There are as many different opinions as there are men and women on the planet. Still, it’s hard to believe what some people believe. There are those who still believe that we never landed a man on the moon, that George Bush personally ordered planes to fly into the World Trade Center and that Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
To their numbers we can now add those who believe the United States can default on its debts without doing any damage to the economy. And the worst part is, so many of those idiots are members of Congress.
Even if the Republican shutdown of government dragged on for two weeks, most observers predicted, Congress would come to its senses before October 17, when the federal government runs out of money. Surely, they argued, not even Republicans would be dumb enough to risk the economic consequences that would result if the United States, for the first time in history, was not able to pay its bills.
After all, warnings of the calamity that would result from default have come from all sides. President Obama asserts that allowing the United States to become a deadbeat nation would be “irresponsible,” and have disastrous consequences for the U.S. and global economies. CNBC’s lead economist Andrew Ross Sorkin notes: “Every major country and every major bank around the world owns Treasury bills. The day they don’t believe that we’re good for the money, or that there’s any risk that we’re not going to pay them back on time, there’s going to be a huge global crisis of confidence.”
And those same dire warnings have been echoed from every business organization normally allied with the Republican Party. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Business have all sent letters to Congress, urging them to avoid default. Former Republican governor of Oklahoma Frank Keating, now head of the American Bankers Association, told lawmakers: “Using the debt ceiling as leverage in the deficit debate is unwise and dangerous.”
But those words of caution have fallen on deaf ears among many of the same Republicans these organizations helped elect. North Carolina Senator Richard Burr argues that, by shutting down the government, we are saving enough money in salaries to service the debt. Kentucky’s Rand Paul suggests we just need to “prioritize” — making the case that as long as we’re paying interest due to bondholders, no matter what other bills remain unpaid, technically we’re not really in default. And freshman Florida Congressman Ted Yoho, a large-animal veterinarian (and therefore expert on monetary policy), insists that defaulting on our obligations would actually “bring stability to the world markets.”
This is getting crazy, folks. First, maybe these Republicans need a reality check. According to the Treasury Department, the government will have $30 billion left in the bank on October 17. Due on October 23: $12 billion in Social Security payments. On October 31, we own $6 billion in interest on the debt. Due the very next day, November 1: $67 billion for Social Security, the disabled, active military and retirees. How can anybody say we’re not soon going to run out of money?
Not only that. The idea that we can substitute “prioritization” for “credit worthiness” is laugh-out loud funny. Try that out in your life for a couple of months. Make your mortgage payment only, while ignoring your car payments, insurance premiums, phone and utility bills, Macy’s payments and other obligations. Your credit rating would tank fast. And so would the credit rating of the United States.
Note also what these flat-earthers are really saying: It doesn’t matter whether we pay all of our bills or not, as long as we make interest payments to bondholders. In other words, it doesn’t matter whether we meet our obligations to seniors on Social Security, Medicare recipients, veterans, men and women in uniform, kids in Head Start, or families on food stamps — as long as we pay off the Chinese government, which owns the biggest chunk of Treasury bonds. “China First!” Is that the Republican Party’s new slogan?
With the government already shut down and the risk of default, the sanest voice in Congress today is Senate Chaplain Barry Black, who declared this week: “It’s time for our lawmakers to say ‘enough is enough.’” The only question is: Who will Republicans listen to? The chaplain or the veterinarian?