The Debt Ceiling Law is now a Tool of Partisan Political Power; Abolish ItBreaking News
tags: debt ceiling, Congress, Republican Party
Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington DC and the author of Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy.
The debt ceiling drama seems to be nearing its end, as the US House of Representatives passed legislation that would lift the debt ceiling in accordance with a deal reached last weekend between Joe Biden, the president, and Kevin McCarthy, the Republican speaker of the House. The Republicans have been fighting to force cuts in spending and/or eligibility for food stamps (Snap), Medicaid, childcare and pre-schools, education and grants for higher education.
By linking these and other provisions to the lifting of the debt ceiling, the Republicans tried to use the threat of default on the public debt to force Democrats to accept them. The legislation, which now goes to the Senate where it is expected to pass, did not satisfy most of their desires.
The worst abuse that Republicans managed to include will be suffered by the hundreds of thousands of poor people who will likely lose access to food assistance under the Snap program. Many are in poor health and will not be able to complete the work requirements that Republicans have insisted on imposing for people of age 50-54; others will lose benefits due to additional red tape.
There was also damage done by the fictitious narrative that Republicans were able to successfully promote about the “ticking time bomb” of the public debt. There is no bomb and if there were, it would not be ticking.
The relevant measure of our debt burden is how much we pay annually in net interest on the debt, as a share of our national income (or roughly, GDP). That number was 1.9% for 2022. That is not big, by any comparison. We averaged about 3% in the 1990s, while experiencing America’s then longest-running economic expansion.
The constant repetition of the “threat” posed by our national debt was a big win for Republicans, who are always looking to cut spending on social needs and safety nets; and more strategically important, to cut spending that could aid recovery from an economic downturn when Democrats are in power.
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