In case you missed it amidst the soap opera in Washington, D.C., the U.S. government reached the debt ceiling on Jan. 19 and did nothing about it. I can’t begin to explain what that means, so I’ll let (American historian) Heather Cox Richardson do so: “[GOP House Speaker Kevin] McCarthy … agreed that he would not agree to raise the debt ceiling unless Congress cuts $130 billion in spending for next year, a demand that amounts to taking the nation and the world economy hostage to overturn measures that Congress has already agreed to. Once again, the debt ceiling is not about future spending. It is about paying the debts Congress has already incurred.
Refusing to raise the debt ceiling means the United States will default, wreaking havoc on international markets and our own global standing. “But the right-wing appears willing to burn down the global economy and to destroy our place in it to impose their will on the country.” Among other things, this means Social Security and Medicare are in danger. Richardson explains: “Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the Treasury … can extend extraordinary measures to keep [the government] functioning until June. McCarthy has called for Democrats to talk with him about a plan that will permit an increase in the debt limit while cutting Medicare, Social Security, and federal agencies (1/17/23).”
I’m old enough to remember when my Republican paternal grandparents were too young for Medicare or to receive retirement Social Security and how much they complained about those who did. Soon after, they started receiving their benefits. However, they changed their tune. They were gracious enough to admit they no longer thought of these programs as entitlements. I wish the current GOP leadership were as thoughtful. Yet today’s House GOP is proposing a national 30 percent sales tax to resolve the debt ceiling. It’s hard enough now to choose between food and health care. If Social Security and Medicare are cut at the same time, what will happen to the majority of our citizens? Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) calls this a ‘manufactured crisis.’ Of course, it is – that’s why it took 15 votes for McCarthy to get his hands on the Speaker’s gavel.
It’s definitely a soap opera, one that will last two years. I only hope the Senate will see ‘entitlements’ as the investment they really are and stop McCarthy et al. in their tracks.