The Awful Toll of Brinksmanship

As the Spirited Reasoner (aka “Raging Centrist”) posts this weekly message, President Biden and Speaker McCarthy are still haggling over a debt ceiling settlement. This despite the fact that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned of a possible default if the ceiling is not raised on or before June 1st. I fully expect the extremes of both parties to trash whatever bill emerges from the talks while accusing their respective negotiators of having caved to the other side. None of that will matter if a bill sails through Congress in the nick of time. What will matter instead is the toll this process has already taken on the full faith and credit of the United States; i. e., the reputation of our government at home and abroad.

One of the pleasures of hosting this blog is the freedom it affords me to blast both sides of the political spectrum. Given the fact that both sides seemed to feel fully justified in forcing We The People through this budgetary laundry wringer, I believe both sides deserve to read the following complaint, coming as it does from a voice in the mainstream middle.

First a criticism of those hard-liners on the right:

Yes. We get it that you believe our federal budget is bloated and needs to be hemmed in. And, since you don’t control the Presidency or the necessary votes in the Senate to get everyone’s attention on this issue, what more effective method could there be than to hold the nation hostage just when the debt ceiling is about to be breached? Here’s the flaw in your logic: If you really believe that the national deficit is so seriously out of control that it might wreck the economy at some point in the future, how can you justify wrecking the economy right now (and for generations to come) by causing a default? The moment such a default occurs, our entire banking system (and our checking accounts, savings accounts, IRAs, etc.) all become less secure, because every aspect of our economy is based on the iron-clad guarantee of our federal currency, treasury bonds, and other financial promises. If you think you saw long line of people on the news—you know, the one coming out of that failed bank in Silicon Valley—imagine the lines of depositors you will see when every bank in the United States begins to fail. What I hear you saying is that you are willing to wreck the economy in order to avoid wrecking the economy.

Now a criticism to those hard-liners on the left:

Yes. We get it that the spending bills were passed by Congress and signed into law by the President. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that those bills authorized the President to ignore the debt ceiling. President Biden must certainly have had his opportunities throughout the first two years of his Presidency to gaze down the road toward this inevitable debt ceiling showdown. He could have reacted as follows: “Since our current rate of spending is too high to remain below the debt ceiling, I need to find ways to slow things down in order to avoid that scenario.” But instead, he chose to keep spending, apparently adopting the attitude, “Hey, what the hell, I can always cut deal with the Republicans at the last minute.” Seems to me this attitude risked wrecking the economy in order to maintain a high rate of government spending.

It would be easy for those of us in the middle to just say “a pox on both your houses.” Trouble is, we all live in the same house.