Save Us From the Debt Limit Crisis

Pelle Lowe

The opinions expressed in this post are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect opinions or positions held by Indivisible Northampton-Swing Left Western MA.

In an act of legislative negligence, the 117th Congress didn’t raise the debt ceiling when the Democrats controlled the House and Senate.

If they had done their duty, Republican extremists wouldn’t be able to use the debt ceiling threat to force negotiations with what economist Paul Krugman calls “…economic terrorists… A party that barely holds one house of Congress shouldn’t get to impose deeply unpopular policies on the nation as a whole.”

The budget cuts that Trump MAGA Republicans demand usually hurt working and vulnerable people the most. And mainstream media, owned by billionaires, amplifies these lies and distortions. Raising the debt ceiling is not like raising credit card limits, but it pays off debts usually paid over time, like mortgage or car payments. Janet Yellen told Congress: “Increasing or suspending the debt limit does not increase government spending, nor does it authorize spending for future budget proposals; it simply allows the Treasury to pay for previously enacted expenditures.”

Now we have a new Congress dominated by MAGA Republicans who supported the 2021 insurrectionist invasion of the Capitol. They are holding the country hostage while the weak and ineffective Democrats, including the President, negotiate away essential programs. Not only  Social Security and Medicare, but also housing, education, health, food security, and mitigation of climate disaster are at risk– programs that help ordinary people, rather than big corporations and the ultra-wealthy. Recall that Trump Republicans raised the national debt by $7.8 trillion, the third largest increase after the Iraq and Civil wars. 

The U.S. has never defaulted on its national debt. Default would not only tank the U.S. economy, but also the world’s. Maybe these insurrectionists wouldn’t dare damage the economic interests of their rich donors, but they serve only one person– Donald Trump. They are trying to fulfill Steve Bannon’s stated plans to “destroy the administrative state;” to burn it down so that a strongman can come “fix it” and create a dictatorship.

In his NYT article of Jan. 19, Paul Krugman offers some ways to bypass the debt limit by issuing high interest bonds or minting a platinum trillion dollar coin for the Federal Reserve to cover the debt. He offers these financial engineering tools to block the plans of the extremists. But we know they will return again and again trying to destroy the economy during any Democratic administration. 

Alternatively, the President could implement Section 4 of the 14th Amendment which clearly says “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.” I believe that President Biden should  invoke the 14th Amendment to resolve this crisis, prevent future ones, and prevent these dark forces from destroying our nation. This would likely be challenged in the right-wing Supreme Court, but they might have the decency and wisdom to avoid making the decision to destroy the world economy. Congress and President Biden should do everything possible to prevent this world crisis. The time for action is now, before it becomes even more of an emergency.