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Why we can't have nice things

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It's hard to believe, but the economy is actually starting to look pretty good. The latest job numbers were strong; the latest manufacturing figures were very encouraging; the housing sector is looking increasingly strong; Wall Street is up; and the new retail-sales numbers were so good, "it's hard to imagine how the numbers could have been stronger."

All Americans really have to worry about now is their elected lawmakers acting against their interests on purpose.

Take, for example, what the House's top Republican said late last week...

House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) on Thursday said he would continue to insist that the next debt-ceiling increase be accompanied by matching spending cuts, raising the prospect of a high-stakes showdown when the borrowing limit expires this spring.

...and what the Senate's top Republican said yesterday.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that Republicans will use the expiration of the debt limit this summer as leverage to get President Obama to consider entitlement reforms. This could set up a standoff over the nation's borrowing authority similar to the one that resulted in the nation losing its credit rating in 2011. [...]

"We all anticipate that the president's request of us to raise the debt ceiling, which we'll probably do sometime this will generate another, hopefully, another discussion about solving the real problem," he said.

For the record, McConnell has long struggled to understand this despite more than a quarter of a century on the Hill, but a debt-ceiling increase is not something presidents "request of" Congress. Rather, Congress allocates funds and the White House lets lawmakers know when the bill is due.

Regardless, what Congress' top two Republicans are arguing is that they're once again ready to hold the nation hostage, threatening to crash the economy deliberately unless President Obama gives them what they want.

Indeed, it's not just Boehner and McConnell -- Paul Ryan is also publicly making similar threats.

To reiterate a point from last week, I'm still skeptical about the seriousness of the GOP rhetoric. The threats only work if everyone, including the White House, believes that Republicans genuinely want another damaging debt-ceiling crisis and are fully prepared to hurt the country on purpose -- again.

There's reason for skepticism. As you'll recall, Republicans all but admitted a couple of months ago that they were bluffing and weren't actually going to allow the nation to default, and it's awfully tough to go back to Democrats with this message: "Sure, we were bluffing in January, but this time we're really prepared to hurt Americans."

Democrats probably won't buy this line, and I don't blame them.

In the meantime, nothing can upset a burgeoning economic recovery like two of the nation's most powerful policymakers publicly threatening to trash the full faith and credit of the United States.

Postscript: For the record, readers/viewers who are keeping track of the Maddow Show's storm/crisis naming system should know I'm referring, of course, to Gertrude.