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'There is a price for everything'

Last year, congressional Republicans, for the first time in American history, said they would crash the economy on purpose unless their non-negotiable demands were met. The result was a brutal-but-easily-avoided debt-ceiling crisis, which did lasting damage.

Republican leaders vowed, even at the time, to deliberately create the same crisis again if given the opportunity. And sure enough, the hostage strategy has begun anew.

President Barack Obama made a demand of House Speaker John Boehner near the end of their first White House meeting on the fiscal cliff: Raise the debt limit before year's end.

Boehner responded: "There is a price for everything."

Let's be perfectly clear about this. John Boehner knows the debt ceiling has to be raised. He's said, out loud and on the record, that if the debt limit isn't raised, it would mean "financial disaster" for the global economy. Boehner has also said, out loud and on the record, "Whether we like it or not, the federal government has obligations and we have obligations on our part."

And while we're at it, let's also not forget that during the Bush/Cheney era, Boehner routinely voted to increase the debt ceiling, without conditions, as has been the bipartisan norm since the law was created in 1939.

In other words, the Speaker of the House knows he's playing with fire; he knows the consequences would be catastrophic; and knows he's being a shameless hypocrite ... but he just doesn't care. The full faith and credit of the United States is on the line, and he'll throw it all away, deliberately, unless Obama meets undefined demands.

"There is a price for everything"? There doesn't have to be a price for everything. This is only true once hostage takers decide to take the hostage and demand a ransom. U.S. policymakers who want what's best for the nation have always resisted the urge to play such a dangerous and radical game, but the radicalized Republican caucus is playing by a new set of rules.

Boehner threatened to hurt all of us, on purpose, in 2011, and now he's prepared to do it all over again. Why this isn't considered a shocking political scandal is a mystery to me.