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Republicans play Russian roulette with U.S. economic future

Ronald Mitchell
Republicans play Russian roulette with U.S. economic future
“Uncle Sam, we recommend you load them all in for maximum results.”

When certain members of Congress hear the phrase “debt ceiling,” it does not conjure up long-term damage or concern about their personal economic stability. In this congressional session, House Republicans have chosen to hold America hostage with extreme demands that threaten funding for Social Security, Medicaid and programs that support children and senior citizens. Or else, they say, they will not support raising the debt ceiling.

Raising the debt ceiling is America paying the credit card bill for money America has borrowed and has already spent. Historically, the debt ceiling has been raised without much fanfare.

Since 1960, Congress has acted 78 separate times to permanently raise, temporarily extend or revise the definition of the debt limit, 49 times under Republican presidents and 29 times under Democratic presidents. The first time Republicans held the country hostage over the debt ceiling was under Barack Obama in 2012.

Prior to that, it had never been done. It had never been done because refusing to raise the debt ceiling is like playing Russian roulette with a gun to your own head, because there is no upside to pulling the trigger. Choosing to play Russian roulette with a gun to your own head illustrates to all who are watching that you don’t have any basic common sense. 

Since Barack Obama left the White House, the debt ceiling was raised three times during the Trump administration. Donald Trump famously refused to negotiate, saying, “I can’t imagine anybody ever even thinking of using the debt ceiling as a negotiating wedge.”

But now here we are with another Democratic president and certain members of the Republican Party wanting to play Russian roulette again with the American people. They have created a false narrative that says the only way we can be responsible to the American people is to not pay for things we already have purchased and debts we have committed to paying.

Now, you ask, why is the right flank of the Republican Party all of the sudden concerned about cutting the deficit and reducing spending? During the Trump administration, they pushed through tax breaks for billionaires that pulled out literally of billions of dollars of tax revenue that would have provided much-needed services to the American people. It is no secret that there are plenty of billion-dollar companies that pay 1% or less in taxes every year, while most working people like you and me pay a tax rate between 25% and 33%. This blatant hypocrisy is only equaled by Republican calls to remove money from various vital programs that help infants, families on the margins and senior citizens, as well as multiple other crucial programs.

I think Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said it best on her May 25 remarks on the floor of the U.S. House:

“My colleagues across the aisle say that they care about seniors, veterans, children, and families,” Pressley said, “but in the words of James Baldwin, ‘I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.’ The Republicans continue to govern in a way that is clueless, callous, and with great contempt, and I would say godless, because faith without works is dead. Republicans want us to make an impossible choice: extreme, drastic cuts to life-saving programs, or a catastrophic default on our debt — both of which would impact our most vulnerable. And this is a manufactured crisis. That is a false choice. If Republicans had even an ounce of compassion. Democrats want to change and save lives and Republicans want to play with yours. And the American people are currently in limbo because of it. Stop playing with people’s lives. This is not a game. Pass a clean debt ceiling increase.”

According to Pressley’s office, a default on our debt would have dire effects for people in her Massachusetts district, including killing 8,500 jobs, jeopardizing Social Security payments for 64,000 families, putting health benefits at risk for 297,000 people relying on Medicare, Medicaid and Veterans Affairs health coverage and threatening the retirement savings of 77,800 people near retirement.

The full credit and faith of the American government should not a be a political tool. As we all know, there are no winners when you play Russian roulette.

Congress, debt ceiling, GOP, Republican Party