washington Post – Trump made a double threat of what would happen if he is indicted by the DOJ. He began this way: “If a thing like that happened, I would have no prohibition against running,” Trump told Lapdog Hewitt, clearly threatening to run for president even if under indictment.

But he saved his best threat for last: “I think if it happened, I think you’d have problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before. I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it.” Asked by Hewitt what he meant by “problems,” Trump doubled down. “I think they’d have big problems. Big problems. I just don’t think they’d stand for it. They will not sit still and stand for this ultimate of hoaxes,” Trump said, making an obvious reference to his followers.

Hewitt then asked Trump how he would deal with the “legacy media” when they inevitably accuse him of inciting violence. “That’s not inciting. I’m just saying what my opinion is,” Trump answered, perhaps having been warned by his lawyers to watch his words. “I don’t think the people of this country would stand for it.”

Okay, it doesn’t meet the legal definition of incitement of violence, but Trump was obviously calling out to his supporters using the pronoun “they,” as he goaded them to “not sit still and stand for this ultimate of hoaxes.” His prediction of “big problems…big problems” was reminiscent of Trump goading his followers to come to Washington D.C. on Jan. 6 because it will “be wild!”

The words are deliberately indistinct, parsed in Trumpian fashion to get around any potential future charge of inciting a riot, but the MAGA hordes know exactly what he’s talking about. He’s telling them if the DOJ indicts him, they should take to the streets and not only “be wild” but do things that will cause “big problems,” as if the problem of the assault on the Capitol wasn’t “big” enough.

They are armed, folks, Trump’s followers are, with high-powered assault rifles and high-capacity magazines and plenty of ammunition. Forbes magazine in 2021 quoted the National Sports Shooting Foundation, an industry trade group that refers to assault rifles as “modern sporting rifles,” as estimating that there were about 20 million of them in the country in 2018.

“About 22.8 million firearms were sold nationwide in 2020, a record-breaking figure,” Forbes reported. “There were about 393 million guns in U.S. civilians’ hands in 2018, about 120 guns for every 100 people, according to a study by the Swiss-based Small Arms Survey. NSSF places the number even higher, at 434 million in 2020.”

Those figures are four years and two years old, respectively. But if we just take the number of assault rifles estimated in 2018, 20 million, and ignore the obvious fact that the number has doubtlessly increased significantly since then, the fact is that civilians in the U.S. are walking around with at least 10 times the number of such weapons that are in the armies of Ukraine and Russia combined. Those armies, and our army, have trained their soldiers to handle their weapons safely and fire them accurately. However, the average American civilian has had zero training in the use of the high-powered weapons because our laws don’t require such training.

There are more than 20 million assault rifles out there, not to mention semiautomatic pistols and other kinds of “sporting rifles,” as the firearms trade group absurdly calls them, and we have to assume that a lot of them are owned by the hordes of “conservative” supporters of Donald Trump.

These are the people who listened to Trump as he was ginning up his followers to attack the Capitol back in December of 2020, and they are the people Trump is addressing right now as he all-but comes right out and says they should prepare themselves to cause “big problems” if or when he is eventually indicted for committing crimes in the multiple investigations he is facing.

The last time this happened, we and the FBI and the Capitol Police and the Pentagon and every other law enforcement authority in the country just sat back and said to ourselves, oh, that’s just Trump shooting his mouth off. Nothing to see here.

And then the people who listened to what he was really saying attacked the United States Capitol, injuring some 140 police officers and directly or indirectly causing the death of 10 people.

They are listening this time, too, and some of them, as I’ve written previously in this column, are out there wearing ridiculous uniforms and face masks and they have been training themselves for the next time Trump calls them out.

He is preparing the ground for his armed followers to take to the streets if the DOJ or any other law enforcement authority indicts him for committing the multiple crimes he has been accused of.

It’s time we take him at his word, and it’s time the FBI and the DOJ and Homeland Security and the Pentagon started preparing for what’s coming.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Reprinted with permission from Lucian Truscott Newsletter

DeSantis' Disney Vendetta Enrages Real Conservatives

Why DeSantis' Disney Vendetta Enrages True Conservatives

On Friday, April 22, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ended the special tax and self-governing privileges that Disney has enjoyed in the Sunshine State for 55 years — a move designed to punish Disney for coming out against the state’s homophobic, transphobic “Don’t Say Gay” law. DeSantis’ vendetta against Disney is drawing criticism not only from Democrats, liberals, and progressives, but also, from some Never Trump conservatives —including journalists David French and Charlie Sykes.

French, in an article published by The Atlantic on April 22, slams the support that DeSantis’ actions are getting from fellow MAGA Republicans as a total flip flop for the GOP. And Sykes, in his April 24 column for The Bulwark, argues that DeSantis’ anti-Disney campaign isn’t about “working class populism” as some are claiming — it’s about revenge.

French recalls that when San Antonio Democrats went after Chick-Fil-A in 2019, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was quick to rise to the company’s defense — in contrast to all the Republicans who, in 2022, have no problem with DeSantis punishing Disney.

“One of the bewildering things about being a conservative in a populist age is the sheer speed at which populists will shift their opinions, including on allegedly bedrock constitutional values, to satisfy the popular bloodlust of the moment,” French writes. “I’m old enough, for example, to remember all the way back to 2019. In March (2019), the San Antonio City Council voted to bar Chick-fil-A from San Antonio International Airport. The reason? It opposed Chick-fil-A’s alleged ‘legacy of anti-LGBT behavior.’”

French continues, “Republicans were rightly furious at the decision…. Texas acted quickly to protect liberty, and in July 2019, Gov. Greg Abbott signed the so-called Save Chick-fil-A bill into law, declaring that ‘Texas protects religious liberty,’ and ‘no business should be discriminated against simply because its owners donate to a church, the Salvation Army, or other religious organization.’”

French, known for his work with the National Review, argues that Abbott’s defense of Chick-F-A in 2019 is quite a contrast to DeSantis and other Republicans wanting to “punish” Disney in 2022.

“Let’s fast-forward three short years and move states, from Florida to Texas,” French writes. “The Florida legislature raced to pass a law revoking the Walt Disney Company’s special tax status. The reason? Florida, led by Gov. Ron DeSantis, is overtly and explicitly attempting to punish Disney for the company’s opposition to Florida House Bill 1557, which bans ‘classroom instruction’ on ‘sexual orientation and gender identity’ in kindergarten through third grade and in a manner that isn’t ‘age appropriate or developmentally appropriate’ in all grades, K–12. Florida became San Antonio, except on a much bigger scale, to thunderous online right-wing applause.”

French notes that the Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro and radio host Hugh Hewitt are among the right-wing media figures who have been applauding DeSantis for attacking Disney, arguing that they are “dead wrong” on this issue.

“In their crackdown on ‘wokeness,’ they’ve become exactly what they once opposed — fierce partisan warriors who’ll forsake the Bill of Rights to reward their friends and punish their enemies,” French says of Republicans. “With the passage of Florida’s bill targeting Disney, it’s unambiguous now. As the right cheers Ron DeSantis, it is forsaking the First Amendment.”

Like French, fellow Never Trumper Sykes is vehemently critical of DeSantis’ anti-Disney move. Sykes, in The Bulwark, argues that it “massively misses the point” to say that DeSantis’ willingness to go after Disney underscores the GOP’s shift to a more “populist” outlook.

“Florida Republicans made no secret of their motivation here: it was payback, and a mailed-fist threat to other businesses who might engage in wrongthink,” Sykes stresses. “Until about five minutes ago, conservatives were not merely pro-free market, but were adamant in their belief that corporations had constitutionally protected free speech rights; see Citizens United. Conservatives were rightly outraged when illiberal progressives kicked Chick-Fil-A out of airports because of the political activities of the restaurant’s owners.”

Sykes continues, “The cases of Hobby Lobby and Masterpiece Cake Shop were rallying points for the defense of conscience, and both businesses were vindicated in court. But the New Right has executed an extraordinary pivot: It is now fully on board with state retaliation against private companies who engage in disfavored political speech.”

Printed with permission from Alternet.