...to inquire as to what rough beast slouches towards some holy city or other. However, most of the rest of the world seems to have that covered, so let's skip that, and move on to something a tad more analytical.
First, let's talk briefly about the politics of the situation, before moving to the economics. From what I am seeing, the Democrats universally see this as a ploy; Republican cynicism of the first order, an attempt by the GOP to hold the economy for ransom in order to engineer the defeat of Mr. Obama in 2012. It's seen as opportunism and irresponsibility so vile, so contemptible, that it borders on treason. (And so, everything has become treason; the circle is complete. But I digress...)
That's certainly the spin flying about, at least, and it's entirely understandable; both major parties have been controlled by the same corporate interests for so long, and so dissociated from their theoretical positions - other than corporatism and wedge issue pro-choice/anti-abortion/anti-gay activism - for so long, that anything other than gamesmanship seems flatly impossible.
And were we dealing with the traditional GOP, that reading would certainly be correct. But we're not, and I think this is a critical failure of understanding.
I have often chastised the progressives and left for failing to mount any kind of insurgency at all against the Democratic Party, and accepting the continuation of Mr. Bush's wars (and additions of Mr. Obama's own), torture programmes, unitary executive power grabs, police state tactics, illegal domestic spying, corporatism, banker socialism, and more, as soon as one of their own was in office. I still do. But while this new event has yet to play out - and may yet collapse like a flan in an ill-tempered oven - as of right now, I'm not sure I can chastise the right on this basis as completely any longer. The Tea Party may be an inchoate expression of political rage, and it may have been thought to have been completely co-opted, but I suspect that co-option was less successful than previously imagined.
Bear with me, here. The Democratic Party spin is reliant upon the idea that all this is a pose; that the GOP couldn't possible believe that an abrupt cutting of government could be anything but a disaster. The idea that they mean it is flatly impossible. And where the leadership is concerned, I completely agree.
But a lot of these are GOPers who have been demanding smaller government for 30 years or more. They've not got it. They've got corporate deregulation, which isn't the same thing. The best they've got, as far as they're concerned, has been slower growth of government, or less-by-percentage-of-GDP government, and it appears to me that they're no longer willing to settle. They're angry. They feel betrayed, by their own party. But they also see an opportunity, one where the "risk" isn't risk at all, but vital necessity, so their consciences are clear.
And perhaps most importantly, they're at least saying that they are ready to walk over this, and become a separate party. It's a hell of a bluff to be making, if it's a bluff.
I think the corporate GOP - the rump corporate GOP, really; it has the leadership but not so much of the rank-and-file - may believe them. And, as they want to perpetuate their party and influence... they may be stuck. Sure, they want to use this purely as a political crowbar to unseat Mr. Obama; they want to play the game the Democrats are expecting them to be playing. A couple of months ago, it was working beautifully; they got offered a deal they couldn't get in 2003, with cuts to Social Security growth. And they walked away, to the astonishment of everyone in the DC scene. I think that might be because they may not be able to play that game anymore.
If true, this has serious ramifications, both political and economic. The political, I'll leave aside, other than to say it's a pretty long way to November 2012, and that I haven't seen ideas like a "supercongress" seriously proposed in a long time. The economic - well, that's for Part II.