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  • Cary Donham

THE GOP’s MESSAGE ON THE DEBT CEILING: THE AMERICAN PEOPLE BE DAMNED

Updated: Jul 16, 2023

A small murder of crows is arguing loudly this morning. And the robins and

the cardinals are weighing in: chu,chu,chu,chu,chu,chu,chu,chu; shweet,

chi,chi,chi,chi,chi. They make about as much sense as the GOP in discussing

lifting the ceiling, probably more.


I know this blog is supposed to be about peace and politics, but if peace

refers not only to the absence of conflict but also to the arc of the universe bending

toward justice, then the debt ceiling negotiations are squarely about both peace and

politics. And stupidity.


The debt ceiling is an absurd concept. Congress passes a budget which calls

for government spending, including Social Security, Medicare and Veterans

benefits, not to mention out of control Pentagon spending. As with most businesses

that use credit lines, the government borrows money, such as Treasury Department

bonds, which need to be repaid. At the same time, Congress also passes a debt

ceiling, limiting how much debt the country can incur, despite authorizing

spending that will probably exceed the debt limit. In what universe does this make

sense, especially when you consider Section 5 of the 14 th Amendment that provides

that the validity of debts of the United States shall not be questioned. So from the

beginning we are behind the eight ball.


The debt ceiling wasn’t imposed until 1917, when its purpose was to allow

the Treasury Department to issue bonds to finance WWI without going to

Congress. Since 1960, Congress has raised the debt ceiling 78 times, 49 times

under Republican Presidents and 29 times under Democratic Presidents.

https://time.com/6281003/debt-ceiling-history/. In fact, during Pres. Trump’s

administration, Republicans voted to raise the debt ceiling three times. Only in


2019 did the debt ceiling increase include modest “offsets” that would not take

effect until 2027, if at all. https://www.newsweek.com/fact-check-did-donald-

trump-lift-debt-ceiling-no-spending-cuts-1797134. Moreover, the Republican

blather about out of control spending conveniently ignores that a significant, if not

majority, portion of deficit spending results from the tax cuts the Republican

majority enacted under former Presidents Bush and Trump that favored wealthy

folks and large corporations: “Bush and Trump tax cuts for the wealthy and

corporations have driven recent and projected federal deficits.  They have been the

largest driver of deficits over the past two decades and account for 57% of the

increase in the debt-to-GDP ratio since 2001.” Even more eye opening is that

current Republican plans to extend the Trump tax cuts would add $3.5 trillion to

the deficit over the next 10 years.


https://www.budget.senate.gov/chairman/newsroom/press/extending-trump-tax-

cuts-would-add-35-trillion-to-the-deficit-according-to-cbo.

Moving on from Republican extreme hypocrisy over the mechanics of the

debt and lifting the debt ceiling, the GOPO seems oblivious to the catastrophic

consequence of failing to raise the debt ceiling. First, social security recipients,

veterans and Medicaid and Medicare recipients would be hurt. But even Fortune

magazine, hardly a liberal bastion, predicts not only a US recession if there is a

default, but also serious global economic effects:


Feeding the anxiety is the fact that so much financial activity

hinges on confidence that America will always pay its financial

obligations. Its debt, long viewed as an ultra-safe asset, is a

foundation of global commerce, built on decades of trust in the

United States. A default could shatter the $24 trillion market for

Treasury debt, cause financial markets to freeze up and ignite an

international crisis.


“A debt default would be a cataclysmic event, with an

unpredictable but probably dramatic fallout on U.S. and global

financial markets,” said Eswar Prasad, professor of trade policy

at Cornell University and senior fellow at the Brookings

Institution.

https://fortune.com/2023/05/22/how-bad-global-recession-economy-debt-

ceiling-default-no-corner-spared/. In other words, a U.S. default would

increase global instability at a time when there is a stalemate in the Ukraine-

Russia war, Somalia is in turmoil and here in the U.S. the partisan divisions

are so deep that voting limitations, book banning, legislative constraints on

health care options for women and LGBTQ persons, and random gun

violence are prevalent. Add to this the fact that U.S. unemployment is at an

all time low, especially Black unemployment, and inflation is dropping.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/14/business/economy/economy-jobs-

inflation-recession.html. Clearly, a default would put this economic progress

at risk.


So why are Republicans so willing to try to extort deep spending cuts

to social programs, while leaving the bloated military budget alone, at the

expense of the economic welfare of not only the Americans they pretend to

serve, but also much of the rest of the world? Sadly, the only possible answer

is that the extreme right-wing portion of the GOP House must believe that a

default and the economic turmoil that follows would be laid at President

Biden’s feet, and provide a benefit to the GOP in 2024 elections. In other

words, the American people be damned.

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