And so it came to pass that yesterday the Republican Party in the U.S. Senate voted not to raise the debt limit.
Whenever the Republicans threaten to do this – which they have been doing in recent years, but only when Democrats hold the White House, not when the GOP does – it seems pretty clear that much, if not most of the country (leaning heavily on the Republican side) has no idea what “raising the debt limit” means. The sense seems to be that so many people (leaning heavily on the Republican side) thinks it has to do with spending and creating a bigger debt.
It doesn’t at all – though oddly, Republicans never seem to mind actually creating a bigger debt, since they tend to do so when holding the White House (Trump, for instance, raised the national debt to $7.8 trillion and increased the federal deficit to around $3 trillion), but say you want to raise the debt limit (rather than actually raising the debt)…well, oh my, Republicans wheel out the barrels of outrage. The reality, though, is that raising the debt limit merely means that Congress authorizes the additional money to be spent to pay for the debts that the United States already owes. It’s agreeing to pay for what we’ve already spent. It’s like getting your credit card bill, seeing you don’t have enough money in your checkbook and so transferring money over into it from your savings account, so that you…can…pay…your…credit card…bill… for…the…money…you’ve…already…spent…and…therefore…owe.
Imagine getting your credit card bill – or any bill – looking at it, and then saying, “Oh, ptish, I’m not paying that” and throwing it in the trash. Imagine what your creditors would say. Imagine what they’d say, too, the next time you want to charge something or borrow money.
As Sen. Chris Murphy wrote yesterday, "One of America’s greatest assets is the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency. If Republicans refuse to let the government pay its bills, it jeopardizes this status, and the impact on the U.S. could be catastrophic. Gamesmanship over the debt limit is so irresponsible."
For several decades now, the Republican Party has disdainfully called Democrats the “Tax and spend" Party. I’ve never quite followed the logic of why this is a bad thing, since the alternative is being the “Don’t tax and spend” Party – and that’s precisely what keeps raising America’s debts higher and higher whenever Republicans are in the White House.
The government always spends, and it always will because it must. Republicans may want to spend less than Democrats (or not), or spend on different things, but they do spend. A great deal. They just like to cut taxes at the same time. That's why, as I noted, I’ve referred to the GOP as the "Don't tax but spend" Party. The thing is, though, now that may have to change. Because with the GOP voting against raising the debt ceiling, they've become the "Don't tax but spend and then don't even pay for what you spent" Party.
I’m not quite sure of their “thinking” on this, but my guess is twofold. First, that it likely has something to do with assuming that their base not only doesn’t know what raising the debit limit is, but also incorrectly thinks that they do. And second, that the country will blame any problems that come from all this, whether a government shutdown or the country’s credit rating dropping which will cause some prices to rise, on the Democrats in power.
There are two problems with this “thinking.”
The first is that the country probably will have a really good idea who is at fault here, when it’s only the Republican Party that voted unanimously against it. The Democrats may get some blame, too, since the party in generally does – but the party in power generally gets all the blame. Not here. The Republicans kindly jumped in to claim their massive part of the credit.
And the second problem with this “thinking” is that it’s reprehensible and only serves to harm the country.
But that’s today’s Republican Party. “Only serves to harm the country” seems to be their brand and what they’re selling. Enabling Trump, voting down funding for computer security measures against foreign attacks, placating white supremacist groups, supporting the January 6 insurrection, claiming non-existent voter fraud to create mistrust of election, passing voter suppression bills, ignoring health safety measures to keep from spreading the coronavirus which has so far killed 706,338 Americans, becoming quite literally more fascist by the day, and more and more and more. So, voting down raising the debt ceiling just seems a natural progression.
And this can’t be blamed on Trump. This is about the Republican Party, which enables it all and is complicit.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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