The glee of some Republican members of Congress, thrilled at the prospect of not raising the federal debt limit, should worry all of us. These national "leaders" fail to understand that not raising the debt limit doesn't mean our debt magically evaporates (it means that our country is an international deadbeat and defaults on its obligations). Or even worse, they are chest-pounding about how tough they are on cutting spending with reckless disregard for the calamitous repercussions if America doesn't pay its bills.
But patriots don't let their nation default.
Congress has never failed to increase the debt limit when necessary. Why? Because the consequences are too severe to contemplate. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and every economist worth noting, have made clear that default could destroy millions of jobs and trigger a worldwide financial crisis from which we would not easily recover. A default by the United States government would be the equivalent of raising taxes on all Americans. Interest rates would rise sharply. The value of our homes would plummet more deeply. Retirement savings would be jeopardized. Worldwide investors would shun U.S. markets. Payments of military salaries, Social Security, Medicare, VA benefits, individual tax refunds, unemployment benefits, student loan benefits, Medicaid payments, all could NOT be issued.
Now don't get me wrong: Raising the debt ceiling is no moment of national pride. The major causes of our exorbitant national debt have been the "temporary" Bush tax cuts, two unpaid for wars and an unfunded Medicare prescription-drug benefit. However, preventing our nation from defaulting on its obligations has never been and should never be a subject for debate. The responsible way to take a stand on spending is not to run up the debt in the first place; the irresponsible, and morally bankrupt way, is to refuse to pay the debts we've incurred.
It's evident that the Republican majority is eager to use this opportunity to extort unacceptable cuts from the social safety-net programs that they intensely dislike (see: the Republican Medicare plan) rather than to protect our fledging recovery from the irreparable harm a default would cause.
I refused to participate in the Republicans' 'Take it or leave it' political theater, and I voted "present" this week on their sham bill to raise the debt ceiling, which was offered only with the knowledge that not one Republican would vote for it, and it would fail. We should have passed this straightforward extension of the debt limit, and then moved on to the serious work of deficit reduction. That every Republican member voted against their own bill proved it was so ordered at the direction of their leadership as a scheme to tag Democrats with a big spenders label.
Patriots don't let their nation default.