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Old 06-16-2011, 07:53 AM
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Default Republicans emulating Marcus Licinius Crassus?

Congressional Republicans and the richest man in Rome

Are congressional Republicans emulating Marcus Licinius Crassus?

Crassus (115-53 BCE) was by reputation the richest man in Rome. He made a fortune by organizing a fire brigade for use in the many city fires of the era. When a conflagration broke out, Crassus’s brigade would arrive and his representative offer to purchase the property even while it burned. If the owner refused, his property would become worthless. If he agreed, the fire brigade would extinguish the fire and Crassus would take the property. More than a few people, then and now, have wondered if Crassus was not himself responsible for at least some of the fires his brigade put out.

House and Senate Republicans seem to be playing the same game. After a decade in which they embarked on massive tax cuts, passed a major new unfunded entitlement program, and supported two wars without bothering to pay for them, Congressional Republicans are now seized by the urgency to address the budget deficit. Let me stipulate: the GOP found many Democratic accomplices — some of them enthusiastic — in their fiscal folly. But Republicans took the lead. And they are taking the lead today by making clear their unwillingness to raise the debt limit if Democrats do not agree to expenditure cuts. (Needless to say, Republicans have declared tax cuts off the table.) Like Crassus, they have set a fire and are now extorting a price to put it out.

Crassus himself came to an infamously bad end. Defeated in battle against the Parthians, the victors — in an ironic comment on Crassus’s greed — poured molten gold down the throat of his corpse.

My guess is that Republicans will fare far better. Democrats — President Obama chief among them — will probably yield to GOP demands rather than gamble with the creditworthiness of the United States. Most congressional Republicans, too, are worried about our government’s ability to discharge its debt. But they are more worried about their base, for which simply raising the debt ceiling would be an act of ideological heresy and political betrayal. When push comes to shove, the Democrats are likelier to blink.

And then?

Why, it will all start over again.

Congressional Republicans and the richest man in Rome | Baker Institute Blog | a Chron.com blog
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Old 06-16-2011, 08:02 AM
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Crassus is an old dog.

Republicans are new dogs.

Different times, different tricks.
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