The reaction to S&P’s warning of a debt downgrade has been as predictable as it was swift. Paul Ryan responded that the debt “threatens not only the livelihoods of future generations, but also the economic security of American families today.” Eric Cantor described the S&P action as “a wake-up call.” House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, another “Young Gun,” said pretty much the same thing.

It’s all very precious. An entity funded by the big banks makes a judgment (which shouldn’t be seen apart from their other discredited judgments) about the debt. The party most allied with the big banks uses that judgment to demand that their preferred policy, which doesn’t reduce the national debt for THIRTY YEARS, must be enacted immediately. Incidentally, that preferred policy reduces taxes on the rich, including the rich executives at the big banks.

Cantor used the report to push back on any effort to pass a clean debt limit bill. We know this is all kabuki, as the debt limit has been assured an increase in private. By contrast, Peter Welch just sent a letter from 114 House Democrats claiming that the S&P threat meant that a clean debt limit vote must be scheduled immediately.

“America pays its bills,” said Welch. “I hope Majority Leader Cantor and those in Congress seizing upon debt ceiling pressure as a ‘leverage opportunity’ are listening to the markets today and thinking twice about their risky strategy. Mr. Cantor should today abandon his dangerous plan to leverage America’s duty to pay its bills to achieve a partisan advantage in budget disputes. By playing brinksmanship with the debt ceiling, he is willfully risking the full faith and credit of the United States of America. The markets have doubts about America’s ability to get its fiscal house in order. And they are right. If Mr. Cantor persists in playing politics with the debt limit he will be held accountable for unleashing the financial hounds of hell.”

The letter is addressed to Democratic leaders to make it the official policy of the caucus not to agree to anything but a clean debt limit vote.

The White House, playing its usual role, said through Press Secretary Jay Carney that the incident offered “a reminder that we need an agreement on fiscal reform” from both parties. It’s as if the President represents some party from nowhere. Forget the birth certificate, is he a stealth Whig?