After years of watching our country claw its way back from the Great Recession, these debt ceiling and government shutdown are foreign to me. Why would we ever want to put our country in the position to default on our loans? Why is this even an argument?
And yet here we are, on the brink of default. From the Washington Post:
The government will begin Monday with about $30 billion cash in the bank and a little more room to borrow as a result of extraordinary measures launched in the wake of the debt-ceiling crisis. By Thursday, administration officials say they will exhaust all borrowing authority and have only that cash on hand.
Experts on federal finances say that money might be enough to make payments for a few days, but certainly not for more than two weeks. In any event, they say, President Obama will have to make untested decisions about who and what to pay because daily tax receipts will make up only about 70 cents of every dollar of necessary spending.
Economists roundly agree that no matter which course Obama chooses, a drop in federal spending that large would exert a huge drag on economic growth. And in contrast to what happens during a traditional downturn -- the safety net expands to help the vulnerable -- assistance to seniors and low-income people could be delayed or reduced if Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling.
Essentially, if the government doesn't decide to raise the debt ceiling, we will default on our international loans and send the economy back into a tailspin -- one worse than the recession we're just now coming out of.
All of this mess, because people are grandstanding and power-grabbing to make a point.
Sticking to principles is admirable, yes. But sticking to these principles set forth by recent Tea Party additions to the GOP is not. The Tea Party has pulled the mainstream GOP establishment to the far right (because politicians fear primary challenges from extreme right-wingers). And because of that pull, we're sitting on the edge of a national fiscal crisis because of the loud voices of a crazy few.
Their voices are not only getting louder, but more powerful. Because of a rule the Tea Party-heavy House GOP made, the only person that can bring a motion to the House floor to end this shutdown is the Majority Leader, or an appointee of the Majority Leader -- a man who seems to be in no hurry to compromise and put people back to work.
Let's leave aside the issue of gerrymandering for a second -- it's the reason that many Tea Parties got elected and will continue to be elected, but it's an issue for another time. Right now, a large chunk of the government seems unconcerned with the consequences of a default and a shutdown. There have been almost daily protests at monuments around Washington, where the Tea Party speechifies about honoring veterans. But aren't these the same people that shutdown the government, keeping the VA backlogged and preventing benefits from reaching the very veterans they claim to honor? Aren't these the same people who want to put people back to work, but instead have left thousands of government workers without pay? And aren't these the people who stubbornly drove us into this mess, but want to impeach the president for a problem he didn't cause?
With all of this crazy intent on holding their breath until they get their way, it seems like we're on our way to defaulting for the first time. I shudder to think of the consequences. But if Congress's popularity stays as low as it is (worse than Nickelback, if you can believe that), maybe we'll get more levelheaded and moderate representation in Congress this time next year.