America has always had debt going back to the time the Constitution was put into effect. But it wasn’t until 1917 that it had a “debt limit.”
As is typical over the past couple of decades, if not longer, the public debt is only an issue when there is a Democrat in the White House. Despite suspending the so-called “debt ceiling” three times during Trump’s tenure in the White House, Republicans now oppose raising the ceiling to allow the government to borrow to pay its bills; allegedly because Democrats control the White House.
There is a lot of confusion over what the “debt limit” really is, so here is the definition straight off the U.S Treasury Department website. It says:
“The debt limit is the total amount of money that the United States government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, tax refunds, and other payments. What the debt limit does not do is authorize new spending commitments. It simply allows the government to finance existing legal obligations that Congresses and presidents of both parties have made in the past.” (author bold)
The original debt limit was enacted in 1917 during World War I and has had a few changes over the years, but instead of a mechanism created for fiscal reasons, it became a political cudgel for Republicans during Barack Obama’s presidency. Current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell boasted during the Obama Administration that the debt ceiling (limit) was a “hostage worth ransoming” to get the drastic domestic spending cuts Republicans, who were in the minority, lusted after.
Not so surprising, using the debt limit as a hostage came to an abrupt end when Trump was in office and instead, the debt limit was suspended three times. This is true even though the greatest increase in the national debt came during the Trump and Republican era to the tune of at least $8.3 trillion in just four years. And, no small amount of that increase was due to the unfunded $1.2 trillion Trump-era tax cuts primarily benefitting corporations and the wealthy.
It is worth remarking that the need for the current debt limit increase is to pay for those Trump and Bush era tax cuts, the Bush Administration’s two foreign wars, caring for Veterans of those two wars, and Trump’s golf excursions; on top of the recurring cost of several other administrations.
Even though the idea of a debt limit is allegedly legal, as a congressional construct it is contrary to explicit wording in the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, Section 4. That section says, in part:
“The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law … shall not be questioned.”
It is reasonable to conclude that since Republicans bear responsibility for authorizing by law a major portion of the public debt, refusing to raise or suspend the debt limit to pay off that debt just because a Democrat is in the White House is tantamount to questioning much of the public debt they created.
Now that there is a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, and a Democrat in the White House, Republicans are suddenly fiscal hawks and refuse to do what they typically do when a Republican administration exists. Mitch McConnell says it is solely the Democrats responsibility to raise the debt ceiling because they are the majority party. However, he intends to filibuster any increase those same Democrats in power want to implement. That leaves Democrats with only two reasonable options.
As many pundits agree, the reasonable thing to do is either suspend the debt limit or just abolish it altogether to stop Republicans from “questioning” the public debt they created. While they are at it, Democrats owe it to the majority of Americans who elected them to put an abrupt end to the filibuster and erase the Republicans’ ability to rule as a minority party. The whole concept of requiring a “supermajority” (60 Senate votes) to pass a piece of legislation, or budget, is contrary to the notion of majority rule.
To put it in street parlance, Democrats need to “grow a pair” and put an end to McConnell’s ability to rule the nation from a minority party’s position. Mitch McConnell is a genuine piece of crap and his Democratic approved ability to rule like a dictator must be put to death.
It is likely that McConnell would, in fact, create a major fiscal crisis by blocking a debt ceiling hike despite the stark warnings from all sides that doing so will cause the country to default on its debts – debts that McConnell, Trump and Republicans created to make the rich richer and prevent corporations from contributing to the public good.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.