Late last week Senator Joni Ernst sent out an email asking Iowans to vote in a small poll she was conducting. The question seemed simple and straight forward:
Do you agree with raising the debt limit? Yes, No or Unsure?
In a lead in statement to the question, Senator Ernst stated:
“Like many Iowans, I’m tired of Washington’s reckless habit of governing from one crisis to the next. Early Friday morning, Congress voted to increase our national debt limit, despite being $18.4 trillion in debt. This amounts to $57,000 of national debt for every man, woman and child. I opposed this legislation which would increase our national debt limit, encourage more spending, and make major cuts to the crop insurance program.”
Following the question she stated:
“Iowans sent me to Congress with a clear mandate: to cut the reckless, irresponsible, and out of control spending problem in Washington. So, I could not support this shortsighted deal that hands Washington a credit card without a limit, and sidesteps the tough decisions that the American people elected Congress to make. As a mother, I will not stand silently by and allow more than $57,000 in debt to be passed on to each of my daughters and grandchildren. We need to work towards real solutions that hardworking Iowans and folks across this country deserve, to solve this problem for our children and grandchildren.”
With this statement Senator Ernst makes it quite clear that she has no idea what the debt limit is and how this recent game of Republicans using raising the debt limit is for the economic well being of the United States.
Congress through its spending bills has already determined how much the US will be spending. Congress through its taxing power determines how much revenue it will receive. When the revenue is less than the amount already spent, there is a need to borrow money through various means. The most recognizable is through treasury bills.
By borrowing money, the US is able to keep paying bills even though revenue is short. We have been doing this increasingly since the ReaganAdministration put this country into a ’borrow and spend’ mode in the 1980s. As the Treasury nears the limit of debt that can be issued, Congress must either extend the limit so Treasury can borrow money to pay the bills or it will default on debt already incurred by Congress.
Think of this as a family borrowing the money to buy a house. If the household income fails to keep pace with the debts a family incurs, then it must increase income or reduce debt. So far Congress has greatly reduced income through tax cuts, but refuses to cut its debts. Our fictional family could simply stop making mortgage payments, for instance. If they did they would lose their house, their credit rating would be ruined and their chances of ever borrowing again will be zilch.
By voting against raising the debt limit, Senator Ernst has basically said that she refuses to pay bills that Congress has already approved. It is like she is saying she refuses to pay the mortgage. By voting against raising the debt limit, Senator Ernst is in effect saying she is willing to ruin the credit rating of the United States.
By waiting until the last minute to raise the debt limit in recent years and then using it as a leverage tool to force change, Republicans in Congress have been playing a dangerous game with the credit rating of the United States. If they were truly serious about the debt limit, Republican leadership would be working on ways to raise the income of the government while cutting some of the major bloat from programs.
While welfare and social programs are frequently the targets of such cutting, most of the discretionary money that is spent goes for defense and wars. Little of this is ever held to account. There are numerous quite well known stories of unaccounted and wasteful spending, yet the Pentagon is a sacred cow that must not be disturbed in today’s Republican party.
But Republicans like Senator Ernst refuse to deal with reality believing that magically if they refuse to let our country pay its bills this will somehow make the problem disappear. As with our fictional family, if you quit making mortgage payments the problem doesn’t disappear, it gets much worse.
America has been in a spiral of debt since Ronald Reagan and his “borrow and spend” economic plan tripled our debt in the 1980s. The Clinton Administration reversed that trend but as soon as the Republicans were back in control borrow and spend went on steroids with tax cuts and wars on the nation’s credit card. The Obama Administration has cut deeply into the yearly deficit spending, but can only go so far without bringing in more revenue through taxes. As you know, Republicans like Senator Ernst have totally stopped any ability of the government to increase revenues, thus forcing us to continue borrowing and thus the need to raise the debt limit constantly.
Stealing from programs like Social Security and Medicare that are sustaining themselves is wrong and would greatly hurt millions of Americans for Republican profligacy. Cutting assistance programs such as SNAP would render America even more soulless than it is now. Now is the time for leaders that will face the problem realistically. Can you do that, Senator Ernst? Or will you continue to believe that if you stomp your feet and say “NO” really loud the problem will magically go away?