Republicans are Politicizing the Debt Ceiling–Yet Again

Unsplash | Ehud Neuhaus

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Republicans are making the disastrous decision to politicize raising the debt ceiling— YET AGAIN. The debt ceiling, which is the legal limit on the amount of debt the U.S. treasury sustains, or the actual amount the U.S government is permitted to borrow, is vital to the stability of our economy.

Since Congress spends more than it collects in revenue, it must allow the Treasury Department to borrow money to make up the difference. If Treasury can’t borrow, then the country will default on its obligations. This would cause gaps in payment for everything from salaries of government employees to Social Security payments to utility bills for government buildings. While also throwing financial markets, which rely on the stability of the US Treasury, into chaos.

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have repeatedly come together in the past to raise the debt ceiling, most recently the debt ceiling was raised twice during the Trump administration. When Trump was sworn into office the national debt stood at $19.9 trillion. By November 2020, the debt had increased to over $27 trillion. Raising the debt ceiling has generally been considered a vital and routine congressional action that has often been a no-brainer for lawmakers. But Republicans in Congress are revisiting the dangerous tactic they used during the Obama administration, of holding the country’s economy hostage as a ploy to confuse the public and blame the national debt on Democratic spending.

During the Obama administration, Republicans in Congress repeatedly politicized raising the debt ceiling. So much so that in 2011 citing “political brinkmanship” credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time ever. Now that President Biden, a Democrat, is in office, it seems that Republican lawmakers are up to their old games again.

Let’s be clear, the debt ceiling has absolutely nothing to do with fiscal responsibility or limiting government spending — it’s about paying for things that Congress has already allocated funds for. The battle over the debt ceiling is, to put it plainly, one of the stupidest recurring fights in Washington. There is no credible argument for not raising the debt ceiling. This is about good governance and fulfilling our obligation to pay our bills. Not rewarding lawmakers who are willing to hold the country’s economy hostage in order to score cheap political points.

If Republican lawmakers are concerned about limiting government spending, the appropriate time to act on that belief is when Congress is deciding to spend that money, not when the entire American economy is weeks away from a meltdown if the Treasury is not authorized to keep the government afloat. Remember these are the same Republican lawmakers who voted in 2017 to increase the nation’s debt by $1.9 trillion to give tax cuts to billionaires and corporations.

Congress should not only vote to raise the debt ceiling at the end of this month, it should also vote to eliminate the debt ceiling entirely. It is an artificial barrier that has not existed for a significant portion of our country’s history, and that almost no other country in the world employs. We can and should get rid of it— permanently.

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